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Destination Career: Alumna hitches her dreams to well-known workhorses

In third-grade, Megan Arnold walked into the arena with a 1,300-pound horse right by her side, confident she could win her county fair and compete at state in her first 4-H competition. Her confidence was well-placed. She put in countless hours of preparation. Even so, she was excited when she received her first blue ribbon.

It didn't take long for Arnold and her family to understand that large horses were not just a phase, but the beginning of her passion in agriculture. After showing her first Haflinger workhorse that came off her grandparents’ farm in Coatesville, Indiana, Arnold fell in love with the equine industry and her gentle giants.

It probably would not surprise anyone who knew Arnold back then that, 15 years later, she now works with the Budweiser Clydesdale team as a handler. It might have been more of a surprise that she chose to study agribusiness at Purdue, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2020. Her third-grade self, who fell in love with the large and hard-working horses, knew that this was the certain outcome.
Megan Arnold with the Budweiser Clydesdales Megan Arnold, who earned a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness in 2020, is a handler for the Budweiser Clydesdale team. It’s a role that has taken her around the country and back to her roots of working with horses. Photo provided by Anheuser-Busch.

Although Arnold was drawn to large workhorses, it wasn't easy (or handed to her). Arnold applied for the position with the Budweiser Clydesdale team many times on different occasions but was always told that they hired a different candidate. She didn't let that stop her.

“Even though I didn't get the position at first, I told myself that my next job will be with those Clydesdales.” Arnold said. “I never thought it would be possible because there are so many people who wanted the position, but I didn't let that stop me. Determination got me here.”

The same determination that earned Arnold a blue ribbon eventually earned her a place with the Clydesdale team last year. At 7 every morning, she takes in the smells of clean stalls and fresh shavings, which make Arnold appreciate how far she has come. She said she still thinks back to the long hours she spent in the barn preparing for 4-H fairs and local open shows when she was young, which makes her recognize she belongs with the Clydesdales.

With those memories still fresh, Arnold said she doesn't dread the daily routine of feeding, walking, and grooming the horses along with cleaning stalls. She embraces the challenge.

“There are definitely stinky parts of the job, like cleaning stalls, stripping the trailers, and washing their leg feathers every day,” Arnold said. “But being able to spend time with these amazing horses and hooking up their harnesses for an event is rewarding in the best way. I get to do what I love with the livestock I love.”

The way she does that is by falling back on her purpose, her passions, and the hard-working mindset that was instilled in her from the day she stepped on her grandparents’ farm. Her purpose today is to ensure the horses are well maintained, treated with respect, and ready to be recognized for their legacy of America’s great industrial spirit.

Despite the daily routine, Arnold said there is never a single day that is the same as the last. Some of that comes with one of the perks of the job: travel. Arnold said she loves traveling across the country for events. She’s in awe of the horses even during preparations. Each time the Clydesdales load onto the semitrailer, she can see it rock back and forth because of their size and strength. She said she knows the horses are just as ready to travel the states as she is.

“I get to go everywhere with my team and traveling is something I love.” Arnold explained. “In the past few months, I've been working, we have been to the Indy 500, a Ravens game in Baltimore, and the World Series where the Astros were playing in Houston, Texas. It's amazing the places I get to go and the people I get to meet.”

Arnold has traveled a long way since her first horse show. The third grader inside her probably never doubted she would end up where she is today, although others may have been skeptical after her application was denied multiple times. With hard work and determination, she made her dreams become a reality.

“I’ve always been someone who doesn’t want to do what people expect of you, and no one expected me to end up here,” Arnold said. “Go after those longshot pipe dreams and remember that persistence is key. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”

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