View Full Version : Working Students?

Jan. 21, 2011, 10:11 AM
It looks like it's time for me to look into getting a working student/ groom, but wanted to get a little feedback first! The good and bad of being a working student? What are some incentives that are appealing to a potential working student/groom; housing, boarding, lessons, training?

Jan. 21, 2011, 10:23 AM
The biggest incentive for me would be training/lessons on a variety of horses!

Depending on where you advertise, housing might be a big incentive for some if there isn't a stipend or pay. The opportunity not just to compete, but to GO to competitions as groom or spectator! Just going when I first started eventing was SO educational.

Frankly as a working student I want to learn and be a sponge, not just a stall cleaner for min. wage who happens to take lessons with you.

Both my positions kind of included board, but it was deducted from my pay. I've seen some listings saying they don't have room for students' horses. I don't mind my horse on pasture board, but some people might.

Be upfront and honest about what your looking for from them and what you would be able to provide. If the situation changes, tell your WS when you know and work it from there.

Jan. 21, 2011, 10:40 AM
For someone that is serious about having a hands-on learning experience being a working student can feed the thirst for knowledge. I have had a few WS positions and am looking at more and I have to tell you the most important things to me are: The quality of the instruction/material, professionalism, communication skills, and respect. I would expect an exceptional Teacher to act as a positive mentor. In return the WS must also provide his or her best effort at the tasks at hand.
Some WS positions go so far as to provide room and board, board for one horse, a small stipend, AND riding lessons. It depends on the teacher's available resources. All of those things sweeten the deal of course (and make it possible for people who are financially independent to become WS)...but I think finding a WS takes a little bit of matchmaking skills. I would say that providing room and board as well as riding lessons is the minimal compensation that should be offered for this position (depending also on hours/duties expected). If someone is going to clean your stalls and do complete care they deserve more.

Jan. 21, 2011, 11:03 AM
Thanks for the feedback! As I'm developing myself as a young professional with my business the feedback is greatly appreciated!
At this time I don't have the option to offer housing, so that makes me lean more towards looking for a groom rather than a working student. I do have the option to offer Stall board for one horse, training, lessons, coaching and trailering. I agree totally, with the incentive of learning hands on. I'm not looking for someone to clean stalls or be just a farm hand. I think the quaility of the position fades greatly when that becomes the situation. I agree about being a postive mentor to your students and clients alike!

Jan. 21, 2011, 11:20 AM
I have recently been In the 'search process' so I will share with you some of what I am finding, and what I would like to have seen :) Alot of what I am finding is work all day 6 days a week for board, lessons, coaching at events then I figure out housing. I would love to find a situation where I had housing but for me, It is more important to find a program and a training philosophy that I can relate to. (ie slow, systematic, I hate it when I see horses and riders rushed up the levels w/o the correct basics to be safe and competitive!) I will share with you two thing I have found to be the biggest problems in my search 1) I have minimal competition experience, But it is safe to say that I ride (especially on the flat) at a higher level (but that is difficult to convey with some level of credibility. This is mainly a result of very green horses, and horses getting lame at inopportune times. Please dont discredit applicants because they haven't ridden at X level.
-the plan to help offset problem 1: maybe have them send in recent video/photo footage of them riding that way you can get a quick idea a/b what level they actually ride at.(this may only be necessary if you are looking for someone who wil be able to help you exercise some of your own horses) (this is also advantageous if you get applicants who claim to have ridden at X level, but if they struggle around a 2ft course you know what you will have (not that inexperience is a bad thing, I think drive, dedication, the desire to learn and work hard are most important)

Good Luck getting your program up and running!

Jan. 21, 2011, 11:38 AM
I couldn't agree with you more! Basics are the foundation and I go back to the basics all the time!! That is what I'm finding with trying to find a working student/ groom. I've only been competing since 2007, so I don't have all the history within the eventing community as a lot of the upper level riders do. I have drive, dedication, determination, discipline and love for all of my horses. I strongly agree that you have to set the example for your students. It's much easier to work for someone that you support 100% with their training and teaching. I work hard, but the hard work pays off in the long run. My horses are happy because I don't push them. I listen to them and what makes them happy. I do have a full time job besides my barn full time, so at the moment, it's looking like it would be more after school and competiton weekends. I'm looking for a competent rider, but no competition experience is required. Everyone has to start somewhere and I feel that if you're a good trainer then you can only help the people around you that want the most for themselves and their
horse(s). Everyone has their own goals and I feel that is very important to know as a trainer, so you can customize a program to work with each and every individual and their situation. Thank you for your feedback and the well wishes!!

Jan. 21, 2011, 11:40 AM
We have had two awesome WS who became like family to us. We offered room and baord for the WS, plus board and full training for one horse, lessons, shipping to other farms and shows or schooling. We asked for sharing the chores with my DH and I, and grooming at events for all levels from a BN horse to Advanced. Lots to do and learn, and we are a little different in that we start young horses, as well as retrain OTTBs and start TBs for the track, so there's a lot more to learn if one wanted to then just eventing.

What made both of ours so awesome was their willingness to work as hard as my DH and I, how much they both wanted to learn, and we had a really good open relationship so no one ever went home at night feeling over worked and not getting enough out of it. I think it's really about finding the right match as well, both WS we had fit right in our barn and liked our training and management style. If you are looking for a WS I'd say vet them as well as they are vetting you and be really up front in what you expect from them, as well as what you are realistically able to give.

Good luck with your program!

Jan. 21, 2011, 12:43 PM
I think people have hit on some of the biggies, communication, respect, setting realistic expectations and then following through on them.

Eventing Nation had an AWESOME post about this last year, it could not be more true! You MUST read this!


I recently finished a 6 month stint as a WS and will be looking for another opportunity in the future. First let me say, I loved it and learned a lot!

One thing I found when looking for a position is a strange phenomenon that seems to be the new business model for working students at some farms. Basically, farms are looking for WS to work 6 days a week, 10-12 hours a day (no problemo), doing everything from barn chores to grooming to riding to horse care (again, no problem) and in exchange are providing some lessons, no stipend, and EITHER a place to live OR board for a horse.

Now, I'm not trying to complain, I found a great situation that met my needs, but lets think about this...for those people who are trying to develop a career in the horse industry or transition from an existing non-horse career into the horse world, big pots of money to draw from while they work 60-72 hours a week are not neccessarily the norm. This construct may work well for those who are still supported by the Bank of Mom and Dad, or for those who are independently wealthy, but, lets face it...if I was independently wealthy, I could just pay for those lessons and buy made horses, not worry about how to do it myself, right? Not saying I would, but you see my point.

This industry worries (rightfully so) about who the next generation of trainers/riders/instructors will be, and admonishes anyone looking to be a WS that they have to work hard and pay their dues (all true). However, hard work and dedication will not put food on the table or a roof over your head, and people have to sleep! You can figure out a way to work extra (beyond your 72 hours) to make enough money to eat (30-50 dollars a week), but not to make the 800-1200 that many barns are expecting to board your horse, or that local housing costs (in areas I looked at up and down the east coast). It's a great plan for barns to basically get free labor, but not so much to teach the next group of folks in the industry...

So this is turning into a rant accidentally! I guess what I'm saying is think about the whole picture...you as a barn owner, rider, etc need someone to do work, help you with your horses, ride, train, etc...that person hopefully comes equipped with skills in those areas that will make them an asset to your team and they spent the years before that acquiring said skills. Obviously, if you just want someone to clean your stalls and tack, those are lesser skills than riding and training! If you bring this person (assuming this is an adult) to your farm and ask them to work 72 hours a week for you, they will not have time to get a second job and earn money to cover any costs. Typically if they have any savings, this money is going to cover health insurance, car insurance and emergency expenses for their horse!

I will end by saying that I think the trade of 72 hours of work per week for instruction, housing, board for a horse and some way to eat is a fair one! I did it once and will do it again! The experience is excellent and I learned a ton! But, both sides of the equation are important, and the small amount of respect it takes to ensure basic needs are met for the person who is working for what ends up being the equivalent of way less than minimum wage will go a long long way to making happy (and therefore productive) WSs!

OP, I know you are looking for more of a groom situation, so obviously all of this does not apply to you! But...food for thought.

Jan. 21, 2011, 01:35 PM
At one place I paid nothing for my room, my food, full training and board for my horse (and now I get my second horse there for free as well). I had lessons every day, usually I had more like 3-4 lessons a day. I rode 4 horses a day, sometimes more. I didn't clean stalls, feed, or turnout, I just cleaned tack (a lot of tack!), rode, tacked up, groomed, and did any other farm chores that needed to get done. Once I built a cross country course in the front yard, lol. I dug a water jump and scooped loads and loads of gravel. I moved jumps, set jumps in lessons, built jumps, painted jumps, etc. I worked from 9 am-? As late as needed! lol! Once I was painting jumps at 3 am! But it was an amazing, rewarding job and I loved every second of it. (that's where I'm going back to). I didn't earn any actual money, but I was given way more than I think I deserved...no matter how much I worked, I don't think I earned room, food, board + training for 2 horses. So it was more than fair and it was amazing :)
The other place I went was also an absolutely amazing job. I got really lucky :) I paid board for both my horses, but worked off lessons and training rides (the trainer rode one of my horses for me). I got a couple lessons a week on the horse I was riding as well as 1 lesson a week on the horse I wasn't riding. This place gave me really quality instruction, so even though I wasn't getting lessons every day, I think I might have learned more. I got a room for free and some food for free, but paid for most of my food. I also got a lot more opportunities to learn at this place, with xc schoolings, etc. At this position, I was trotting horses for conditioning, tacking up horses, grooming, cooling horses down, hacking (occasionally), setting jumps in lessons, moving jumps, etc. I learned a lot more here about grooming, I was much more of a groom at this place! But I would have to say that it taught me a lot more than doing random barn chores. I learned to braid really well (I could braid but not well), do quarter marks, everything. I did a lot of show grooming at this barn. (I wish I could go back here! It was amazing!)
I really did get lucky, there were really no huge negatives to either position and I absolutely loved it.
The two trainers were a lot different in their teaching styles though, and I think that's a big thing you should think about when you're looking.
One trainer was very encouraging, but tough in lessons. If I did something wrong, instead of screaming at me she'd just be tough on me, tell me I could do it better, and have me do it until I did it right.
The other trainer would scream at me if I screwed up. There was more than one lesson I would end up crying at the end (after she left) because I just couldn't handle it after a while. She knew exactly what to say to get her insults to really hurt, and it did. I learned a lot, but I lost a lot of confidence and was actually dreading jumping by the time I left. My riding was a lot better after the other trainer just because I felt like I could make a mistake without getting yelled at, just correcting my mistake and doing it as close to perfect as I could the next time. I got a lot more confident. At the barn I would get yelled at, I was terrified to jump around Training height (the level I'm going) just because I was expecting getting yelled at...it was really bad. The other barn I was confident schooling Intermediate xc. Yeah...make sure you like the trainer's teaching style!!!
Sorry this is long and rambly, but I hope I helped at least a little :P

Jan. 21, 2011, 06:51 PM
There is a lot to look at when you are looking for a WS: who? where? when? etc. Is UL pro better than just a boarding facility? Will it be a good distance from family and friends? Is the timing good? What will pay be or work offs?
Having done 3 WS stints, one for a barn that was mostly a boarding facility, one with a short listed Olympic rider, and one who has gone to the Olympics and WEGS etc, I would say from my experience you will get more out of being with an UL pro especially if your goals are to go up in your levels. The downside might be that most of these riders nowadays are looking for pay for living and board. I was lucky that all 3 WS positions were to work off both of these plus lessons. However, at the latter 2 I didn't have a horse with me, so the one position I was paid a small wage that would've been to cover board-this worked out well as it covered my costs for groceries so I didn't need help from my parents who were 3,000 miles away. The 3rd one, I was not paid any wage, so the money from groceries came from my parents which in the long run after 5 mths they were unable to continue doing so, so I had to cut my stay short (total bummer as I was learning a lot!!!) I would say though that the pros definitely out way the cons when it comes to a WS position. It is a lot of grunt work-even as a groom which I had the experience of grooming at a couple Adv. events and a ***...lots of fun though!!! Some living arrangements aren't the greatest and you may have to deal with things you've never experienced-I'd been through tornadoes but never hurricanes and in 5 mths went thru a couple. Ask past WS if you can about their experiences with the person you're interested in going to-I would also not just apply to one person, but look at a few that catch your eye. If they have a website that's great-I like to look at the horses for sale-that gives me a good indicator on everything else (just my opinion.)
I really wish I could do another WS program as well but I have a lot of bills now-most places don't pay a wage on top of everything else, but I do keep my eye open. Another thing is, I take it you are in the states so this might not pretain to you but coming from Canada, it's a good idea to get health insurance before going. I have a friend that galloped horses on the side and she was injured a couple times. Health care ain't cheap there!!!
Sorry for the essay-but I would go for it if you can-do it now before you rack a bunch of bills from Student loans etc.!! You'll have a good time if you listen and work hard!