I am a soon to be college graduate and at the beginning of the new year I will be starting a working student position at large dressage stable. I was wondering if anyone had any advice for, especially if you have been or are a working student. I am bringing one horse with me and I am also looking for retirement options for my older horse either in NC or Va so if anyone has any advice or recommendations about that it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!
When I was a working student, I learned stuff about every part of horse care, training, and barn management. One of the best things I did was write it down! I keep a blog, and I also kept private notes, especially when I would watch a training session or lesson and something really caught my attention. Also, watching over time how horses progressed, I made notes to myself about how one step lead to the next, what exercises helped, how to develop horses which didn't find certain movements natural, etc. I imagine over time I will forget many of the horses and individual training sessions I saw, but the notes I will have forever!! I also took pictures and videos over time, and I have especially enjoyed looking back on some of the videos of lessons.
Congratulations, and Have fun!!!
Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
My Training Blog: www.dressagefundamentals.com
Be a LEARNER and always be humble and gracious. I have been a working student several times and an assistant trainer and a trainer - niche was training exracers and now I have a small barn of kids with horses - I just love dealing with kids on the most part.
But something - as a school teacher, as a riding coach etc and a mom - I have noticed is that we have a culture that has not raised kids to be humble learners and that is to the detriment of the student because it keeps people from learning. I am sure you are not this way but we aware - you have been raised in our culture where being shocking and independent is upheld. In dressage, we are looking at DISCIPLINE, patience and listening 100x more than talking. That is TOTALLY not our culture! =)
I would take notes - take every opportunity to RIDE for anyone and learn from everyone and work - be there 10-20 minutes BEFORE you are supposed to be. Never blow off your work days and always do every task 150% at least. Like if you clean a stall - clean it really well. Take pride in the perfection of every little thing. Because THAT is dressage.
And that builds trust and trust is so valuable.
Next: Dress for success - keep your hair back, do not dye it purple, wear gloves, dont wear ripped breeches or vulger tshirts. Act professional. You want rich people to hire you - look like someone they can talk to. You think that is snooty? This is the advice I heard Tad Coffin give my roommate in college and she sold her monster truck that evening! LOL
And read and self study - be a scribe every second you can. Read all the best dressage books and put up some of CDK's ethic quotes on dressage and think of them all the time.
Lastly, and I am sure you know better - but never talk tacky about anyone. DO NOT ever burn bridges.
ENJOY! I wish I was in my 20s again and able to do this - be a learning horse rider..... now I have to make money and I have a family and I am juggling so much! I rarely get to ride to learn for myself anymore!!!! Miss it!
All I have to say is make sure you get your end of the deal. Stand up for yourself and don't get pushed around. Working student positions are great learning experiences, but every time I take a WS position I always end up getting taking advantage of.
Tuck your shirt in, keep everything clean, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Stay organized and keep a level head in every situation, theres nothing worse for everyone than you freaking out if a horse gets loose or someone falls off.
Others are right, be ready for the hardest work of your life! I remember when I was a working student, my trainers would have time limits for everything and if you were too slow, you would be there until 9 or 10 at night.
I will only say that many years ago, when I was a ws, to have my own horse was unheard of.
I don't think any stable would have accepted anyone there to work, not a client, with their own horse.
I wonder if you would not be better off leaving your horse behind, at least until you have been working there a few weeks and know if that will fit with your position?
Yes, some places may take advantage of you if you are an eager beaver, but in the end, that giving more than you get will not be wasted.
The experience itself will also teach you much, including how to pace yourself better and find a better place to work for next.
I have already gone out and bought quite a few Polo shirts because I figured that those along with my breeches would be my uniform of sorts. I have been up there to meet the trainer and everyone on the farm twice and they seem pretty open to my bringing my horse and I feel pretty comfortable there. The idea about writing everything down was not something I had thought of and sounds like a good idea. I will be living in the apartment above the barn and I wonder if anyone has been in a similar situation and what it was like. I am pretty excited about it all and am so glad to have as many responses to my post already. My main concern is finding an affordable retirement situation for my older horse because he is my first horse and I just to right by him.
I lived in a barn apartment for 2 years while I was a WS. I liked being close to my horses but just make sure you don't get too taken advantage of (ie: doing night check all the time, working when short staffed) there needs to be down time or else you will burn out. The roomate situation can be wonderful and awful. I met one of my best friends through it and learned a ton from a German Berieter who lived with me for 3 months. However, there were also some real beauties, one moved out in the middle of the night stealing some of my clothes, another had a loser boyfriend who was always there and drunk. It can be hard if you have to live with others.
About 6 months into my apprenticeship a breeder started sending me 1 horse at a time to break then sell on. It worked well because it gave me something of "my own" to hoist my love upon. My boss helped me back them, teaching me alot along the way and when one sold a nice expensive dinner to celebrate on the breeders $ kept everyone happy. I still had lessons and warmed up Advanced horses so I kept that part on track as well. To be blunt if you are not a great rider at the start they will love you having your own horse so you are not sitting on theirs. The longer you are there, the more you improve, the more you will ride. I think having your own project helps stay motivated. Your role is to provide cheap labour for long, long hours. You have to get as much out of the deal as you are putting in.
wet wipes( if you are like me, you get dirty even looking at a horse)
weather appropriate clothing
An open mind
and as someone said before- being humble goes a long way!
I agree with others, keep a journal and write things down. You will work hard, but your riding will improve so much. I would also take every opportunity that you can to ride different horses. When I was a working student, I rode anywhere from 1-8 horses per day; green broke to GP schoolmasters. My seat and overall feel really improved. Never say no to anything! It will be hard, but also an amazing experience. I wish I could do it again actually!