I'm curious too. FWIW, as a clarification of my first post, I have heard of unpaid trials with working students where they're only paid a small stipend for food and the lessons are supposed to be the main compensation (so for the unpaid trial they get lessons but no cash), and even then it's kind of rare. More common is to do a 1 month trial (and they do receive full compensation) where either party can walk away at the end, or choose to make a commitment for 6 months or a year or whatever. That sort of deal is normal in any horse job.
It sounds like you're interviewing for a BM position from your other posts, and it is absolutely not normal for that situation. If you're in final round negotiations with two other places you aren't that desperate, either--I mean, you obviously need a job and are running out of money, but clearly have hireable skills. I'd just walk from this one, personally. Even if you have to pick up a non-horsey job to get by until you find the right place, at least you won't be taken advantage of. I mean, McDonald's may not pay well but at least you know you'll be getting a check at the end of the week.
I would contact the state's dept. of labor to see what the state or federal laws say about trial periods of employment. My guess is that both parties would have to agree on the terms of the trial period - i.e. length of trial and payment. I mean what is this guy going to pay you if you work out and not pay you if you don't ? that's ridiculous. But you should be able to quote labor laws if necessary. I would not drive for 5+ hours, stay who knows where, and I would state in contract that your trial period will also be Paid on Demand at the daily rate of X amount per day.. etc.
I have done 3 trials in barns, and all were out of state.
Drove from Pa to Va did a full day and was offered cash, housing and the job. I took it and worked there for 2 years.
I drove from DE to NY and did one day of work at a dressage barn; but I got an 1.5 hour lesson on a schoolmaster and another horse and lunch and dinner. And I knew after that one day that I would not fit in and declined the position when offered to me.
I drove from DE to FL for several job trials, I was given housing at one barn to use as home base, a stocked fridge and worked 2 days there took 2 days to see other barns and when I returned in the evening from my other trials, I was offered cash for the 2 days, the job and a raise. I took that job and stayed there for 3 years.
Honestly, I do not remember if I discussed money before hand for each job, I do remember being compensated in some way as you should be, your time is worth something!
Sorry, I spoke with the guy on the phone (had been speaking to BM, who is not in a decision-making role in the way of compensation) before I left and was told that their pay periods cut checks on the 1st and the 15th, and it's really out of his hands to demand anything out of schedule BUT that I of course will get paid. I can expect this week to be in my first paycheck if the job is confirmed, or if not then I will mailed one for the week worked on the 1st. And, he said he would help with food, etc.
So, I felt a lot better. He said, "We're not crazy, and we're not gonna leave ya hanging! We'll look after ya!"
So I am here, and get no internet connection. of course. So, that's why I left y'all 'in the dark'. Sorry!! Trial going well ... got to ride through some beautiful countryside on some very nice horses!