good, worthwhile dressage WS positions out there? There are a couple of threads on the Hunter-Jumper and Eventing forums about questionable WS positions, and lots of negative post about WS positions in general. I’m wondering if these positions are still regarded as the best way for a young person to become a high-level professional dressage rider/trainer. It doesn’t seem like there’s any other way assuming a person isn’t super wealthy or the child of horse professionals. But unfortunately, it sounds like many employers want a low-level barn slave rather than an aspiring rider/trainer. Obviously, a WS should be willing to do a ton of barn chores, but if that’s all there is to the position why do it for free? Stall muckers earn a lot more than the average WS.
After reading the HJ and Eventing threads, I was inspired to read the ads on Yard and Groom for dressage WS positions. If I was applying now, these are the ones I would choose first:
Lorinda Lende Dressage
St Jacques Equestrian
These positions sound like they might be opportunities to learn to ride and train, but I don’t actually know anything about them except for what the ads say. Which would you choose? Or does anyone have actual, recent positive WS experiences to report?
I know of a few current working student positions where the students are able to get a lot of riding and learning in. I don't think much has changed in the industry in that regard, I remember hearing horror stories from one of my old coaches about some terrible WS positions she went through decades ago before she found a good one.
I do think it's about the only way to get the experience and instruction you need to excel short of being independently wealthy. Potential working students need to be very careful about checking out the opportunities and have an escape plan ready IMO (as in, I have known one person who spent all her money moving across country and wound up in a terrible situation where she was riding maybe 1-2 times a week, no real instruction, and basically being used as slave labor but had no money to leave with).
I very much hope that good working student positions still exist. I'm hoping to find a long-term position with an FEI level trainer when I graduate from college. It's kind of sad and worrisome that threads on bad positions go on for pages and pages, but a thread on potentially good positions gets no responses.
It can be a very good way to ride lots of horses and get training you might not otherwise have access to, but in most cases you do still almost need to be independently wealthy just to support yourself. (I don't even mean showing, but things like groceries, health insurance, transportation.) It's much easier when you are not tied down with your own horse and his expenses, but can still be quite eye-opening if you don't have -- and previously relied upon -- outside support.
Be very thorough in the interview process, and find out exactly what and how much work you'll be doing in exchange for how much riding and learning. Get it in writing if possible. Talk to current and previous working students if you can.
And yes, as CosMonster said, have an escape plan. I thought I did all my homework and still ended up in a situation like she describes, except I only got one lesson in four months and was constantly being deferred in favor of the kids who were gearing up for YRs. I obliterated my knee and ended up paying $400 for the "rent" I owed for the ten days I couldn't work while I tried to get a medical diagnosis. I was lucky enough that my parents came down to help me pack and give me the gas money to drive my horse the 5 hours home, but if I had moved much further away I would have been screwed.
Thanks for the advice! I will be very careful when I apply for positions, and an escape plan sounds like a good thing to have in place. I would love to hear from previous working students about places that worked out well, but this information is very scarce on Coth. On the other hand, I have learned of a few places to avoid at all costs and this information is valuable too.
This is EXACTLY why I have all my threads up. I just did a 3 page WS "how to pick the right position" article and I'm working on doing a series on WS...these are all pieces that are going into my class, but may eventually be sent on to magazines.
I am trying to find more posters to reply to my threads-so far very few have stepped up to answer! Not even pms! I think this says something...
Am so, so hoping that more people will reply to the thread(s). I'd like to compile a ton of info on the different situations available. I plan on interviewing a couple wage/hour/employment attorneys later this month too, to get the dirt on the legality of certain WS positions.
If I was younger, I would give a non-essential to riding body part to be a working student with Andrea Velas and Paul Belasik. The interns ride every day with Paul and Andrea on one of the school masters and they get to bring their own horse and take a once a week lesson with Paul. They don't get a salary, but they do get a furnished apartment as well as a stipend and often, they sell the horse they bring for a profit because of the training they receive.
They work hard, but they learn about all aspects of dressage, horse care as well as theory and are so well rounded when they finish. Check out their intern page...I haven't met one of the interns that hasn't impressed me.
OP someone I know was a WS under Pierucci. If her FB is any indication it looks like she had some good times and amazing experiences during her time as a WS. If you need details I can message her and see if she'd be willing to give me some info I can PM you.
I had some great experiences as a working student. It wasn't all roses, for sure, but got a lot of opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise. You MUST be willing to work hard, but don't sell yourself short, either.
There are a lot of "entitle-ists" out there who THINK they work hard. You do not work hard until you see 4:30 AM and 11:00 PM everyday - with the only time your butt is sitting in between those times, is when it is on a horse, or on the bike, riding between barns. True hard workers are becoming harder to find. If you aren't willing to do that - don't bother. You're wasting the opportunity for someone who is.
I expected those hours, and knew what I was signing up for. The trainer and I kept a log of my hours, and my lessons, making sure the times+rides were close. Never right on - sometimes she was ahead (school year), sometimes I was (Florida season). But close enough we were both happy with the arrangement.
However, some advice to those who would like/are willing to work for the opportunity:
Take a working student position and use it for an internship for college credits. This way, you can use student loan money for the semester tuition, and it can also provide a little to live off of during a working student stint. A weekly report to your advisor is nothing (compared to sitting at home, wishing you could be out in a barn). And - you can pay for it over the next 30 years, for mere dollars a month. I've had working students use the experience as an internship for several majors: Business, Animal Science, Biology, Agriculture Education, and even a music major (dressage freestyle? It totally works!). Be creative!