So I'm graduating from university soon and seriously considering following my passion with horses and looking for a working student position, but feel a little bit lost as to where to start. I've been riding for a long time, but my riding/showing resume is minimal due to a variety of reasons (horse suffered lameness issues, I live in a very non-horsey area where finding rides is limited, 4 years in school, etc.). I'm extremely hard working and have spent the last 2 summers working in a barn (mucking out, feeding, etc.), and have a good base of general horse knowledge and care. I'd love to look for a position over in Europe but with my limited riding experience (I competed up to 3'6 in hunter and equitation and 1.0m in the jumpers), I'm wondering what my possibilities are and what is the best way to go about looking for a position. I check Yard and Groom regularly, are there any other routes I should be looking into?
I'm also wondering if anyone has any experiences in WS positions in North America versus Europe? Or are working conditions pretty much the same everywhere?
I've had a few working students here that tried a summer in Europe. They were overall unhappy with the limited riding they got to do, they worked hard on the ground and learned a lot, but these were good riders showing jumpers over here up to at least 3'6". They all said they would not go back. Maybe it was just the places they went to. I say try it, it would be a good experience to swee how a show barn in Europe is. Yard and Groom seems like a good place to find one. I have put my ads on there for WS positions and had some really great kids come and some really awful kids come.
I know a few people who went to europe and hated it, though one found a better barn to work in once she got there, she still had VERY limited riding. That being said, i've had some working student positions in the US that worked you hard and gave you little to no riding too... So i HIGHLY recommend whatever you do, get a contract and have them put down exactly how many lessons/riding time you have. I've also had some FABULOUS trainers give me all the riding time i could handle and then some so i was begging for more stalls instead!
Might put in a resume with Wendy at Magic Rose Farm in PA. Last i knew, she was looking for another WS. She's got some really nice up and coming youngsters with shows every weekend on the local circuit to put you in if you are ready. I know her two weanlings this year took the two highest scores with AWR, one breaking a record with a 9.8. Her website is horribly outdated, but she's got recent pics on her facebook of some of her horses, i know cause i took the pics when i was visiting a couple months ago. That would be a more laid back farm, small breeder type place, not fancy/busy show barn, but she's got a nice set up with a great arena with lights and will haul you out to an indoor if the roads allow through the winter. FABULOUS horses with fabulous brains. There is another working student there, so duties would be shared. Her facebook is MagicRose Farm-Warmbloods. Most her horses are hunters, but she's got some that could easily go dressage too, if you wanted variety.
Since you are out of school and an adult? Why not look for an entry level job in a show barn????
The WS position is usually unpaid (if it paid anything other then a modest stipend, it would be a job) and they like under 18s for a variety of reasons, being able to show the restricted classes would be a big one.
Europe or here, a WS type slot does not get you all that much quality saddle time and they don't have the time to teach you much.
But there are a ton of barns around that center on the more modest shows at 3' and below where your skills would be applicable and you can use them to start to work your way up the food chain to bigger and better barns.
If you can afford it. They don't pay much.
Last edited by findeight; Dec. 13, 2011 at 12:38 PM.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
Time in the saddle, in my opinion, has a lot to do with the potential students riding ability. The majority of my working students get/got tons of ride time, plus get/got to show a lot. What I have found that works best is be honest about your riding ability. My farm has made horses to ride and show, but I also have a lot of youngsters that need time under saddle. So I look for working students with the ability to help with those as a preference to someone who has only ridden and shown made horses. I also expect my WS's to be able to jump around a 2'6" course on a moderately green horse as well as the made horses. I have tried a few WS's who were basically beginner riders and I just do not have the stock in my barn to accommodate them. Also, expect to clean stalls, feed, turnout/bring in, scrub buckets, cobweb, etc. All the regular barn duties involved.
If you've only shown to 1.10 you will probably not get to do much riding. In Europe especially and also often the US and Canada, the good positions there where one gets to ride a lot of nice horses are not generally advertised because they don't need to. They are arranged through word of mouth between trainers.
From the perspective of someone who was (at some distant point in my life) a working student... I would really do some research as to what barns you would love to work for...
Update your "riding and equestrian resume"- include the non equestrian items that can have some significance, and go meet with them. In today's society where everyone e-mails, texts and calls, having someone show up face to face will make you stand out.
That being said- I'd really concentrate on getting back in the saddle before going in for an interview.
The way the equestrian world works is different than any other... I worked corporate (after working student position) and am back in the horse world but not as a rider, groom, etc... I'm in the sales/marketing/sponsorship department for one of the largest horse shows in the world. I'm glad that I did the w.s. deal- but it really opened my eyes as to what I did and did not want.
What is your degree in??
Proudly living in my "let's save the world bubble"!
Though I haven't done a WS job in Europe, I have worked there. They will work you into the ground, but you will learn a lot. And I mean a LOT. Going into a job only having jumped up to 3'6" in the hunters and jumpers... that's less than small potatoes to them, unfortunately. Whatever time you get in the saddle will either be amazing and you will learn more than you imagined possible, or you will be falling off left, right and center and/or getting your butt kicked in gear to stop riding 'like an American'. Those are pretty much the two types of experiences I have heard of for North Americans. Of the Americans and Canadians I met while I was over there, probably 9/10 wanted to run home as fast as possible, and did so.
Me though... I loved every bit of it and want to go back asap!!
I'd rather be riding!
Thanks for the responses so far - I definitely have some things to think about!!
Another question: would there be a benefit to looking into a position at more of a sales barn as opposed to a show barn or vice versa? From what I have heard one could perhaps get more saddle time at a sales barn.
Findeight makes a very good point about the market favoring juniors as WS candidates, and valuing more substantial riding resumes. Also correct about the money (or lack thereof) attached to those positions.
If you are just looking for subsidized saddle time, I would think there are better ways to go about it, particularly if you don't care about maintaining amateur status (and remember you'd almost certainly have to give that up as an adult WS too.)
I am guessing you'd actually be better served by looking for a (better paid) job as a groom or assistant barn management type situation, where a reliable person with a good attitude and good communications skills will be valued above a riding resume. Get some experience, make some connections... go from there.
********** We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.