Don’t become a working student to learn how to ride.
Don’t race the sun to rise every morning, only to end another 14-hour day under the moonlight, just for a lesson.
Don’t add another blister to the palm of your hand, another hole to the sole of your sneakers, another Advil to your already questionable consumption.
Don’t neglect the few normal people who remain your friends, strain the few frail threads holding your relationship together, or miss every significant family occasion in the calendar year because days off are like unicorns—they don’t exist.
Don’t determine how to live on donuts and ramen, how to sneak into any VIP event with a buffet and an open bar, or how to calculate the cost per fluid ounce of boxed wine because you only have approximately 37 cents to stretch until the end of the month.
Not to learn how to ride.
Do find someone whom you admire. Learn what they do differently, watch them never say no, realize the sacrifices they make, and witness how much they love their horses. Share the dreams they pursue. Earn their mentorship.
Become a working student.
Stay up with the vet past midnight. Groom the amateur lower-level schoolmaster like he is going to the Olympics. Sweep until you feel qualified enough to hop on the broom and summon a troop of flying monkeys.
Work as hard as you possibly can. Then work harder.
Learn as much as you possibly can, especially the lessons you never expected.
Learn how to wrap a hoof, sit a buck and handwalk a fire-breathing dragon. Learn how to manage horses whose hobbies include finding new and exciting ways to maim themselves. Learn how to manage people and realize that suicidal half-ton animals are infinitely easier to handle.
Appreciate every horse’s personality more intimately than their owners do. Find all the unique nose-twirling itchy spots on every individual. Discover which ones believe that flies are the spawn of Satan and which ones live for the euphoria of rolling in fresh shavings.
Realize you know nothing about saddle fit, nutrition, bandaging, shoeing or anything else for that matter. Recognize the importance of every small detail. Experience the thrill of success and the heartache of disappointment regardless. Eventually, begin to understand that what truly matters has very little to do with the single hour spent in the saddle every day.
Become a working student.
Learn how to be a horseman.
Caroline Cochran was born in Germany and grew up as an Army brat in a family of perfectly normal people who had the good common sense to avoid pursuits as expensive and ridiculous as horses. After university, Caroline decided to put her honors degree to good use and fulfill childhood dreams by shoveling poo in elite dressage barns in exchange for an education she could never afford. She joined the team of top U.S. dressage rider Olivia LaGoy-Weltz as a working student in 2018. In 2019, Caroline was given the amazing opportunity to lease a real-life Grand Prix horse for the 2020 winter season in Florida.