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Working Student -- Should I or Shouldn't I?

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  • Working Student -- Should I or Shouldn't I?

    ...and if I have to even ask in the first place, is that an answer in itself?

    I'm in my last of my undergraduate degree and am trying to develop a "plan" for myself for the next couple of years. While I have no interest in riding professionally and do intend to return to school and get my MBA after getting my work experience in the corporate world, I am very interested in being a working student for a year after I graduate. I'm very aware that it will probably be my one of my last chances to do something like that (soon-to-be fiancé will be returning to USMA and I'll have to do the army-wife thing once he graduates).

    I just started eventing this summer with my pony and the more we progress, the more I find out how ridiculously talented he is. Having never done eventing myself before and him only having been in under-saddle training for a little over two years, I don't have nearly all the things in my toolbox that I could. I feel like with the right sort of instruction, we could end up going very far. Again, I'm not looking to ride professionally, but there is a fire in me that really wants to see what he and I could accomplish. I've never really enjoyed showing much before this summer, but now I get a rush from events and every time one ends, it makes me that much more excited to go to another. The fire grew that much more when I took him over a Training course today and he cleared the tables (that looked almost as big as him!) with a foot to spare (I saw pictorial proof too!!), not a blink of an eye, and with the kind of heart that tells me he could do so, so much more.

    I don't think I'd be able to get the sort of instruction I could as a working student if I found a place to work and took occasional lessons. I understand that being a working student can be downright miserable at times and it's a grueling lifestyle...but I also feel like it would be an amazing experience to have in my life and that the knowledge gained would be so worth it.

    Is this a juvenile desire that I should steer clear of unless I know I want to go into the horse world professionally? Or should I take advantage of my youth, opportunities, and an amazing horse while I still can?
    "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

  • #2
    What is your chosen profession???? That will help to know in replying since some professions will allow more leeway!


    • #3
      I have a friend who doesn't ride competitively or professionally in any way (apart from the occasional 'tune up' session or a beginner riding lesson or two for barn mates and friends) who was a WS for a year with a VERY BNT and she seems to have really enjoyed the experience even though it was a lot of hard work. I think some of that is down to who you end up with - if it's a good pairing you'll learn a lot from it (not necessarily just about horses, either, but about people skills and so on) but if it's a bad one you'll just be miserable and feel like you've wasted your time.

      But certainly if you can afford to do it (and assume also that it might not work out so you might have to find a different job partway through the year - even if the situation is working for you, you might get injured or something and that needs to be taken into consideration) then it seems like it might be a worthwhile thing to do just for yourself - not every learning experience we have needs to be directly applicable to a career.

      (Like I said, you can learn a lot about yourself and other people in all manner of environments - and depending on how you 'sell' it later on, it could actually make you more appealing for a job than someone who has only had the college+grad school experience, because you have real world experience and might have had to deal creatively with all kinds of issues.)


      • #4
        The time to do interesting, offbeat, challenging things is when you are young, and your life isn't as complicated as it will get later (mortgage, kids etc etc etc).

        Ask yourself, if you were on your deathbed looking back at your life, would you regret not trying?
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        • Original Poster

          Joharavhf- my degree is going to be in Mass Communication (so a combination of marketing/advertising/some journalism) with a double-minor in English and PR. I don't know exactly what profession I'll end up liking, but right now I'd really like to work in the e-commerce/e-marketing sides of equine retailers/organizations. I figure it's a way to work with an industry I know well and enjoy while still being realistic!

          kdow- thanks that's what I'm thinking too!

          SMF11- that's a good way to look at it. I think it would be something I would always wonder "what if?" about and once the opportunity passes, I will sorely regret it.
          "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"


          • #6
            I was in the exact same position as you (except different major and looking at longer term MS/PhD, not MBA) last spring.

            I have a horse who I think has a lot of potential, and I wanted an opportunity to focus entirely on him and take him as far as I could under a trainer. I was burnt out of school, but I never really wanted to ride professionally full-time. And I still wanted graduate school to be in the near future.

            So I inquired with the trainer I rode with the summer before--and she happened to be in need of a working student, so I made the decision to go ahead and do the working student thing.

            I don't regret the decision at all. Luckily I have a family that is willing to support me for this year, that has made an invaluable difference, though it is difficult balancing family obligations vs working student vs long-distance relationship with my boyfriend. But it's working as I've figured out ways to get everything balanced. Be realistic, upfront, and OPEN about your goals, other things in your life that could conflict with working student schedules, and your financial ability to show/clinic/etc.

            I also had lessoned with my trainer for a summer prior to the working student situation kind of falling into my lap. That helped--knowing her training style, horses etc. BUT it is an entirely different relationship, seeing a "trainer" outside of that role and you need to make sure that your personalities can work together as well.

            Good luck!


            • #7
              Thanks for posting this. I am going to be a sophomore in college this year, and I'm thinking I would REALLY like to do a 1-year or less WS stint sometime before I head out into "the real world." Not interested in riding professionally - just in, as you put it, adding more tools to my toolbox.

              Haven't figured out the specifics yet but I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking of doing it!


              • #8

                I say if you DO IT, do it BIG. Don't go with some no name trainer. Go for one of the bigger ones.


                • #9
                  Most of the kids we know who became working students did not get a lot out of it. You will probably not get a full range of lessons and experiences. Everything depends on the needs of the trainer.

                  I think you would be better off getting a job with flexible hours and paying for the lessons you want and need. Go to an awesome dressage person for some really good dressage lessons. Spend a week every month with a big name event rider. Go to Florida for a few weeks in the winter and to the Northeast in the summer. The problem is always finding a job that will let you have flexible hours or flex place, while still paying you enough so you can live. I agree that now is the time to do something fun. It is just hard to get it arranged so you get the experiences you want.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SMF11 View Post
                    The time to do interesting, offbeat, challenging things is when you are young, and your life isn't as complicated as it will get later (mortgage, kids etc etc etc).

                    Ask yourself, if you were on your deathbed looking back at your life, would you regret not trying?
                    This is something I can relate to. . . I have regretted not staying longer as a working student in my youth. I left for practical reasons, but probably could have worked it out and stayed longer.


                    • #11
                      No advice, as such, but I'm going to follow up one of the previous posts with a quote I think is relevant:

                      Never regret anything, because at one point it was exactly what you wanted.


                      • #12
                        Do it! But not in Maine
                        Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by joharavhf View Post

                          I say if you DO IT, do it BIG. Don't go with some no name trainer. Go for one of the bigger ones.
                          Don't the BNT's charge for you to be a working student? And isn't it expensive?


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ravencrest_Camp View Post
                            Don't the BNT's charge for you to be a working student? And isn't it expensive?
                            Not all of them. it depends on the BNT and the individual deal you broker with them. Ask for what you want then compromise! Paying positions are few and far between, though, and are held by permanent staff.

                            If you are not paid be prepaired to either live with much younger working students/ staff OR rent your own place. The work ranges from very basic, ie. mucking stalls, turning in / out, grooming, tacking up, basic work around the farm - to being able to ride a range of horses, help and big events and to be privy to what goes in to training event horses to the international level.

                            I say do it - but yes go with a bigger name... maybe not the biggest names, since they might have waiting lists of young riders who ARE going to make horses their careers and so would get priority.


                            • #15
                              I'd say look around and see who is actually taking on WS (never know b/c of the economy right now, everyone has been tight). Def. get realistic info before making your big decision I can tell you as a working person I'd love to have had more time working with my horse and other horses before going into the grind of the workforce.

                              I would caution you to know your financial options & availability. For the most part masters programs don't offer financial assistance, aside from loans. SO if getting your MBA is a high priority down the road don't make it an impossible one b/c of becoming a WS now.

                              It's a tricky decision but I'm sure that whatever you decide you'll make it work. Best of luck!


                              • #16
                                I agree that you should give it a shot. I wish this was something I had considered/had available to me when I was 21-ish.

                                However, I would add that you should have a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C, in place in case it doesn't work out.
                                -Debbie / NH

                                My Blog: http://deborahsulli.blogspot.com/


                                • #17
                                  with caution!

                                  You are getting excellent advice!Is your family willing to support you while you do this?I was afraid of the WS with a BNT because I did not have my own horse so, went with WS at Morven Park; and, though I rode some wonderful school horses ; there was no "real world experience" either in competing or barn management; no owners. boarders.l, vets or farriers to deal with or hay man or feed store; they were all there but, we did not interact/ interface)() with them on the business end; the art of dealing with these various and varied individuals; would be worthwhile to learn; If you have a dream like this, do it now, while you are young; but, do have something to fall back on;I would say if, you can get job in your academic area right out of school, go for it; figure out how much money you will need to do this later and set that aside every month; be sure to get a written agreement as to hours and duties; and how much notice is required on either side
                                  breeder of Mercury!

                                  remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans