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Do top show barns still do working students?

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  • Do top show barns still do working students?

    I am 16 years old (USEF age 15) and my dream goal is to qualify and compete at indoors as a junior. I have just started competing at 3’0” with my own horse (uncomfortably) and not many people at my barn go beyond this. I would really like to find a working student position where I can train with trainers who frequently compete on the AA circuit and qualify for these finals regularly. I am planning on graduating high school early (midway through my 16 year old USEF year). I currently work at my barn after school and at shows on the weekends to work off board and lessons. I also braid to make extra money for showing.
    Would any top show barns legitimately let me work off board for my horse and training fees, as well as letting me travel and show with them? Also how would I go about asking? Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by Willowsimmons; Jan. 14, 2020, 12:15 PM.

  • #2
    I would think that the career counselor at your school would be a good resource for creating a resume to showcase your experience and show record (knowledge, skills, and abilities). If you don't have one already, get started on making a "highlight reel" showcasing your riding talent on a variety of horses.

    I would rethink the way you have stated your goal in terms of benefit to the person hiring you, because the way you have stated it here, it sounds like "I want to show indoors on someone else's dime." Do you aspire to an NCAA team? A career as a veterinarian? How do your goals of competing both contribute to the success of the barns where you will be applying and to your future success in the horse industry (as a representative of their program)?

    I would just conclude with some advice: if you do land a job like this, you have to be cheerful all the time (mucking stalls! hauling water at 4 AM! rude clients!) and act as if you are having the time of your life on every horse, in every situation, every day. Make sure that you have the temperament for this! (I don't).
    The journey is the destination.

    Comment


    • #3
      Never know until you ask around. Most don’t take just anybody who asks ( and they get a ton via text e mail or drop in) so it’s best to talk to your trainer about referring you.

      Two biggest obstacles are being under 18 in today's world and the current costs involved in running a top tier show barn. SS has changed attitudes about minors hanging around the barn, barn rats are a vanishing species. The cost thing...is your barn labor worth what a top barn charges for board and training/ lessons? There’s only so many stalls to muck and manes to braid when they get 1500+ for board and 100 per lesson and their operating budget depends on that money coming in, a They can get a mucker for 10 a hour and you’d have to braid hours every night and not be time to ride your own horse to make that work.

      Most the top tier barns offer the WS positions to their own Junior clients, especially Medal riders as they are familiar with the barn program and known ability wise plus still supported by parents and not trying to work off the entire bill, get a discount not a total pass on the bill. There’s also the fact many clients want the trainer or assistant only to handle riding their horses. That can limit available rides, especially over 3’.

      But...there’s a ton of barns around that are not top tier, don’t charge a fortune, hit some AA shows and do take working students. But they don’t advertise, it’s personal recommendation and word of mouth. So start researching that. Oh, if you need housing, that is an additional complication so start by looking within driving distance, assuming you have your own car. That’s a requirement for a serious position, can’t be dependent in the schedule of others to get around.

      Just some things to think about and get in order. You might want to look for this over on the Eventing side if you want to work with horses and Jump, it’s more common over there. The sooner you and your trainer start seriously looking, and letting people know you are looking, the more opportunities you might turn up.

      Good luck.
      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

      Comment


      • #4
        I would suggest trying to find the local trainers who jump at the next tier, and moving there now if they will have you as a client. That will give you a better idea if the move up will work for you and contacts for WS later on.

        Where I live there are dozens of stables where the jumpers top out at 3 feet, and they compete in the local and rated shows.

        ​​​​​then there are a handful of stables that are doing the big jumpers, Grand Prix, etc. But if you are outside their world they are pretty much invisible. I met some once through a trainer friend so I know they are out there but they don't have a local presence at shows or advertise constantly for boarding and lessons

        Go find this kind of barn locally. Maybe audition for them and see if you would fit as a client. Go there as a paying client for the next year and then see where that takes you

        Comment


        • #5
          Where (generally) are you located, OP? You stand a better chance of finding a smaller program that would probably let you work out a better situation if you're already somewhere with a lot of barns that do the Eq stuff. Thinking stuff like New England finals, or Gittings, that you could work towards as a first step. It isn't impossible; my recent trainer had one working student who went from doing her first 2'6" eq at a local show on my horse to doing multiple 3' finals in the span of a couple years. But it absolutely takes the right situation and access to the right horses.

          Does your trainer have someone else she usually moves students up to when they're ready to move on from her program? Or have people that they know/train with that they could refer you to? If you're graduating early, you may also want to look into a short-term working student stint at one of the bigger barns sans horse; I know the girl at our barn went to FL for a few weeks to work and learned a lot.
          A Year In the Saddle

          Comment


          • #6
            I e-mailed a trainer when I was 18 asking about a working student position and I got it. E-mail around to barns you know and sit down with them and state your goals as you did here.

            the trainer I worked for, I eventually became her assistant. She was top notch and I learned SO much. Top level barn. You just have to be willing to do the work, which you sound like you do. Good on you! Good luck.

            Comment


            • #7
              At your age, in the current climate, I wouldn't recommend it for many reasons, and few if any real professional programs will consider having a very minor working student, particularly traveling with them unattended.

              I definitely recommend sticking close to home, go to school, ride what and when you can within healthy financial and school-life balance.

              Let me apologize in advance.

              Comment


              • #8
                I have worked at and know many barns (in Canada) that would love a dedicated working student. Some have board and lodging available, and it is impossible to find anyone interested. It's not always an easy job, but there are many GP riders out there looking. You need to get in touch with as many as you can find, if you really want to do it. But it is not an easy job.

                Comment


                • #9
                  findeight gave some great advice. Not going to add anything at this point other than to say you should go back and reread her post. It has a lot of information that is completely on point.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    OP, first off, congrats on seeking to improve your skills and being willing to work hard to earn more training. That is very commendable.

                    The truth of the matter is that it is now much harder than it used to be for juniors (minors) to obtain traditional working student positions. Now that trainers are basically prohibited from having unsupervised interaction / communication with minors, it is very difficult for many to take on kids as part of their barn staff or training program.

                    However, there are things you CAN do. The first is to always, always, always turn yourself and your horse out to a very high standard. Tack is always clean, polished, properly fitted. Your horse is groomed within an inch of its life, mane & tail kept neat and tidy, if you use boots or polos those are conservatively colored and properly applied. You never know who will notice the rider who pays attention to every little detail, who always looks organized and put together, and who is polite and helpful. If you need help getting to that level of care and polish... there are plenty of Youtube videos from even the top barns that you can study to see how their barn routines work, how their horses (and riders) are turned out, what things look like at the very top of the sport. You can emulate all that; hard work and attention to detail cost nothing but your effort.

                    You could consider attending clinics. If you braid well enough to charge for it, some of that money could be earmarked for that purpose, and if you show up looking the part and riding well (in addition to being "teachable") those clinicians may well take notice and be able to help, either by suggesting opportunities or perhaps having opportunities of their own to offer. You can (at a break or after the lesson) ask for advice about seeking opportunities; most are happy to at least hear you out.

                    You can figure out where others in your area have gone to get the type of training that you are seeking, and perhaps observe them at shows nearby. There are lots of options between the barn where you are now, where it sounds like the program tops out around the 3' mark, and the top tier equitation places. You may find a place to move to as a client that offers a lot of education and another step on your journey. Some of them may offer an opportunity to help out around the barn to defray some costs; there are probably not fully free options but you may find that you can work off enough to make a better program affordable.

                    Best of luck to you. I was a working student a million years ago (dinosaurs were walking the earth,) and to this day I treasure all that I learned during those years.
                    **********
                    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
                    -PaulaEdwina

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Seagram View Post
                      I have worked at and know many barns (in Canada) that would love a dedicated working student. Some have board and lodging available, and it is impossible to find anyone interested. It's not always an easy job, but there are many GP riders out there looking. You need to get in touch with as many as you can find, if you really want to do it. But it is not an easy job.
                      If OP is not a Canadian resident, there may be Visa requirements for extended stays as there are in most other countries ( if not all), That's something else that has changed since back when. No idea if being a minor complicates that or not but really think the best options are going to be found closer to home for those under 18..
                      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Willowsimmons View Post
                        I am 16 years old (USEF age 15) and my dream goal is to qualify and compete at indoors as a junior. I have just started competing at 3’0” with my own horse (uncomfortably) and not many people at my barn go beyond this. I would really like to find a working student position where I can train with trainers who frequently compete on the AA circuit and qualify for these finals regularly. I am planning on graduating high school early (midway through my 16 year old USEF year). I currently work at my barn after school and at shows on the weekends to work off board and lessons. I also braid to make extra money for showing.
                        Would any top show barns legitimately let me work off board for my horse and training fees, as well as letting me travel and show with them? Also how would I go about asking? Thanks in advance!
                        First of all, you CAN find a working student position. However, most working student positions cover some teaching/training, but mostly learning the ropes of the industry via working hard. The possibility of getting to work off your board and training fees is quite unlikely. The possibility of getting to show would simply depend on your budget--I would expect to pay, in full, for any and all showing opportunities. Shows are where the staff (including working students) work their rear ends off to make sure that the paying clients have a good show. If you are a skilled rider you might get to flat horses in the mornings. I wouldn't expect anyone to be paying any show fees for you. The fact is that providing an equestrian training and showing experience is incredibly expensive for trainers to provide--from the care of the horse to the facility to the trainer's limited time. A working student, who is a less valuable worker than your average f/t groom, just doesn't earn enough in a month to cover the board and training of a horse.

                        I guess my main point is that while you CAN find a WS position that will advance your knowledge base and skills, being a WS is not compatible with your goals of training at a top show barn and competing on the AA circuit unless you have a significant alternate source of funding to pay for board, training and show fees.

                        As an aside, I personally don't think Safe Sport is the reason why working student positions have changed--it's costs of training and showing that have increased to the point where even a WS working their rear end off doesn't "earn" enough to offset the high costs. I also think that fewer kids have backgrounds that make them useful barn workers. Most modern teenagers are really unprepared to be able to help out in a useful way. Modern teens also tend to have an overly optimistic view of the value of their own work. A teenager who grew up in the suburbs and has never worked in a barn before is worth extremely little to me (a barn owner) as a worker. There's a lot of manual labor that has to take place, and it needs to be done with precision and pride, and with an eye to noticing details about the horses as the work progresses.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by findeight View Post

                          If OP is not a Canadian resident, there may be Visa requirements for extended stays as there are in most other countries ( if not all), That's something else that has changed since back when. No idea if being a minor complicates that or not but really think the best options are going to be found closer to home for those under 18..
                          Absolutely, yes, there may be visa/etc requirements. I just wanted to say that there are positions out there that are going begging, and if she really wanted to do it, it's an option. Just be prepared to work harder than ever, and really look around. I've had friends go overseas for such positions, who loved it. But not easy work, long days, hard physical labour, etc. But it's still out there.

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