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Hunter Jumper rider working as a WS for an eventer?

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  • Hunter Jumper rider working as a WS for an eventer?

    Hi guys,

    So I might have the opportunity to be a WS at a eventing barn. I think this would be a fantastic opportunity to expand my horizons and become a really versatile rider which I know is invaluable, but I don't want to get out there and be a disappointment when it comes time to ride or do other things (special equipment etc.) that don't quite transcend the h/j vs. eventing border. I mean, a WS at a h/j barn would be expected to be able to put on a running martingale, set jumps, and put in studs, but a dressage rider would have no use for any of those skills. Obviously, I will make it clear that I don't claim to know how to do everything, especially in terms of things that are relevant only in eventing, I am very willing to learn but I still don't want to be a drag or a frustration. The response I am expecting is that getting the opportunity to take xc and dressage lessons as well as SJ will be extremely worthwhile, but I want to make sure I'm not making a bad decision. I was talking to a contact between me and this potential employer today on the phone and she was with some other students of this trainer. They made some comments in jest that had me a little concerned that this might not be such a good idea after all...

    I'm also concerned that my riding will be stylistically very different. While I know it would be great for me to learn, I don't know if a WS is the right situation. I'm no where near a fantastic H/J rider yet (due to lack of consistent and able horses I am not even coursing 3'...and the fact that there is no way you could jump a course in our indoor lol) and on one side I see that perhaps expanding my horizons would improve my h/j riding, is the flip side that perhaps I'm not ready to try to expand my horizons also valid?

    thanks for your input =)
    "If we we couldn't laugh we'd all go insane, if we weren't all crazy we'd all go insane." ~Jimmy Buffet
    "Pursuing the life of my high-riding heroes I burned up my childhood days..."-Willie Nelson

  • #2
    I'd say go for it! (I'm an eventer myself). And don't be afraid to explain your concerns re: equipment and riding style in your interview. Part of the point of being a WS is to learn!

    As far as riding goes: to me, good, effective riding is good, effective riding, no matter the discipline. If you know how to handle any silliness or freshness, can work a horse properly from back to front and use all your aids correctly, you should be fine.

    Again, I'd just explain all this up front in your interview, but also let them know the other things you've said here: that you're interested in building your skills and learning more about a different discipline. Honesty and a willingness to work hard go a long way!
    Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

    My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.


    • #3
      Why don't you ask the potential boss-trainer? I think each position is different. I worked for Morag O'hanlon for a few years and she would have happily taught anyone that worked hard enough. I also worked at Bruce Davidson and he'd have just about killed anyone that couldn't keep up.
      Shop online at


      • #4
        GO FOR IT! I started out riding hunters at an "A" show barn. I learned to be a very stylish rider, however I was not very effective. Then, I moved to an eventing instructor and dabbled in the eventing world for a few years. I learned to be a confident, strong, independent rider. I learned so much about riding through extensive dressage lessons and was taught to ride some unbelieveable turns, roll backs, combinations, etc. Now, I am back in hunter jumper land. I have been able to combine the style/precision learned at my first barn with the guts and effective riding skills learned at the eventing barn. It has helped to make me a well rounded, independent rider that can ride a tough course in good style.
        "To do something that you feel in your heart that's great, you need to make a lot of mistakes. Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes." -B.J. Armstrong


        • #5
          i would take a few lessons with an eventer first, in jumping, dressage, and xc. make sure you will actually enjoy it. because yes, you want to be a versatile rider .. but make sure you enjoy it.

          i had a friend who was in a similar situation (not super experienced/advanced, but def not bad.) given the opportunity to be a WS for an olympic eventer. she'd get to ride top level event horses and take them to events all summer. she was allowed to come early and give it a week to see if she really wanted it, because another girl wanted the job if she didnt. she had the same idea: expand your horizons, be a versatile rider. turns out she hated eventing, and was a bit too timid for xc. the style of competition just didnt suit her. so, she gave up the position to the other girl whom was probably very happy with it.

          so i am not trying to discourage you. i used to take lessons with a trainer who was an eventer. she used to take me to do hunter paces because i was too chicken for xc because i didnt want to compete on that level, but i still liked the idea of riding in the woods and jumping real things outdoors. but there is a big difference between a hunter pace and an xc course.

          so i think you should make sure you really enjoy it. because if you dont, youre going to be unenthusiastic on the job and uninterested, and it will have a negative affect

          overall, i think eventers have a lot to teach us (and vice versa) as they are both very different styles of riding. however, just make sure you really enjoy it.

          Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


          • #6
            I think you will be fine. You are going to have to learn the trainer's preferences at any barn you go to, regardless of discipline, anyway. Just be sure to listen carefully when given directions and ask questions if you are unsure or do not understand.
            Roseknoll Sporthorses


            • #7
              Watch a lesson (or better yet, watch the trainer) ride before you commit to a WS position, if your main concern is about changing your own position too much. There seems to be two distinct styles prevalent in eventing nowadays - one style is to really package your horse before the jump, sit back and sit deep, and then fold over the fence. The other is more "huntery" (for lack of a better term) - keep your shoulders in front of your hips (not behind or on top of, like the other style), hips back, seat in the saddle but light, and canter to the fence without making too many changes. My trainer is more of the latter style, but then, she grew up in the equitation ranks. My sensitive-backed Trak seems to appreciate this style and will jump more smoothly when I keep my seat somewhat lighter and my upper body a bit more forward.

              If the trainer you want to take lessons from rides and teaches with more of the latter style, I'd think that you'd be fine and would learn tons. If the trainer is more of the former style, then I'd probably stay away unless you're VERY good at switching between styles for your hunter rounds- although, your jumper rounds would probably be helped (with either style, really).

              I wouldn't worry too much about lack of knowledge for tack, etc. If you can outfit a jumper, you can probably outfit an eventer. Good luck!
              "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

              So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."


              • #8
                hunter jumper people can learn alot from really good dressage and eventing trainers. dressage is really important IMHO to get a horse jumping around really well. you may not be brave enough to jump the cross country jumps but there are plenty of other arenas that you can participate in. the eventing crowd is really into gymnastics and just plain ole good riding. try it! it does not ruin your prospects of crossing back into hunter jumper land!


                • #9
                  You appear to have the right attitude and drive and IMO this means more than being a h/j vs event rider - it means you are willing to work hard & learn. I would not worry about any type of equipment yet.. You might not need a running martingale for dressage (no martingales for dressage) but you might for Cross Country & Show jumping.. clothes are pretty similar - dark navy jacket (jackets are often excused in hot weather); light colored breeches. The only major bit of equipment you will need would be an eventing vest - a good and very worthwhile purchase for any discipline.

                  Most likely at the level you might start competing at - you won't need to purchase any special tack. You can certainly ride a dressage test in your h/j saddle... eventually you might want to use a dressage saddle but worry about that later.

                  I think most disciplines can learn a lot from each other and you can use the skills you learn in any discipline. Good Riding and good horsemanship is good riding and good horsemanship no matter what the discipline.

                  Best of luck to you


                  • #10
                    I agree with those who suggest you make sure you will actually ENJOY eventing and learning about the sport. It is a fantastic sport and has a lot to offer, even if you just want to dabble in it, but some h/j riders find they just don't have "it" (guts, patience, whatever) to do it.

                    As for your two main concerns...the best working students are the ones that are either a blank slate or are ready, willing, and able to "forget" everything they know and get with their trainer's program (this is more in regards to horse care, but does apply a little to riding). By seeking a WS position you are basically saying "TEACH ME!!!!" Going into such a position with a willingness to learn will make the whole experience very worthwhile and fulfilling. But do be very sure to let everyone know what you know and what you don't know before starting, and don't forget to say "I don't know how to do that, can you show me" if you encounter something during your position. Most trainers have a couple of other WS or grooms or right hand men to help teach you (this was the case when I was a WS...when the boss didn't have time to teach me something, one of the other girls would...or they would coach me through things I needed a little help with).

                    As for your riding, again, you need to be willing to learn and willing to try. If you are going to learn about eventing and the riding it entails, you are going to have to be willing to adjust your riding style to suit. If you are with a good trainer, you will only improve and your riding will be better no matter what you do in the future. But, if you go in to it dragging your feet and worried about what riding like an eventer will do to your hunter riding, you're going to be very frustrated and the trainer will be very frustrated. The biggest thing with ANY WS position is a willingness to learn.

                    Good luck!


                    • #11
                      Good riding is good riding. If it is a reputable barn with solid training techniques go for it, regardless of how "different" they may be from what you know. Thats good, you will learn more and take away skills you can transfer to your hunter riding.

                      I grew up eventing and pony clubbing and have worked for BNTs in h/j and dressage and steeplechasing, etc etc.

                      Good riding is good riding period. and once you learn what the "other" discipline is looking for you can be successful in that as well.
                      \"A smart lady knows its ok to change her mind, a damn fool never does\"


                      • #12
                        Hope it works out for you.
                        I notice your profile says you are from Long Island . There is very little eventing on Long Island so I'd guess your new job would require a move, perhaps moving your horse too.
                        And if you re showing H/J as an Amateur you won't be able to do that as a working student ( any w/s job, not just as an eventer w/s).

                        Before you make a commitment you need to consider all the pros and cons.

                        Have you spoken to your current trainer about the position?


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks for all the responses and encouragement. I'm going to make a list of concerns and pros/positives that negate the concerns to bring with me when I interview along with my resume just to make sure there are no surprises.

                          Yes, no space for an xc course on long island hence no eventing. I will be going to stay with family while I'm up there and my large pony lives up there. I don't currently own a horse so that's not an issue. And I'm a junior.

                          Thanks again!
                          "If we we couldn't laugh we'd all go insane, if we weren't all crazy we'd all go insane." ~Jimmy Buffet
                          "Pursuing the life of my high-riding heroes I burned up my childhood days..."-Willie Nelson


                          • #14
                            I've often found (a few eventing barns around here) that there are many horses that aren't brave enough for x-c (just like me!). So you may end up riding the "jumpers" and not having to go x-c. I'd work for a good event trainer in a heartbeat, given I wouldn't have to jump x-c.

                            I rode with a great event trainer last year, while my horse was laid up on her non xc horse. She is a great trainer and a great rider (helped me leg up my horse when he was coming back) but ultimately an excellent horseperson. She has continued to help me, this year before going to VSF I went over to take a lesson with her (with the blessing of my trainer who was already in VT) to school over a liverpool before leaving.

                            A long time ago (like 7 years) I wanted to event, until I learned that xc jumps are solid and when your wonderful little pony stops half way over the fence its not pretty. Dream pretty much ended after 2 bad schools. But the two event trainers I've ridden with consistently (w/o the xc part) are excellent horsepeople whose barn would be an honor to work in.


                            • #15
                              I am a h/j rider and I've been a WS at an eventing barn. However, I've always had a strong background in dressage and have shown dressage along with h/j'ers my whole life. Eventing will stress lots of conditioning and dressage, so depending on what you've done in the past, it might be very different for you. For me, it wasn't. My experience has been FANTASTIC! I get to ride everything in the barn from the horses just off the track to the horses going to the 2 and 3 star events. I still have yet to go to an event and ride, but I ride all the horses that do and still show my h/j horses, and keep them at the barn. I've gone xc schooling (which I had done a couple of times prior to being a WS). There really isn't that much difference in the equipment in my experience. I mean, they'll probably all ride in more than 1 saddle (your dressage saddle and the jumping saddle), they'll have black tack more than likely, but other than that...regular boots, etc. At least at the barn I've been a working student at, they prefer a different "look" for the horses (i.e. they want them more lean in comparison to chunky warmbloods cantering around the hunter ring, etc). That is still something I am getting used to. Good luck!


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Beau Cheval View Post
                                Hi guys,

                                I was talking to a contact between me and this potential employer today on the phone and she was with some other students of this trainer. They made some comments in jest that had me a little concerned that this might not be such a good idea after all...
                                Hi. I read your thread on the Eventing forum and over here and I wanted to comment. Everyone has given you really great advice but I wanted to address the part I quoted.

                                I have spent 7 years as a WS/Groom. 4 years as a WS to a BNT for eventing (while I was in college), 1 year as a SJ groom, and then 2 years as a head groom for another BNT in eventing. If the other students made some jests at your expense, please don't take it personally. I've seen many an eventer try a WS gig at a BNT's barn and have it not work out. The working student is really excited to be there until they realize that working is actually part of the job.

                                I've never been a WS at a hunter/jumper barn so I cannot comment on the differences but I know WS positions at eventing barns can be rough. You can learn a lot, it is just hard.

                                I'd give it a try and see what you can make of it. And as someone who has trained many a working student, I have never minded teaching them something, or reminding them a second time on how to do things. It became a problem when I had to remind them over and over and over again on how to do things.
                                Hanlon's Razor

                                Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.


                                • #17
                                  I was a working student for an event trainer last summer and plan to go back again thiss summer. Of course, the trainer I worked with had a background in equitation and is also a pretty high rated course designer, so he actually appreciated my hunter/jumper and equitation roots. I would definatly say GO FOR IT. Check out the credentials of the trainer and the barn and if it suites you and you will feel like you will get something out of the experience I would definately go for it. The good eventers realize that equitation is important and will most likely not change much of your riding style but rather teach you to ride differently for different situations. You won't be floating the reins in two-point, but rather sitting deep to the base with a positive ride and a fast pace. Go for the experience and you can take a lot of the eventing style and apply it to your hunter/jumper riding. The dressage work will do wonders for stretching your whole body and learning to use your seat and leg effectively. HAVE FUN!
                                  There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the
                                  inside of a man.

                                  -Sir Winston Churchill