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Need Advice - Guidance - Overseas move & year off school

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  • Need Advice - Guidance - Overseas move & year off school

    Hey guys,

    So this spring is my projected graduation date... if all goes well in my courses this year I should graduate with a 4-yr B.Sc in Physics. My plan is to get a Master's in Engineering Physics or Biomedical Engineering afterwards. But before that, I would like to take a year off to pursue riding.

    I've thought a lot about it, and have decided that i would like to go overseas to do this. I have thought about and pondered this idea for years. I tried to do a working student position in the US a couple of years ago and legal hassles made it fall through, so I'd like to avoid the US if I could. Ideally I would like to move to a Spanish or French speaking country so I could become fluent in either language (I have studied both fairly extensively in school, French especially, but I think only immersion would get me over that hump from basic knowledge to fluent.)

    I guess my question here is twofold:
    1) Have any of you done what I am planning on doing? How was your experience? I know some will discourage the year off, but I feel that this is really the only chance I will have in my life to do it, before career and perhaps family responsibilities tie me down to my current place. I will definitely return for my master's, I have always been academically minded and can't see myself ditching out on that dream either. But horses have always been my passion and I do not want to stagnate at my current knowledge level. I want to continue improving.

    2) Do any of you have any recommendations for places to look into in France, Spain, Mexico or the South American countries? I've been trolling the Internet, but is daunting and somewhat unnerving to have no idea of the true nature of the places I am looking at, and word of mouth is a valuable thing! (That being said, places you recommend I DON'T look into would be just as appreciated! )

    My ideal position would be at a showjumping barn. I do have a fair amount of riding & competition experience, and in summer have at times ridden 5-6 horses daily. I have competed a fair number of horses as well, but only up to the 1.0m jumpers. Another option, however, would be to work & learn at a polo barn, which I also play on regular basis.

    Thanks so much in advance. ANY advice, words of wisdom or warning, and anecdotes from your own experience would be so appreciated!

    Oh, and I'd be looking to start this position in Fall of 2012.
    "Disapproval of the way other people run their businesses and treat their horses is the meat and drink of the hunter-jumper industry."
    Working Student Blog
    Current Blog

  • #2
    Move to Portugal, ride beautiful lusitanos, make us all insanely jealous
    If you're going to do it, go big or stay home.

    I do have a friend who had a bad experience at a TB farm they moved a few provinces to go to. My only suggestion to avoid the problems they had, would be to not stay where you worked - that way you've got options if it doesn't work out and you've still got a roof over your head.

    And don't spend your plane fare home until you're really sure you're going to stay.

    Good luck on your adventure!
    "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
    Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
    Need You Now Equine


    • #3
      I spent a couple years in Europe riding and grooming. Not legally, though. Most North Americans don't do it legally (from what I found when I was there, anyhow) because it's just too damn hard these days to get the paperwork.
      If you find someone, try to find them through connections if you can. And find them fast because the time it takes for paperwork to be done can eat up months. That is if you're getting work-permit type papers and visas. You could also do something like a 'working holiday' visa depending on what country you do choose.
      I never heard anything good about the French while I was overseas, but if their language is your thing, try the French part of Belgium! You'll ride near the best in the world and get to speak/learn French! Plus there's a ttooonnneee of barns to choose from. And their food is the best. Love Belgium.

      Are you willing to pay to be somewhere or are you looking for a riding job where they pay you? If you're looking for a show jumping barn and have only jumped up to 1m, you're probably going to be starting at the absolute bottom. Riding in Europe is extremely different than in North America, and their work ethic is different too, so be prepared for a huge shocker. I knew enough North Americans who went back crying. (Not to scare you - sounds like you're a hard worker anyways!)
      If you're on Facebook check out the page "grooms, jobs and riders" - There's a tonne of people on it mostly based around Europe who post jobs and job wanted ads. And of course Yard and Groom. But before you take any job, please, please, please talk to current and former employees if you can. It can really be a little different over there.

      Sorry for the jumble of random information.. hopefully I read your post right and helped you out at least a little bit!

      Edit: Just thought I'd add - if you can stick it out for an entire year, you will learn more in that year than you have in your entire life.
      I'd rather be riding!


      • #4
        For jumpers, forget Spain and France, other than right on the edge with Belgium/Germany, as already mentioned.
        Try to go where the big jumper barns and shows are.

        You won't gain much over working in an USA jumper barn if you don't go where the real tough jumping action is.

        I would not let the language be what determines your horse involvement.
        If you want to go first for the foreign language experience, then any barn anywhere you like will work where they speak what you want to learn.


        • #5
          Get your grad school applications in this fall and winter. Then, ask for a 1 year deferral. Once you are off in Europe, having fun, you won't want to do grad school applications and will have trouble getting the interviews done.

          After you have your grad school acceptances, go to Europe and have fun.


          • Original Poster

            Thank you so much for all the replies. This is very helpful! i will definitely take a look at Belgium, I never considered it. I am willing to work very hard. I would like to do things legally if possible, and get the proper paperwork filled out. I think I may start by asking people i know if they have connections, etc, because I would definitely feel more comfortable going as a referral to a place recommended by people I trust than through following a vague online ad, as I'm sure you understand.

            I am preparing my grad school applications and plan to apply this winter, for a January 2013 acceptance and defer it one semester to Fall 2013. That's the plan right now anyway!

            I would consider a barn in the states, perhaps in California or Florida, and California especially might be a possibility as I have some connections around the Palm Springs area, however the overseas experience is something I'd really like to explore.

            How did you find the culture shock and adjusting to living there, Moocow?
            "Disapproval of the way other people run their businesses and treat their horses is the meat and drink of the hunter-jumper industry."
            Working Student Blog
            Current Blog


            • #7
              I had very little culture shock in terms of everyday life as most people in the places I went (minus Germany) spoke English. I would go back in a heartbeat but getting papers was just too hard and I didn't want to play under the table any more. And I loved living there! I really can't say enough good things about being over there as a horsey person. You'll be in heaven. Also, the food was amazing. And the horse show environment is totally different. I hate it here and love, love, love it over there. It sucks to be grooming over there sometimes, but riding is awesome. Once you get past the extreme learning curve. I thought I was a piece of garbage when I got there and that feeling lasted until about 1.5 years in. When I was in Canada I thought I was pretty good - I rode for people and did a lot of green horses for my coach etc. WRONG. I worked hard, rode all the crap horses and got a tonne out of my time there. Now I am back in Canada looking for a riding job but figuring it will be end of season before I find anything.

              As for culture shock in terms of horsey world.. well that's another story. Everything you can think of is different there. But for the most part, in a good way.

              Wanting to do things legally is great! I gave it a shot but it's a lot of time, money and very little possibility of having it happen under a work visa from what I experienced. I did a lot of research and asked around to everyone I knew and nobody had any good answers for me. Talk to overseas visa specialists and you may get some other options like the working holiday one I mentioned before. If you really only plan to stay for a year then it is much easier to get and doesn't cost you an arm and a leg.

              A warning: once you spend a good amount of time over there, you will never be happy with the level of riding you see in North America (with very few exceptions). I actually feel quite depressed when I go to shows now. I can't sit through more than a few riders in the GP classes, can't stand to watch the warm-up rings (my favourite thing to do in Europe!) and basically just let out a lot of huge sighs.

              Just from my experience!
              I'd rather be riding!


              • #8
                I am not sure I get the whole "avoid France thing, except for near the Belgian border". What's that about?? From my (many years of!) experience, there are exceptional barns /riders all over France, and very nice people too, so I am curious as to where this bias is coming from.

                I do, however, agree about the culture shock, in terms of the relative level of riding.

                I would caution that you would not likely find it easy to get working papers. I also think that you would find it difficult to find employment as a rider in a show jumping barn if your show experience is only to 1.0 meter -- unfortunately, that is just barely showing level here. Hate to be a bummer, but I can't see why a show jumping barn would be eager to hire someone at that level, without the proper paperwork, over someone with an EU passport and experience at a higher level (especially with green horses). You might have an outside shot as a groom, but then again the lack of paperwork would be an issue.

                But hey, I could be wrong. If ever you do get any leads, you can PM me and I'd be glad let you know if I know anything about the potential barn / employer ...


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks again! I will definitely do so. I understand that my experience is pretty paltry to be considered as a rider or even as a groom, but I'm hoping I can maybe find a way to get in through connections as a working student. Especially considering I have worked almost exclusively with Thoroughbreds, I think I might experience a pretty big culture shock, as I believe the mass majority of horses over there are native warmbloods?

                  The other option I was considering was to look into polo barns, where I know I will have a much higher chance of getting a riding job, as there are just more horses per rider and they require extensive riding for fitness. However, I'd prefer to jump if I could wrangle it.

                  I wonder whether, considering my relative inexperience, it is better to look into middle-range or lower-level barns as opposed to big, high-level competition barns?

                  I am also seriously considering looking into South America... a few of my friends have gone to train in Argentina for polo and heartily enjoyed it. I understand (and am wary of) the difference between training and working, though!
                  "Disapproval of the way other people run their businesses and treat their horses is the meat and drink of the hunter-jumper industry."
                  Working Student Blog
                  Current Blog


                  • #10
                    Yeah, definitely look into smaller barns as well. There's many levels of showing in Europe and it's not unusual to find 150 people per class even at 'training shows' (what we would consider schooling shows). A lot of sales barns use those to get their young horses experience so that they don't have to pay a lot of money but can still get their horses to a tonne of different venues and experience in the ring. Getting a working student position in a barn like that (and there's plenty) may be an option too. Every place will differ on what kind of riding time they will offer and not everyone wants to take on someone who has never groomed professionally and doesn't have much experience in the saddle, but they are out there. They'll just work you to the bone to get everything out of you.
                    But like I said before - if you're willing to pay, then there are many more options for you.

                    Polo sounds awesome too! I've also heard from a few people that training down in Argentina is an amazing experience. It's whatever you fancy, really!

                    I'd rather be riding!


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks so much All really helpful advice. I'm excited to start investigating different possibilities, on top of investigating grad school! lol
                      "Disapproval of the way other people run their businesses and treat their horses is the meat and drink of the hunter-jumper industry."
                      Working Student Blog
                      Current Blog