I want to be a working student?

Hello equestrians!

My name is Natalie and I’m looking for some advice from those with experience with either being or “hiring” a working student, with regards to what skills I would need to appeal to trainers.

A bit on my background:

I’m 18 and have been riding for seven years, and showing on the A-circuit the last three. I live in Northern California and have loved horses all my life. My trainer is an equitation/medal finals champion many times over and has made sure all of her students are well-trained in that ring, above all else. I’ve shown in equitation/medals mostly (up to 3’), but have also done the hunters and a couple derbies. I’ve leased a horses, but have also ridden my trainer’s lesson/sale horses as favors to her.

This said, I can say that I have experience working with our six-figure show hunters, laid back school horses, and even our greenies. I do barn chores frequently (preparing feed buckets, turnouts, cleaning tack, cleaning barn aisles, etc.) and have a great work ethic. I also help out at shows, both at the schooling and A-rated levels, and know what needs to be done to get everyone, both human and equine, prepped and ready for the show ring.

My dad is unwilling to pay for my riding after this summer, as I’m off to college in the fall, and I’m worried I’m not qualified enough to appeal to trainers in Southern California (I’m headed to USC). All I want to do is further my riding career and help a trainer out in return for some rides, but my show record isn’t impressive and there’s just so many things I wish I knew how to do, like give injections or “diagnose” soundness issues, etc.

So here are my questions:

  1. Do I appeal to you, hypothetically, as a working student candidate?

  2. What skills must a working student have to work at a show barn?

  3. What should I put in my riding footage video to send to potential trainers?

Thank in advance. :smiley:

Sure, you sound like a fine candidate. A working student is not required to know everything. If you ride well, and have experience with barn chores, and are not afraid of work, the point of the exercise is that you will learn more in time and with experience. Choose the trainer/s you apply to carefully. Not every high end coach/trainer is a good one to work for. Get the expectations laid out clearly, and the payment to you stated in advance, so that you are not taken advantage of too badly. Send or present a riding video to the person you select, it doesn’t have to be a professional video job, just show your seat and balance and overall attitude towards horses. It will become apparent to the potential employer soon enough if you are suitable or not as they get to know you. Just as it will become apparent to you soon enough if you have chosen well. Most importantly, meet these people in person, apply in person. Do not just send the video. State what you are looking for, see if what they need in a worker jives with what you are offering.

Good luck!

Does your former trainer know anyone in Southern California that she could put in a good word for you? So Cal is a hard market to find working student opportunities in Hunter/jumper barns. Are you willing to branch out to other disciplines? I have seen some opportunities with dressage barns. Check yard and groom http://www.yardandgroom.com

My initial reaction to your title is no you don’t.

I’m a working student currently and unless you have the time and endurance to work 80+ hours a week at crappy jobs you don’t want to be a working student. Sure, the part with horses is educational and fun (albeit hard work) but it’s all the other work that will get you. Unless you find a kick ass super great job, you will find that you don’t have money for food for yourself, money to show, money for board. So you’ll have to get other jobs as well, that’s right, I said jobS with a plural. I have 3 plus my working student job and I have NO extra money per month. If something happens to me, my horse, my car, I will probably end up getting screwed. There are two other girls who are also working students alongside me, one had to quit because she couldn’t afford it anymore, and the other one ended up having her parents kick in a significant amount of money to keep her on her feet. Honestly with the fact that college is coming up for you, you do not have the time or the money to be a true working student.

THAT ALL BEING SAID, I would urge you to become a pseudo working student for a barn in exchange for money off of board if you have your heart set on it. Work maybe 10-15 hours a week in exchange for board. The qualifications for this are also much lower, most places won’t ask you submit a video or really even care how much riding experience you have. You can learn from the people you work for, and establish a good rapport with your bosses, a lot of equestrians are willing to cut deals to people they like and want to stick around.

To answer your questions:

  1. Yes, but only if you weren’t a college student, that’s a huge no for a lot of places. They can’t spare you all that extra time.

  2. Be hard working and willing to do everything even the gross things. (Think mucking 3 buckets of piss out of a thirsty horse’s stall or picking poop out of feeders with your hands)

  3. If they ask for video I think about it kind of like I’m selling a horse. Include a riding video on the flat, over fences, and if H/J is what you want to do maybe a round at a show you went to.

Are you going to try to be a working student part time while you’re in school full time?
Don’t jump into anything. Take some time at school to determine how much time/energy schoolwork, clubs, social activities take. You may be better off working a more “traditional” part time job (I tutored for the college, and worked 2-4 part days/week a the GAP, as well as working at a few different barns) and just use that money to ride/lesson the first semester. Then, you can see how to best manage your time, how the barn you’re riding at works, and the coaches will see your riding skills, ability to clean tack and willingness to help out around the barn (handwalking, wrapping, etc) it might build into the perfect working student position.
Also, most barns are going to want some long-term committment. So are you planning on going home during the busy summer show season, or will you try to find local housing and increase your availability at the barn? These are all things to think about ahead of time.

If you fully intend to be a pro rider/trainer after college, a working student position will be invaluable. However, if you’re going to get a ‘real’ job after college or follow-on school, and want to stay involved with riding more recreationally, don’t go the WS route. You want to stay eligible to compete as an ammie.

Talk to your trainer about what your life plans are (regarding horses) and ask his/her recommendations about ways to get there. If you do want to ride/work as a pro, and really want to be a WS, maybe your trainer can make some calls on your behalf. An honest assessment of work-ethic, riding skills, and talent coming from a peer are going to have a lot more credibility than a video of your best courses on easy horses and a summary or what you think your strenths and weakness are…

I did the WS thing for several years – I was sure I was going to be a pro in the industry. After coming to terms with my level of talent, and limited funds, I did a major change in life direction. Now, 15 years later, I’m in a stable (no pun intended), decently paying job, I have 7 horses on my own farm, show the lower level As in the AA and AO divisons, and have had success at state and zone level. I’m much happier riding and showing as an ammie. I loved life as a working student, but it was a LOT of work/hours/heartbreak with only a small chance of ‘making it to the top’. Just some thoughts. Feel free to PM me for more info.

and good luck on this next step of growing up – college is a fantastic opportunity to find yourself, or reinvent yourself, or just try new things. Enjoy it!

While it’s important, in certain circumstances, to know how to give injections correctly, I’m a little worried that this came first on your list in terms of what you feel you might want to learn.

Not necessarily a reflection on your qualifications or lack thereof, but possibly an indication that the definition of “horsemanship” in many BNT barns is not the same as what many horsemen of the old cloth (including myself) could wish it was.

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I’m going to join in from the perspective of a college prof! I agree with the comments from ElementFarm: don’t over-commit, and make your college education a priority.

I have a couple of young friends who became working students/ barn managers for our coach after they graduated from university, and I know how long their hours are. I can’t imagine them doing this and carrying a full course load.

How well you do in college (including your choice of courses, your grades, finishing in a timely manner, and relevant work experience) is going to determine in large part how well the rest of your life goes: whether you get a good job early on, whether you stall out in low-level jobs for life, or whether you need to go back and finish your degree in your 30s or 40s to get out of that low-level job. So, how well you do in college is going to determine whether you can afford to keep horses the rest of your life.

The number one reason, in my experience, why students end up dropping out, flunking out, or working way below their potential, is that they don’t budget enough time to complete the coursework well, or at all. Where I teach, a regional or “commuter” university with mostly local students, that’s often because they are working part time or even full time to support themselves; sometimes it’s because they are distracted by extra-curricular activities. For instance, the low graduation rate for scholarship athletes at the big schools is well known (we are not a big school and don’t have this problem).

So I would caution against taking on any commitments that are equivalent to full time work (if you had to work full time to afford college, then you would be stuck taking one course a term, which is why it’s so hard for people in their 30s and 40s to finish their degrees).

When you go from the 30-plus hour week of high school to the 15 hour classroom time of college, it looks on paper like you will have a lot of time for jobs, hobbies, social life. And for the first month in September, that will seem true. Then midterm assignments hit, and then finals in December.

I can still remember my own panic at the end of my first term in college.

The college workload is designed to be, basically, full time work if you add the essays, studying, reading, etc. onto the classroom hours. Most of what you do in college is on your own.

Plus, you should keep some time, energy and attention free for interesting part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer opportunities related to your chosen future career. These are important in a tight job market, and the more competitive your chosen field, the more you need to put on your resume before you graduate.

Plus you want to have some time and attention free for the cultural and social aspects of the university experience. College contacts and friendships can be very important throughout life.

So I can’t see fitting a true working student position into full-time university. But, depending on the way things work locally, you might be able to trade weekend chores for riding privileges or lessons. Or do a part-time horse share. Or, as ElementFarm suggested, take a part-time job on campus, hopefully one that adds to your resume, and spend the money on lessons.

Whatever you take on, you have to be able to bail out of it when you get swamped during finals. You absolutely do not want to fail a final exam because you had to muck stalls instead of studying.

A working student is usually a full time position, right?

I’m sure you will find trainers down in SoCal who are will to let you help out (barn chores, tacking up horses, etc) in exchange for time in the saddle or lessons. That is essentially what you want? I live in a college town, and every year we have new girls come out who want to ride and help (who don’t have $$$). Sometime we get talented and skilled riders, other times the girls don’t know anything about english or even how to polo wrap. All are more than welcome to come out, help groom but unless they know how to ride (at least advanced beginners+) they won’t get much ride time (since most of horses we have are young or green).

Going to USC, I’m sure you will have your hands full and might not have as much free time as you think.

I teach at a university. I want to second scribbler’s post above, and expecially emphasize this part:

“The number one reason, in my experience, why students end up dropping out, flunking out, or working way below their potential, is that they don’t budget enough time to complete the coursework well, or at all.”

I have seen this happen repeatedly to students. Going to college is an all-consuming experience. There are so many distractions there, and even if a student navigates them successfully, the level of the intellectual work required is so much more difficult than what many students are used to. In addition, students don’t have parents to check up on them, and the professors will not chase after students who owe work or who are failing. Navigating these challenges is difficult enough without trying to be a working student on top of that. I’d say go to school and make sure you can handle it before taking on a huge secondary responsibility. If you find you have have some extra time and are doing well in classes, then think about doing more. If you do find you can handle more than just classes, I would encourage you to get involved in a campus club, activity, or sport. That will be a way to enrich your college experience. I’m not saying don’t ride–but remember the horses will always be there. Don’t compromise your college experience.

I had my horse at college for one year–my sophomore year. The amount of time I had to ride was negligible. I am grateful to my parents for supporting my riding and paying for my horse to be there, but considering how little time I had to ride, it probably wasn’t worth the money they spent. This isn’t true for everyone: I know college students who have their horses here and are able to make it all work. But as for being a successful working student AND a successful full-time college student at the same time? I think that’s going to be impossible.

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Third college professor chiming in to +1 the other two and provide a link to a handy time management worksheet. It was developed by a STEM program at the community coege where I teach. http://homepage.smc.edu/kline_peggy/Time_Management_Activity.pdf

I’m referring to giving medications like Adequan or things like that. My trainer is 100% against any mood/behavior altering medications (especially those given to many horses in the show ring on the circuit). Our horses get medications only to preserve their soundness.

When it comes to horsemanship, I wholeheartedly believe in the “old fashioned” rationale.

[QUOTE=Scribbler;8234864]I’m going to join in from the perspective of a college prof! I agree with the comments from ElementFarm: don’t over-commit, and make your college education a priority.

I have a couple of young friends who became working students/ barn managers for our coach after they graduated from university, and I know how long their hours are. I can’t imagine them doing this and carrying a full course load.

How well you do in college (including your choice of courses, your grades, finishing in a timely manner, and relevant work experience) is going to determine in large part how well the rest of your life goes: whether you get a good job early on, whether you stall out in low-level jobs for life, or whether you need to go back and finish your degree in your 30s or 40s to get out of that low-level job. So, how well you do in college is going to determine whether you can afford to keep horses the rest of your life.

The number one reason, in my experience, why students end up dropping out, flunking out, or working way below their potential, is that they don’t budget enough time to complete the coursework well, or at all. Where I teach, a regional or “commuter” university with mostly local students, that’s often because they are working part time or even full time to support themselves; sometimes it’s because they are distracted by extra-curricular activities. For instance, the low graduation rate for scholarship athletes at the big schools is well known (we are not a big school and don’t have this problem).

So I would caution against taking on any commitments that are equivalent to full time work (if you had to work full time to afford college, then you would be stuck taking one course a term, which is why it’s so hard for people in their 30s and 40s to finish their degrees).

When you go from the 30-plus hour week of high school to the 15 hour classroom time of college, it looks on paper like you will have a lot of time for jobs, hobbies, social life. And for the first month in September, that will seem true. Then midterm assignments hit, and then finals in December.

I can still remember my own panic at the end of my first term in college.

The college workload is designed to be, basically, full time work if you add the essays, studying, reading, etc. onto the classroom hours. Most of what you do in college is on your own.

Plus, you should keep some time, energy and attention free for interesting part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer opportunities related to your chosen future career. These are important in a tight job market, and the more competitive your chosen field, the more you need to put on your resume before you graduate.

Plus you want to have some time and attention free for the cultural and social aspects of the university experience. College contacts and friendships can be very important throughout life.

So I can’t see fitting a true working student position into full-time university. But, depending on the way things work locally, you might be able to trade weekend chores for riding privileges or lessons. Or do a part-time horse share. Or, as ElementFarm suggested, take a part-time job on campus, hopefully one that adds to your resume, and spend the money on lessons.

Whatever you take on, you have to be able to bail out of it when you get swamped during finals. You absolutely do not want to fail a final exam because you had to muck stalls instead of studying.[/QUOTE]

May I just say that I appreciate the time it must have taken you to write this response. Your insight is very helpful. I did not realize that the term working student entails a much larger commitment than just a couple hours per week. I definitely plan on taking up ElementFarm’s advice and just working hard to pay for my own lessons.

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[QUOTE=blacknwhite;8234708]My initial reaction to your title is no you don’t.

I’m a working student currently and unless you have the time and endurance to work 80+ hours a week at crappy jobs you don’t want to be a working student. Sure, the part with horses is educational and fun (albeit hard work) but it’s all the other work that will get you. Unless you find a kick ass super great job, you will find that you don’t have money for food for yourself, money to show, money for board. So you’ll have to get other jobs as well, that’s right, I said jobS with a plural. I have 3 plus my working student job and I have NO extra money per month. If something happens to me, my horse, my car, I will probably end up getting screwed. There are two other girls who are also working students alongside me, one had to quit because she couldn’t afford it anymore, and the other one ended up having her parents kick in a significant amount of money to keep her on her feet. Honestly with the fact that college is coming up for you, you do not have the time or the money to be a true working student.

THAT ALL BEING SAID, I would urge you to become a pseudo working student for a barn in exchange for money off of board if you have your heart set on it. Work maybe 10-15 hours a week in exchange for board. The qualifications for this are also much lower, most places won’t ask you submit a video or really even care how much riding experience you have. You can learn from the people you work for, and establish a good rapport with your bosses, a lot of equestrians are willing to cut deals to people they like and want to stick around.

To answer your questions:

  1. Yes, but only if you weren’t a college student, that’s a huge no for a lot of places. They can’t spare you all that extra time.

  2. Be hard working and willing to do everything even the gross things. (Think mucking 3 buckets of piss out of a thirsty horse’s stall or picking poop out of feeders with your hands)

  3. If they ask for video I think about it kind of like I’m selling a horse. Include a riding video on the flat, over fences, and if H/J is what you want to do maybe a round at a show you went to.[/QUOTE]

BlackNWhite, it sounds like you have a position that you are very unhappy in and that you receive absolutely no compensation for.

OP, that is not the case for all positions. When I was a working student I received a weekly stipend that was enough to cover all my needs (not wants!) plus housing was included. Industry standard definitely varies and I was very lucky. However I was also working crazy hours and would not have had time for any other job.

You’ve got some good advice about DEFINITELY not trying to be a working student during college, but it could definitely be an option for you over the summer. I completed undergrad, took a year as a working student, and then applied for grad school (I start law school in the fall.) It was a perfect plan for me - I got to live, eat, and breathe horses and while I enjoyed immensely I realized that if I was still doing that job in twenty years I wouldn’t be happy.

You sound perfectly capable of being a working student. One of my positions only used me as a flat rider, the other allowed me to jump school certain horses. It really depends on the set up. A barn with top level, schooled horses that show a lot jump minimally and only with their owner/lessor/rider. A barn with sales horses and more owners than clients who ride might provide more opportunities over fences for you. You honestly do learn so so much watching other people though.

I would definitely talk to your current trainer about options. Research barn and facilities that interest you and contact them. Make a riding resume and get it out there. I got both my positions on my own by reaching out to people who I was interested in working with and seeing if they needed any help.

Good luck!

Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know that you will be able to put in enough work hours to offset any lessons. Certainly not going to put in 10-15 a week in return for a months board as somebody else suggested, not in the few show barns remaining in the metropolitan Los Angeles area, even much further out is spendy. Even lessons are up there price wise.

USC is in congested metro South Central LA. Most of the large show barns that would need a working student are going to be up along the foothills, out in the Valley, Orange County or even San Diego county. Location is going to be as important, if not more, then the quality of the barn. Best barn in the world won’t work if you spend more time in the car then you can at that barn.

Think that’s your biggest hurdle to finding a position-your availability and dependability will be a question to any employer if you are carrying a class load at a competitive school like USC located some distance away from the barn with legendary traffic.

Your best bet would be the Cerritos, Long Beach area, there are barns there but not high end. Rolling Hills/Palos Verdes is reasonably close with some show barns still there last I heard, but not many. Anything else is going to be very difficult to reach in a reasonable amount of time on a dependable basis from South Central LA.

I can speak to that since I grew into adulthood there and still visit family and horsey friends. As a native, I define “reasonable amount of time” as anything up to and including 1 hour each way.

Srikes me there will be other students at USC with horses. Perhaps working to make contacts with them and getting to know the scene down there is a better option then trying to blindly find something in a vast, unfamiliar area that will fit with your school schedule. Much better way to approach this with so many unknowns at this point.

Take it easy on Dad too. An expensive education at what is essentially a private, prestigious and hard to get into college is a good trade off for horse expenses for a few years.

Although it may seem easiest to pay for horses by working at the barn, many many many other part time jobs pay much better for easier work. Sure, you won’t be around horses, but “being around horses” doesn’t make me want to muck stalls for a living. My best jobs in college were baby-sitting gigs - flexible hours and good pay (in cash).

I will echo the others that say the level of coursework required in college is a different ball game than high school. Sure, you eventually figure it out, but the first semester in particular I wouldn’t commit any time to working if you don’t have to.

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I’ll be devils advocate. I commented on your other thread. I was a working student during my college career. After working in barns as a freshman and sophomore. (There is a typo in the other thread; I was a WS after my sophomore year) After taking summer classes and having AP credits, I found myself a semester ahead. I was able to apply for a 6mo WS position. I started in July through December, basically taking my ‘summer break’ in the fall.

I still was able to come back, graduate in 4 years, keep my GPA high, and enjoy my college experience. The other girls I worked with took a gap year before they started college. It was incredibly educational. I was able to improve my riding and network with so many riders and trainers, that I’m now interviewing with for a full-time position.

(Oh guys, if you can pick up a few riding lessons and riding clients horses. I made triple what my peers were making and worked half the hours)

My biggest tips would be to communicate well. Be professional and humble. Trainers and barn owners want up-beat and friendly staff working in their barn. That doesn’t mean someone who sneers at first-time horse owners or acts like the next Reed Kessler. I saw those. Don’t be the WS who criticizes the adult ammy who spends too much time brushing her horse or makes fun of boarders to other boarders.
I made sure each boarder or client at my trainers was well looked after. For instance, some amateur first-time horse owners adored it when i braided their horses mane in a long braid, or another boarders I would hand-walk when she couldn’t get to her horse while at work. I feel like in the WS world, you often have to earn the right to ride more horses. This not only earned me bonus points with the barn owner/trainer, but the boarders may slip me a tip, bring me coffee in the am, or give me access to their Country Club pool! Work your butt off more than you’re asked. Ask questions.

Winsome, were you in a densely populated, metropolitan area with few show barns within a reasonable drive of campus? Trying to put this delicately but the area anywhere near that campus is a long way from any show barns in more ways then distance and traffic jams.

My point has nothing to do with qualifications, balancing course work against barn time and living away from home for the first time. It’s more about about being able to spend enough time at the barn to get any saddle time when there are very, very few quality barns closer then an hour each way with most further.

It’s a tough area for WS with most barns on the bigger side, many in county run facilities that don’t do labor for saddle time swaps. Not saying there are none, I know a few that might but they would be more then an hour each way, without traffic, and need more hours of guaranteed work a week then a full time student can swing. I mean, if you want to put in four hours a day 3 days a week, add two hours drive time, minimum? OP have 6 hours a day to devote? Weekends are show days, those can be further then the barn.

Like I said, there are barns located south and west of campus in Cerritos, Long Beach, Rolling Hills, Palos Verdes that are fairly easy to get to from USC but they aren’t big, upper end H/J barns and they may not do labor for saddle time swaps. There is LACEC at Griffith Park with its changing assortment of trainers too, whoever is left around Glendale and Flintridge. But those require crossing downtown which is a nightmare more often then not.

Just not a set up that allows squeezing in barn time between classes, even if OP can locate one that will swap part time labor for saddle time.

I went to school and worked off board out there but at Cal Poly, 20 min from home, 15 minutes from the barn, 30 minutes to other job. Not such horrific traffic, didn’t even need to get on the freeway except for the other job. But it has gotten much worse since I did it. And the barn us is now a business park, trainer went to San Diego County, 60 miles away.

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Sure, you sound qualified enough. But soooooo many working student gigs are just garbage. You’ll muck more than you ride and at best get really good at setting feeds. There are some good ones, but those are full time and you don’t have that option while you’re in school.

Why don’t you see if there is a trainer close to your school that has some rides for you instead of committing to being an actual employee? You also might want to avoid breaking your amateur status, and being a working student is fully in the pro side of the card.

If you ride well, there are always horses to sit on.