Where are the working students?

I have a really nice opportunity for a working student here at my stable in Ontario. I have posted the position all over and I am not getting much in the way of responses. I am offering a schooled FEI horse, lessons, 25 hours of PAID work/week and room and board. Is that fair or do I expect too much? I am an FEI level trainer and certified high performance coach with good competitive results and oodles of experience to share.

Or is the whole “working student” experience a thing of the past?

Thanks for your comments!


On paper it sounds totally fair. If I were looking for a position I would certainly consider it. Which leaves open the question of the market in your area, and perhaps your reputation. I have no idea who you are so not even remotely a slam on you. But, if you’re honest about your abilities and treat your working students fairly I can’t imagine why you can’t fill it


up the paid work time from a part time position to full time, 25 hours is considered a part time position

If there is full time work, there is little to no time for riding …


Is it partly the pandemic effecting your response?


Not sure but might it have something to do with the season? If I were a working student right now, I’d be looking in the south. One barn I know of just hired someone from California - maybe 6-8 weeks ago, similar situation but in Florida. I am pretty sure that she is only a short timer - maybe through late spring.
Another barn person that I know is frustrated by lack of health insurance. She also works at another part time job.
I dont think there is a huge demand in general, but that’s based on a small set of data points…people I’ve heard are looking for a WS and cant find.


Possibly a seasonal issue not just for the cold but because you often find college age kids for this, and they are mostly looking for summer work of that volume.

But also, I think the WS is a dying breed. My friend here has one who is trying to develop into being a pro out on her own. Yet my friend was complaining because said wannabe pro rode 3 horses one day (and no barn work outside of grooming those horses) and was too tired to show up for work the next day.


The answer is that the working students are not in Canada, or at least that’s what I found trying to hire working students at a past barn. The ones from here don’t want to work here - they want to go to Florida or Europe. Our best luck was advertising on Yard & Groom and getting international students. The best ones seemed to come from the UK and Australia.


well when I was employed in the horse industry the average work week was over 60 hours…25 hours is nothing … also as a “working student” riding is part of the job


I would definitely concur that anyone with any kind of marketable skills in the horse industry, which is to say anyone who could benefit from riding an FEI horse, is going to be going to Florida or Europe this time of year. Yes, they will probably be working 60 hour weeks, there’s a lot of fun people a lot of good parties a lot of great horses a lot to learn and a lot to do. And also it’s not Siberia.

When I was working in florida, I recommended to most of our working students that instead they should go get a groom’s job. For the most part you’re going to learn more, and if you can ride halfway decent you’ll have horses to ride generally if you want to ride.

Very very few working students and very few grooms go on to riding careers in the horse industry. Most trainers don’t go on to real riding careers in the horse industry in the United States or europe. This is probably the most significant change from 40 50 years ago and working student positions. These days very very very wealthy clients are the ones propping up the biggest trainers and really the ones most successful on the international circuit.


Really depends on the area and the barn… Plenty of working student positions are glorified indentured servants with little or no riding time and is just another way the industry takes advantage of young women (and sometimes young men)… So many of them are 60-80+ hrs a week of brutal work, unpaid, no benefits or time off, with verbal and/or physical abuse from the trainer as a seeming prerequisite for the position.

“Working student” is probably a red flag to most people now. The “working student” generation of the past are parents now themselves. They were working students themselves as kids. They knew other working students, they talked. They know what a working student position really entails – the good, the bad, the ugly. The real truth is that WS programs really don’t offer a “stepping stone” for the young and hungry to advance their skills or compete - you are so busy working your butt off, you don’t have time to compete or work on your own skills. The few working students I know that have become UL riders themselves, had independently wealthy parents that funded their multi-year stays with the BNT, and while they worked their butts off to get to where they are, they didn’t get to where they were by being someone else’s WS.

I am not a parent but I would not put a child of mine in a WS program. For one, putting a child in someone else’s home and care, where they can be disabused or taken advantage of, has fallen out of favor with most Americans. For two, if I was a parent looking to give my child the best opportunities possible, I would instead put them into a program where they can work on their skills riding, not scrubbing water buckets.

And before you ask… I was a working student for several BNTs – including two UL event riders while the long format was still a thing.

It might be better to reframe the title of what it is. On paper the work seems okay, but again, so many people in the horse industry are just looking for free labor and don’t deliver on the promises of lessons or even time off.


Not always


I’d say getting someone to move for 25 hours/week is probably the hard part. Sounds like it’s built for someone already local who maybe has a part-time job or is going to school.

Just my two-cents.


People who want to be working students don’t want 25 hrs a week. They are probably looking for a live in position with 10 hr days 6 days a week and one day off.

What is your program like? Is there upward momentum for a talented individual? Opportunities to ride many horses for your many clients? Can they teach their own clients? Can they have their own horse?

Too many working student “programs” aren’t really developing someone who will have their own program. They need teaching and training hours and to find their own client base. If they’re serious, they don’t want to work in your program and then start over somewhere brand new in 3 years when they haven’t grown any business. Not saying this is what you are offering, but financially, only people who are really serious are looking at working student positions. It’s just not economically feasible any other way, so the number of applicants will be smaller for that reason, along with the other reasons people have already mentioned.


I agree your market is probably limited to Canadians. I’m from the same area originally - Canadians who might have trouble getting legal work in Florida or Europe are your best bet, I would guess.

Maybe look also for a francophone rider from Quebec or NB? Then it could be a good opportunity to learn English as well. The QC riders are more isolated and young Francophones really do benefit from immersive English, career wise.


25 hours paid work plus room and board sounds ideal for a student. If not a student, is the presumption the person would have a side job as well? Why just 25, btw?

I agree with everything that’s been posted, but another factor you might consider is who your ideal candidate would be, and target the marketing to attract that person.


I read the 25 hrs paid as “paid for 25 hrs and then unknown X# of hours unpaid”. I presume that the unpaid hours are working off the lodging / lessons / etc.

I had a WS gig in college. It sucked. Grooming was far better, still kinda sucky though.

So what can OP consider to attract the talent OP needs. Is the housing shared? Is the work load reasonable? Are there days off in the schedule? Is the pay high enough to attract talent? Are you offering competition opportunities? Are those paid by you or would WS have to pay her own way to show? Is offering board for a WS horse an option? I recall this being THE THING when I was grooming. Offering the equivalent of full training board (daily lessons usually) for a WS’s horse was the deal maker / breaker for a lot of folks. I recall the rider I groomed for complaining mightily over this.

In general, I agree FL sounds better than the frozen North right now.


Have a look around the British Grooms Association (www.britshgrooms.org.uk) website. The BGA is having a large impact on the UK and increasingly the international equestrian world. Mainly because it promotes the view that grooms are skilled professionals who should be valued and be treated as skilled people. There is some interesting research published on e.g. pay, why grooms leave the industry, legal aspects etc.

It might give you some ideas about what to offer and how to word the ad.


My BO is having a hard time getting anyone to work at all. She usually has teenage girls clamoring for a chance to work for lessons; for a year there’s hardly anyone interested.

1 Like

Happily things have changed in the 21st century and most working students don’t accept the abuse and indentured servitude they used to.

The OP has an excellent position on offer, with pay, accommodations, instruction and riding opportunities. I don’t think she needs to sweeten the pot necessarily, just perhaps to look farther afield.