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.