Working student opportunities? Advice?

I am a recent college graduate (equine degree) looking to further my dressage education. I have been a full-time working student for 3 years now, currently riding at 3rd level, and looking to move on from my current trainer and take my riding to the next step. Becoming an assistant trainer/trainer is the long term goal, but for now I really need to get started on showing and obtaining scores towards my medals. I do not have a horse of my own so the position I go for must have horses I can ride, and hopefully show.

I am very fortunate that I am at a point in life where I can really go anywhere, the sky’s the limit! I am a very hard-working, responsible, dedicated individual who truly wants to make dressage my life’s work. I’m looking for advice, and/or recommendations if you have them. Thank you in advance!

The conundrum for young horse professionals is, usually you need to invest a certain amount of your own cash in horse and showing to advance your CV to advance your career, but you don’t make enough money to afford this.

I’m going to make a guess and say that a hunter jumper barn might have more riding and showing opportunities than a dressage barn, because the trainer is more involved with the horse, and often the trainer or a WS show the horse in open classes, owner in ammie.

Dressage doesn’t work the same way.

Anyhow I would think your current mentor would be the one to brainstorm about your next step forward in your local or regional situation.

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Yes, I plan to have a talk with her but in the meantime, trying to get some more ideas.

I am not opposed to spending some money, I know that comes with the advantage of being treated more like a client, however I am more than willing to put in some hard work. Unfortunately, owning my own horse is an immpossibility at this point. Leasing however, could be an option.

There must be a way to learn and get to ride/show up the levels without shelling out 80k on a Grand Prix schoolmaster…

I think the solution is you train your own horse up the levels.


Send your CV to Yvonne Losos de Muniz.

She’s currently looking for a professional groom for the the whole WEF season who knows how to ride. If you want to learn how to ride up to GP, she’s the one to learn from.


Catherine Haddad Staller trains her workers up the levels on her sale horses. Her stable manager just did her first Intermediare 2 for over 70%. Five years ago, she didn’t sit well. You would have to put in the years necessary to get there, and work long hours, but you wouldn’t have to own your own horse, or spend your own money. You won’t make much money, either… :slight_smile: If she’s not looking for help now, interview with her, and have her call you when she is. Or, go to Europe, where they will have you ride your ass off, but won’t give you much instruction.


There are a lot of good FEI riders and trainers advertising for help in Wellington this season. Many of them do encourage their working students / staff to ride, train and compete and several have horses available for them to lease, which is the perfect solution for advancing your riding without buying a GP horse. Even if you take a job as a groom /'stablehand initially, work your ass off and let the trainer know what your goals are. If you are good and you choose the right employer, they will help
you get there.


Thank you!

Ok much better advice than I was able to give! Good to know those opportunities are out there!

Elite Expressions Dressage (Shannon Stevens/Marcus Orlob) have an opening for a rider right now, unless it has
been recently filled. Their Facebook ad is below. They have quality horses to ride and often several at FEI.

I’ve noticed that many of the people that take these riding positions don’t stay long. Burn out. Thus, you’ll
certainly be able to find what you’re looking for.

[I]Elite Expression Dressage (NJ/FL) has an immediate opening for a long-term working student/rider. You will be part of a top quality Dressage team and train with two experienced professionals. Plenty of riding opportunities, daily instruction and top class facilities. We are in the heart of the dressage community, both in New Jersey and winters in Wellington, FL.

Our ideal candidate has a good work ethic, is responsible with strong time-management skills and a keen interest in learning and good communication skills. You must be able to work well with others, take direction and have a great attitude. Practical experience with horses is a must, and experience with dressage through a minimum of third level is a bonus. We maintain a 6-day workweek with typical barn hours.

Professional, yet fun, drama free environment. Active show, training and sales team with an honest and correct approach to all aspects of the business. Come and enhance your knowledge and skill set in riding horses, from starting the young horse through Grand Prix as well as; long lining, in hand work, sales, competitions, clinics and much more.

If this position appeals to you, please send a resume and riding video.[/I]

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Anne Gribbons , Judge , trainer, takes working students. Her farm is in Geneva, Fl. Also Michael Poulin in Deleon Springs, Fl.

SOme opportunities here in Ocala as well. I usually share them on the Stride dressage of ocala facebook page.

You have to be careful about the person you work with. Wellington is not necessarily the best place to be a working student, nor is it with any well known person. I suggest you do your homework, including looking at the success of former working students (are they doing what you want to do?) and talking to current working students (are they happy or pretending to be happy?) of someone you might be interested in working with. Find someone with a lifestyle and training philosophy that works for you. Then, look into what they offer you. Housing? Actual training and instruction? Riding nice horses? Show opportunities? Do they host clinics or USDF educational opportunities? Are they willing to help you get to the next level? Do they consider you a worker or a protege? Sounds like you have the opportunity to make choices, so I suggest being knowledgeable and wise about your decisions! Good luck!


OP, doing the working student gig can be tricky because sometimes what you are promised isn’t necessarily what you will receive.

I know several people personally who were promised lessons and riding opportunities with BNT’s or team riders and who ended up doing nothing more than grunt work. In some cases, everything was “under the table”, i.e. no written contract, payroll hidden so the BNT did not have to pay unemployment taxes, etc.

Whatever you do, insist on having your responsibilities and benefits put in writing. That way if you are promised lessons and riding time and it doesn’t happen then you can refer to the contract and leave if necessary.

That said, there are several trainers I know of personally who do a great job bringing their working students up the levels. Send me a PM and I can give you some suggestions.

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It sounds like the OP has already been a full time working student for the past 3 years, so is likely award of the pitfalls, and is also ready / capable of taking on a paid position. That would certainly be my recommendation at this point. But yes - choose wisely.

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Yes, we’ve all read the OP’s posts, so we are aware of what she said. Pointing that out again isn’t necessary.

Besides, I’ve seen people who have wanted to be high level WS or even assistants and still end up doing grunt work with little professional progression, even people one would expect would be aware of the pitfalls. Some people might not be. Presumably that is why the OP came here is to get suggestions.

I know of several BNT’s in my immediate area who would be horrible to work for. I also know some who have a great reputation for bringing people up the levels and whose WS and assistants later move on to start their own businesses.

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Ok then.


I have also heard of barns where they take on a number of WS as grooms basically and then make the decision who gets the riding and showing opportunities as time goes on. Presumably they do this to bring along the best riders but it would be very frustrating and sad to be in the left behind group. So I’d say that if you want to go play in the big time you should be fairly confident you have the skills. Because absolutely the competition for a real riding showing training apprentice ship will be stronger than for a groom job or a small time barn.

Opportunities to lease an FEI schoolmaster do exist, but they are hard to come by, and you usually get them by knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time. So the chances of that opportunity materializing at the SAME time and place as a new working student position are not likely. Most trainers who need working students don’t have a schoolmaster waiting in the wings, and if they do, there are 4 people there in line ahead of you. I would recommend getting the best working student position you can find with the best mentor you can find, and at the same time finding your own horse to bring up the levels. It won’t be an $80K FEI horse - it will be whatever you can scrounge up that has POTENTIAL to do FEI. Probably a 1st to 3rd level horse depending on your budget and what you can luck into. At the same time, look for any opportunity to RIDE a schoolmaster - even if it starts as just a couple schoolmaster lessons, or hacking the trainers horse on his day off – but you probably won’t get a chance to show the schoolmasters you get to ride as a working student.

I don’t know why you say that owning a horse is not a possibility. Most places looking for a working student (or even a paid assistant) will be able to accommodate your horse for practically free. In fact, many would expect you to come with your horse.

I’m in full-time college and work 2 jobs in order to help support that. I don’t have a lot of money saved up to begin with, but even if I did it would be irresponsible to purchase an animal I know I could not financially support.