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Working Student Positions: The Real Scoop

So here’s the thing nobody wants to talk about, being a working student means work. There seems to be this misunderstanding with today’s youth, that it is a glamorous position, which allows you to ride a bunch of horses and play pretty pony all day. That is a large mistake being a working student, means hard work.

Taking a working student position means working long hours which consists of back breaking work.  Often, never even directly involving a horse itself. Working students positions are designed to help the professionals. This means you are there to do the jobs that take up more of their time than its worth. These jobs include but are not limited to mucking stalls, cleaning paddocks, doing water buckets, cleaning and filling water tubs in fields carrying the water to these fields,  there will be the occasional grooming, tacking up for the professional or some more of their staff, hand walking injured horses, hand grazing, putting hundreds of bales of hay away in the loft, and carrying 40 bags of feed into the feed room. Don’t forget cleaning all of the tack from the day, the other riders, students,  and I Mean mountains of tack. Also lets not forget holding a horse for a farrier or a vet at ridiculously early or late hours, and handwalking a colicing horse at thee am, while waiting on the vet.

Yes, I know that is not all of the jobs that can be asked, but my point is that you need to be sure that you know what you or your child is signing up for. Parents and young equestrians alike need to be aware of what is going to be expected in this position. Are you prepared to work these long hours and not touch your horse until 8 pm to ride when you are exhausted? Are you willing to get up at 5 am and get your horse worked before starting chores at 6 am? Be ready to be the first one at the barn and the last one to leave. Be prepared to do night check in an hour or so of finally sitting do.

I have been a working student for many top professionals all over the U.S. I have been a working student for International level dressage riders, Upper level and International eventers and everyone in between. I have also been an Assistant Barn Manager and a Barn Manager. All of these jobs, I have enjoyed and all of these jobs have been rewarding. My experience however is something that I would like to share because I would benefited from reading this blog. I have been a working student for at least eight top professionals, and I have advice that everyone would benefit from and I wish I knew.

  1.  Do your homework on the professional and the position.
  2. It is important to know what their day to day is like. What is the turnover in the position? What hours and duties are?
  3. Contact past staff including working students, find out the hours they worked how many times a week they got to ride etc.
  4. Bottom line is you want to know what you are getting into.
  5. When you interview have a list of questions ready. About their program, your role in the program, hours, riding lessons. If possible get it in writing from them. This helps protect you and make sure you know what you are signing up for.
  6. Know what you are going to get in return. Have the wages, lessons etc. clearly spelled out so there is no ambiguity. This protects you as the worker and the professional.

Signing up to be a working student is not a bad idea far from it. I believe under the right circumstances it  is a great idea, but I want other to learn from my mistakes. Be sure to know what you are getting in to, that way you don’t end up working for someone who refuses to give you your weekly lesson, pay etc. Be ready to be the first one at the barn and the last one to leave. Be prepared to do night check in an hour or so of finally sitting down.

Final Tips

For your interview, show up looking the part, clean tidy, with breeches and dressed to perform. You may not be able to ride, but come looking the part and be prepared to ride if need be. Have questions prepared for the interview, it will make you look prepared and you will be respected for it.

Lastly always show up to work ready to work and early. This will make you respected as well. Respect the professionals time and always give 2 weeks notice so that they can find appropriate staff.

Applying for a Equine Related Position

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

Here’s some advice for everyone applying for equine related positions: make yourself stand out!!! Your resume needs to jump off the page at them. They are often over worked underpaid and incredible short staffed. Thus your resume needs to ‘Pop” and give them an immediate positive impression of you. You should make it both detailed and succinct.

I know that seems like an oxymoron, but it should convey your work experience and work ethics immediately. You want to demonstrate that you are a serious employee who will not do a week or two of work and then bail on them.

Ways to Standout and Increase Responses: 

  1. Make your resume Standout (blog to come with advice on resumes)
  2. Ensure references are already included and attached to your application
  3. Be sure to do a cover letter detailing why you are the best candidate for the job.  It’s an opportunity to SELL yourself
  4. Contact them via email or phone after a week or so to follow up
  5. Show motivation

Horse professionals are busy, and often times they have help that walks out and leaves them stranded to take care of 12+ horses by themselves. They have to provide top notch care and teach lessons and so on. This means they don’t have an abundance of extra time to just go online and look at resumes/ applications, and adverts for people looking for work. Thus, you must capture their attention immediately.

I know because I have been that person and my colleagues and friends often complain of similar situations. There’s nothing more daunting than weeding through resumes at 10 pm after starting work at 7 am. Be sure to be clear on how you are a fit for the specific position they are offering, let them know you are an asset, and how you fit in. This will make it easier for them to see your use and value to them. Also do not apply and apply to the same position, if you were clearly passed up they aren’t interested in you. It’s a waste of your time and theirs, until you have related experience and are  more suited for the position DO NOT reapply.

Always be prepared to have an interview via the phone. They likely will want to screen you first via phone. Be sure to communicate well, and do not be afraid to ask meaningful questions. This makes you look interested and intelligent. Showing motivation to get hired will increase the odds of you hearing from them. Follow up on applications via email and phone call. Be sure to not be over the top but show interest.