My Time as a Working Student

I feel like the role of working student can mean a lot of things.  In some cases you ride, in others you chase school horses, sometimes you teach, sometimes you run the office.  It’s one of many grey spaces of a job in the equestrian world.  My time as a working student really began when I was 13, I was desperate to spend more time at the barn so I agreed to come help tack up lesson horses on Saturdays.

I was there rain or shine.  Snow or blistering heat.  One day a week turned into two, into three…Later that year, I was introduced to my heart horse, partially (in my opinion) because I had proved that I was in it for the long run.   After that my role slowly expanded to more, and more riding.  First it was just a very long hack where I would attempt to wear down one particularly jazzed up school pony before his beginner got there. Ricky Then it was an adult beginner who often didn’t make it out there-his gelding needed a quick ride.  A mare who needed exactly 11 minutes of trotting for her rehab…and more just kept working out in my favor.

The teenage me thrived on every second at the barn or in the saddle, and it only go better and better.  My trainers would shout out instructions as he walked by the ring, or give me mini lessons while I was hacking out horse 1 or horse 2.  I learned to water an arena without covering myself in mud.  I knew every way to wrap a horses leg.  I was a horse show pro.  I could tack up a hot-headed jumper mare in the pitch black morning and toss my trainer aboard without thinking twice, all while still holding onto the other horse he’d just gotten off of.

 

Eventually I found myself riding 2 sometimes 3 horses a day, and often doing jump schools on both client and sale horses.  I rarely got tossed off, but racked up an impressive list of other injuries.

I never complained.  I never really remember hurting or being sore.  I remember the obsessive love.  And the pride that came with knowing and riding almost every horse in the barn, from Prix jumpers to Arabian ponies.  While far from being our best rider, I was scrappy and devoted.  That counts for a lot at the end of the day.

I would split my day into parts.

  • Arrive/water horses.
  • Muck stalls.
  • Feed horses.
  • Turn out horses.
  • Check arena.
  • Check water.
  • Ride #1.
  • Ride #2/3 (one of which would usually be the one I was leasing)
  • Check stalls and toss more hay.
  • Prep lesson equipment.

This was all done usually by mid-day.  Usually done in tandem with trainer, barn manager, or barn staff.  It was still a lot of work for a 15 year old girl, but I thrived on it.  And my riding improved in ways I can’t even describe.

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Erv training.jpg

zoomies

When I graduated high school I remember being terrified of leaving for college, but not because of leaving friends; because I knew that my time as a working student was over.  In the career I wanted, I doubted I would ever be that deeply involved in a show facility again.  And I was right.  Now, years removed, I realize that it’s okay, because I took all that I could from those years and those skills continue to help me daily.  I would not be the person or the rider I am today without those opportunities and experiences.  And I’m eternally grateful.

Sucker punch 

Last week being an equestrian was too hard.  Laugh all you want, but it was a bad week.  I got sucker punched hard in my personal, and professional worlds.  And instead of handling it like an adult, I curled up on my couch and went to sleep.  Horses fell off my radar entirely.

In fact, when I started pulling myself back to normal life, I was doubting my sanity for even wanting to be involved with horses! Who in their right mind would take on giant injury prone animals who eat money on top of all the other stuff I’m supposed to be doing.  I started to think about all the ways that I could cut ties, and how I would get rid of my stuff.  I thought about the money I could be saving.  I wonder about all the grey hairs and anxiety I am bestowing upon myself.  In short, ladies and gents, it was just too hard.  Every instinct in me flared up and told me to jump ship.

Now that it’s a new week.  And I’m feeling less like a worthless piece of poo…I understand that last week was a breakthrough in some ways.  Now I know how easy giving up would be, yet here I am, still pushing on.  That has to account for something.

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I need to remember that some days, it just isn’t going to work.  Does it mean I should scrap the past 15 years?  Probably not.  I don’t have my own horse.  And while I’m hoping Dee continues to be a great ride for me, it’s really a month by month commitment.  So I can go ahead and calm the frack down over that too.

So cheers to realizing once again that I’m not superwoman (dammit); that none of us are, but we are doing the very best we can.  Even if that means it’s too hard to horse some weeks!  It’s not always rainbows and sunshine.

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Getting to Know You…

…getting to know all about you!  Or rather Deedee.

In the first month of my lease I’ve learned quite a bit about this little mare, and had a really good first few weeks as a pair.  Like awesome actually.

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Fatty mare can fancy prance

Having something nice to ride, enjoy and who doesn’t give a rats about what we do everyday is great.  Want to walk around the property and play in puddles.  Dee says sure.  Want to work on upward transitions?  Dee says sure.  Let’s jump today!?  Dee says, which one is first?!   She just does her job, and is happy about it.

Some fun facts:

  • She’s still got a little too much junk in the trunk, the saddle slips badly.  I had to get off twice to reset my saddle in my last lesson.
  • She hates the wash stall.  As a horse whose owner tormented her with roughly 1000 beauty sessions, I have no idea how this mare still hates baths. Or maybe I just answered my own question?
  • Deedee is barefoot and I love it!
  • Because she’s on a fat pony program she had to switch turnouts.  She is not taking it well, and still screams for her friends almost 2 weeks later.

 

  • She gives zero rats about the baby stroller  or my squealing, screaming occasionally slapping infant.

 

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Horse on one side, baby on the other.

  • She jumps a bit like O did.  Very round. So at least that part feels old hat!
  • She goes around like a much, much larger horse.
  • She drools ALL THE TIME.  Oh my gosh.  Such a mess everywhere we go….Drools.
  • Thanks to an idea from her owner, she has her own hashtag.  #DoubleDee.  Ha!

So the first month is in the books.  Cheers to month two!