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.


Erv training.jpg


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.

Thinking Forward to 2016

Most people will be wrapping up their yearly goals pretty soon, but since my goals for the next few weeks include:

  1. Having a baby
  2. Surviving having a baby
  3. Learning how to life with a baby

I figure I get to go ahead and skip ahead a bit.  While I am doing the above 3 things, O will be most likely get training rides from trainer, and hacks either from other adult ammies or the assistants at my stable.  We want to be sure that we give her every single opportunity to start with a clean slate, and to prove to everyone that she can be reasonable.  AKA, not a dirty-stopping ride like she was being this spring.


Looking at 2016, I see lots of smaller shows in our future.  If she comes back ready to work, we may hop back in at 2’6” and see how she feels.  I’m not willing to pay to ship her out somewhere if I don’t know if we are going to make it around a course, or, God forbid, if we were to fry her brain again.  Prior to her mental meltdown we were looking at the 2’9” and 3′ classes, but I am more than fine with taking it easy.

Also on the agenda:

  1. Trail rides
  2. Western outings/rides
  3. Learning some tricks
  4. Anything else fun I can weasel my way into
More western rides.  Because why not?

More western rides (in English bridles). Because why not?

Q1 Review, Q2 Goals Posted

Starting in January here were my Q1 goals for O and I, as well as this blog:

1. Oil/condition new bridle, get a happy mouth pelham for the horse.

2. Go to local show on Feb. 1st to take on the 2’9” division.  Rinse and repeat in March maybe?

3. Fix the zipper on my half chaps.

4. Go on a trail ride.

5. Host a fun contest on A Gift Horse!

1. Great success!  I received the hard rubber mullen mouth just a few days ago, and it will go into action this week (I hope).  Also, loving the new bridle so far (My Merry Christmas to Me Present), and will do a review about it as soon as I get to know it better.

2. Local shows got screwy due to the crazy weather, so 2’9” had to wait.  Bummer.

3. New zipper is installed!

4. Trail rides happened….abet they were quite short.  

Happy ears engaged!

Happy ears engaged!

5. Contest done!  Thanks for all who participated!

So going forward into Q2 I have a few new goals:

1.  Show in May or June (depends on budget) and rock out whatever division we are in.

Cute pony.

Cute pony.

2. Continue developing O’s confidence over fences.

First jump

That way I don’t have to ride so defensively!

3. Enjoy the weather, ride outside as much as we can.

4. Leave the property for a trail ride.

More of this!

More of this!

The husband and I have a few big financial things popping up this summer, so I’m not sure where our show budget will be, so that is still pending.  It’s not so bad really, I can then focus on confidence, developing my horse, and having fun this summer!  I’m lucky to have shows locally go pretty much year around, so I’m not stressed about getting to every summer show.

SWOT for 2015 and Q1 Goals

A short and sweet look at SWOT for 2015, and what I’m planning to tackle with my Q1 goals.


Great trainer

Supportive spouse

Close proximity to horse

Great facility to ride at

Variety of local shows to compete at

Career to support the financial side of things

Awesome half-leaser

I don’t totally suck at riding most days

I know my horse


Work sometimes infringes on fun with the horses

Changes in work industry are going to be interesting/nerve-wrecking.

Must make smart budgeting choices in order to achieve our goals


Looking into starting my Masters degree

Lots of upcoming shows this year

At least two clinicians coming to our barn in 2015

Great support group to ride in

Trainer is wanting to keep us moving up


My car is dying, slowly but surely.

photo 5 (4)

And now for the goals.  In Q1 I want to tackle a few things:

1. Oil/condition new bridle, get a happy mouth pelham for the horse.

2. Go to local show on Feb. 1st to take on the 2’9” division.  Rinse and repeat in March maybe?

3. Fix the zipper on my half chaps.

4. Go on a trail ride.

5. Host a fun contest on A Gift Horse!

Saying Hi to 2015

To start things off, I got the cutest gift from Emily from Wilbur Ellie & Emily!  Look how cool!?

It says "Life is a beautiful ride". I love it!

It says “Life is a beautiful ride”. I love it!

Thank you so much Emily for the really thoughtful gift, I love it.  I had a blast participating in the Blogger Gift Exchange this year, so again, big thanks to Tracy for organizing.


Let’s get this year started right.  Goal time.

With the horse:

1. Keep O sound.

2. Get the husband to ride O.

3. Kick some butt in the 2’9” divisions. AKA be competitive.

4. Start jumping 3 foot.

5. Nail those lead changes.

6. Attend another clinic.

7. Show somewhere new.

8. Be able ride my horse alone outside (without her freaking out).

9. Go on more trail rides.

As far as the blog goes I have just two:

1. I’d love to purchase my own domain in 2015.

2. I’d like to hit 300 followers!

Personal life:

1. Be a great wife, student and friend.

photo 3 (15)

July’s Review, Prepping for August

July Goals:

1. Show in July   Checking this one off-we showed 2’3” and ribboned in every class

2. Continue great flatwork    Loving all the great rides we’ve had lately

3. Stay in shape (it’s gonna get hot)  Meh, it was actually record lows this month, and I even added an extra day of working out to my schedule. 

4. Keep asking for the lead changes  I’m asking….but still getting them randomly

5. Jump around more ‘filled’ jumps in preparation for show  We jumped ALL the things this month

6. Take O for a trail ride western style   Photogenic evidence of the cuteness below!

She's the best at awkward standing.

She’s the best at awkward standing.

Cute pony excited for a trail ride!

Cute pony excited for a trail ride!

What is this I am I wearing?

What is this I am I wearing?

It was a on the buckle type of ride.

It was a on the buckle type of ride.

Trail buddies!

Trail buddies!

Little bit dark, but it was gorgeous out!

Little bit dark, but it was gorgeous out!

August Goals

1. Get correct response for lead changes

2. Show in the 2’6” in August

3. Retrain O’s mane

4. Survive various travel endeavors while still keeping horse fit



Goals in Review: May and Away Show

First off, to review some goals from May!!

May Goals:
1. Get this abscess/bruise thing figured out so we can get back to work. Success!  After a little over a week off, she came out sound and happy!

Sound ponies are happy ponies.

Sound ponies are happy ponies.

2. Practice riding in both outdoor rings.  Success…we managed a few good rides outside.  Definitely need to continue this going forward.
3. Jump the scary roll tops (the ones she thinks will eat her).  Scary rolltops were temporarily stored…so this will have to wait.
4. Go for walk hacks around the property.  We went on a few random adventures, but never very far as I am a wimp and was riding alone.  Hopefully more of this soon!
5. O gets her 4 rides a week. Success!
6. Push for that correct canter, all the time.  Half-success, I am asking for it…but honestly we still argue at the canter.  
7. If we have time/are ready, go off-site for her first away show at the end of the month.  Success-and a ribbon to boot!

Showing the tiny red flowers she's bigger than them.

Showing the tiny red flowers she’s bigger than them.

7.a. Be able to jump around without hysterics at said show.  Success-she was chill as a cucumber!
8. Still try to get more photos/videos. Didn’t do great at this minus the show.  

Secondly, we have the goals I threw out there for our first off-site/away show the last weekend in May.

1. Maintain MY choice of pace.  Loved it…she did the ads when I asked, and the stride when I asked.  

2. Not scream our heads of at new horses.  I counted around 3 screams total, and none were when we were down by the show rings…I’ll take it!
3. Load and unload nicely.  Assuming this went well, my trainer actually took care of this for me!
4. Get over and around all our courses.  She was a rockstar.
5. No attacking cute ponies.  She didn’t bite/kick/spook at the ponies, she did find them to be fascinating and they had to be watched consistently.  
6. End the day leave feeling better about being away from home and riding.  Current joke: horse is better at showing away from her home barn.  I was so proud of her!

Posing post-show!

Posing post-show!