What should a Working Student do? What should they receive in return? How should board, lessons, housing, etc. be worked out? These are all huge questions in the never ending cycle of Working Students. A working student is basically this. A person who works for a trainer grooming, tacking, mucking stalls, bathing, and any other farm chores in exchange for lessons, sometimes board, or housing. There are a lot of problems these days though with a working student. Like my title says its a two way street. The student can not expect to do nothing around the barn but ride the top horses in the barn and get lessons every day of the week. However it flips around the same way with the instructor. You can not with hold lessons from a student if they are working their butts off for you and proving they belong there. You get what you put into it. If you do not put into it you could be asked to leave. You are here to work, not for stuff to be handed to you.
A lot is said about "the millennials." The stereotype is that we don't want to work. Now I say we because I am one of the millennials. I say stereotype because for all of us that is not true. There are plenty of us out there who are willing to work, make those long days worth it so that we are able to move up and become the next pros. As a young rider trying to work up the levels without money its tough. But it can be doable. People who want stuff given to them are everywhere. Not just here but you see it in schools, sports, and day to day life. But I am getting a bit off topic here. We are here and we are willing to work but it needs to be known that it goes both ways. I am going to write the rest of the blog from a rider perspective as well as a trainer perspective because I think we need to look through the eyes of both to see what is really going on here.
When you are hiring a working student you need to have a list of what is expected, what is offered, and have a contract signed. This way you have set in writing what you expect and what you are offering. What do you expect a working student to do? They should groom at home and at shows, hold for farrier, vet, etc., tack and untack, muck stalls, scrub water buckets, feed, water, picking fields, and other farm chores. But this doesn't mean you run your working student into the ground. A working student should not be worked so hard that they have absolutely no time in their day to eat, drink, or ride their own horse. They are coming to work but also to learn from you. The only thing you are learning then is how not to run a barn if they ever go pro. Even though they are and should be expected to groom at shows, they still need to have time to compete their own, otherwise how is this benefiting them? Teach them. Give them the ways of how things are done in the barn, let them watch a lesson or two that you teach. You are taking part in creating the next generation. We need it to thrive. You are creating riders for the 2028 and 2032 Olympics without knowing it yet.
But Working Students. Let me repeat that. WORKING Students. You can't go to a farm expecting to just ride. Guess what. You are going to cry, you are going to want to give up, but that is what makes it worth it. Should you be showing every weekend? No. And you should not expect to. Should you expect to ride the barns top horses every day? No. If you ride chances are you will be thrown on some babies. You can not walk into the barn expecting to be given everything. But the harder you work your butt off the more your trainer will notice. I am not saying you will always receive more. But it can happen. You are aiming to become better. Think about it. Why are you being a working student?
What should you expect to receive as a working student? Reduced to free board for one horse, housing, a small stipend for food, lessons 2-3 times a week, and a day off once a week. And let me be clear. I am most definitely not saying you should expect everything I just listed. Except for the last two. Because everyone needs a chance to relax. And you are there to learn. All your horses care should still come out of your pocket. But..
Now this all being said. Work your butt off for your "boss" but treat your working student right. Working students, be respectful, pay attention. Write down things you have learned and pay attention. Keep the barn organized, neat, tidy. But don't let yourself get mauled over and worked into the ground with absolutely nothing in return. Trainers, make them work. Don't give them what they don't deserve but when they go above and beyond, reward it! This is a major key is making sure they know you see them working. Don't do it all the time. But occasionally it is okay to reward the people who are always there.
Talk to each other. Before it begins make a list of goals, a list of rules, anything you could need. Treat each other with respect. Stay off your phone and do what is needed to be done. Work your heart out so you can succeed.
Final closing thoughts and I am done. Working Students, this is not exactly a riding opportunity to ride 5-6 horses a day. You are being paid in knowledge, lessons, and just the satisfaction of knowing what to do in situations. Trainers, your working student is not slave labor. Do not treat them like that. Be fair, but do not be lenient or all rules will go down hill. Treat each other well and you will not be sorry. Treat each other wrong and someones reputation could be bashed. That is not a good place. Be fair, be kind, and have fun.