Brittany Reeves: My Working Student Diary

Life as a working student is anything but glamorous, but there are still countless hard-working individuals knocking at the door for the opportunity to work for one of their idols. This week, we have a submission from Australian working student Brittany Reeves. Do you or someone you know work for an upper-level rider? If so, tip me at [email protected] Thank you, Brittany, for writing, and thank you for reading!

Brittany enjoying the warm Canadian winter. Photo by Momo Laframboise Brittany enjoying the warm Canadian winter. Photo by Momo Laframboise

From Brittany:

My experience as a working student began in May of last year, when I headed to Ontario to pursue what turned out to be a fairly brief three-month stint at a hunter/jumper barn. After discovering the hunter/jumper scene was not for me, I switched back to the wonderful crazy world of eventing and, with a bit of help, landed my dream job as the working student for Canadian eventer and coach Momo Laframboise.

I was thrown straight into the deep end, and after just one day of work, I was left on my own to tend to seven horses for a week while Momo and several clients left for the Richland Park Horse Trials. Since both myself and all the horses survived the week, we figured that this arrangement would probably work out, and since then I haven’t looked back. Despite the early mornings, late nights, long drives and frantic events as the only groom for seven horses, I have loved every minute of my time as a working student.

In addition to the usual chores of feeding, mucking and turn out, I’ve had the opportunity to hack and school everything from young event horses to Advanced schoolmasters, and have recently taken on a young project horse under the tutelage of my coach. On top of this, I have been fortunate enough to be given the ride on a fabulous former Young Rider mount with whom I look forward to completing my first event with here in Aiken.

Brittany schooling in Aiken with Momo  Laframboise. Photo by Emma Green.

Brittany schooling in Aiken with Momo Laframboise. Photo by Emma Green.

Here for the winter months, Laframboise Eventing is based at two separate barns about 10 minutes apart, which means that our coach is constantly traveling between them to ride and teach. Between the three working students, we look after a very manageable total of 14 horses and compete most weekends from Novice through Advanced. As the unofficial but very dedicated photographer for Laframboise Eventing, I can often be spotted stalking the dressage arenas, hugging the rails of the show jumping ring or running around the cross-country course at events, with my camera clicking madly at someone galloping by in red and black colours.

Working at a smaller barn with several horses competing at the upper levels has been fantastic, as I have gained some terrific insight into my beloved sport of eventing.  I have received top quality coaching, improved my horsemanship, traveled to numerous events around Canada and the U.S., and even had the chance to watch Canadian team clinics attended by fellow working student Rachel McDonough and her amazing mount Irish Rhythm.

Out for a hack in sunny Aiken. Photo by Brittany Reeves.

Out for a hack in sunny Aiken. Photo by Brittany Reeves.

With my stint as a working student coming to an end in April, I have had time to reflect on the crucial lessons that have been learned along the way.  In the process, I have compiled a list of 10 very important rules to live by:

10. You can always, always, always fit more in the wheelbarrow.

9a. Loose horses are a forgivable mistake, but dirty aisles, incorrectly tied haynets and improperly hung bridles are not.

(9b. There is a system for everything. This includes tying haynets and putting away tack.)

8. Plaid breeches: adored by some, hated by others. Wear at your own risk.

7. Drink more coffee. (And always have some ready in the pot.)

6. Falling off and getting whiplash does not excuse you from any sort of barn or riding duty. This includes gallop sets.

5. Always, always, always zip your pockets when riding with a cell phone. Particularly when the phone isn’t yours.

4. When in doubt, more leg.

3. There is never “nothing to do.”

2. Dressage tests are to be learned the day before or the morning of the event.

1. Never, ever, ever leave a horse with a sweaty face!

To follow along with more from Brittany’s life as a working student, check out her blog here.

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