I’ve always been good at school. I made the grades, I was able to juggle my horse, work, school, and social life, and I actually kind of enjoyed studying (nerd, I know). But when my senior year of college came around, I was burnt out and faced a real-life decision: What do I do after I graduate? Do I find a job? Do I go to grad school? Do I become homeless?
I put some real thought into it. And I realized I’ll only be 22 once. I wanted to go on an adventure and do something out of the ordinary. I wanted to become a working student.
So I read yardandgroom.com every day, sent out my resume, emailed my favorite eventers (Boyd, Sinead, Dom and Jimmie … yea, we’re on a first name basis in my head). And I waited for some responses. Each time I got a response I would read up on the location, the details, etc, in order to find the position I felt “clicked.”
The search definitely took a while, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m a southern girl, so I don’t do well with the cold. Even though most of my favorite riders lived up north, I didn’t want them to see me whimper and whine when it was below 50 degrees out. I’m just not built for it.
Then my trainer mentioned that she knew Joe Meyer, who was out in Florida (warmth!) and looking for a working student. She said that she had bought several horses from he and his wife Ruthie, that they were great people, and that she was going out there soon to look at some prospects. So I tagged along and met them, which isn’t something most future working students get to do.
I got to see the property, the horses, and the rest of Ocala *drool*. It was agreed upon that I was to work for them in the coming months in exchange for room and board as well as lessons. I didn’t have my own horse but they had tons of ex racehorses they were training on the property I could ride.
In fact, on the first day I met them, they had me sit on one of their OTTBs, where I immediately embarrassed myself. He was a sweet horse, but fresh off the track, and when I asked for a canter too hard, he responded with GALLOP YES I’VE GOT THIS.
So there I was, getting taken off with for a solid 5 minutes while my future bosses looked on at the rider they were going to hire…good thing they had a sense of humor.
When I finally made the trek over to start my new job, I was told they didn’t have an apartment yet (there was another girl who got there first) but that I could clean out the living quarters of the trailer and use that temporarily as well as stay in the extra bedroom they had in the house. The best part of this was that when we went to horse shows, we would take my “home” with us, which would always make me laugh.
I ended up living in that trailer for the duration of my position (only about 3 months) before I was offered a paid horse job back home. Those living quarters weren’t ideal, the water system would break all the time, I had to use the bathroom in the barn, and it was definitely cramped, but the experience I had there was more than worth it.
I got to go to horse shows all around Florida and Georgia and be a groom for my rider, cheer him on, and see what really goes on behind the scenes for a pro. I learned a lot of skills I use in my every day horse life now. I was able to compete for free on one of their client’s horses in a show nearby (talk about a great day!). I found my horse there, who is absolutely perfect (I watched them sell a lot of horses, and they really had a knack for finding a perfect fit). I got to go cross country schooling on properties I would never be able to set foot on had I not been working for Joe.
And best of all, I never have to ask the question “what if,” because I took the plunge, and I did it. I became a working student.
I went into the job not knowing at all what I wanted from it to be honest. Did I want to go pro? Did I want to be a professional groom? Did I even want a horse job as my career? But all those questions were answered in those 3 short months, and I got a much clearer picture in my head for what I wanted my future to be.
I realized I wanted horses to be my hobby, not my job. I realized I needed a career that made a lot of money in order to do so. I realized that I wanted to work for myself one day so that I can enjoy some free time when I wanted it. I realized all of this in my 3 month adventure, which had I never taken, I probably would still be utterly confused on life.
So regardless of what your reasons to become a working student are, do it. But do it right. Work hard while you’re there, give 110%, absorb as much of the experience as you can, and take lots of pictures. It’s such a unique experience and whether it works out for you in the long run or not, you’ll learn a lot of lessons and create fabulous memories for the rest of your life.
Part two on the daily life of a working student coming soon at horsehack.com!