Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History, Part 2: Newbie Lessons

Ever fantasized about dropping everything to focus on your riding? Area V eventer and Tales from a Bad Eventer blogger Laura Szeremi’s dream was to go be a working student for a big-name rider –– just one (OK, more than one) problem: her job, her husband, her farm, her can’t-even-keep-count-of-how-many herd of horses… and, well, Laura is a bit older than your typical starry-eyed working student candidate.

In light of all that grown-up “baggage,” what she chose to do next — load up the trailer and move from Texas to Florida to be a working student for Jon Holling — makes her the hero of every adult-amateur event rider’s wildest dream. This is her story.

If you missed part 1, chronicling Laura’s #YOLO moment, check it out here. Today she recounts what it was like to get thrown in the working student deep end. All photos courtesy of Laura.

Newbie Lessons

Whenever you embark on something new there are always some important lessons learned. Some of them are more embarrassing than others.

1. Dark clothes are a must.

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I’ve always worn light colored riding clothes. Where I live in Texas it’s unbelievable horribly hot, and I always went for the lighter colors thinking it attracted less heat. Of course I would wear “other” clothes for all my barn chores, change into my riding clothes just before riding, and then change out of them after.

Working students might get on horses at any moment throughout the day. Hack this one, trot this one, cool out this one — oh, your lesson is in 20 minutes. This is the first time I’ve had to work all day in riding clothes.

I found out very quickly that by 8 a.m. my lovely tan breeches, were no longer lovely — or tan.

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2. I’ve never actually done a trot set.

OK, I’ve trotted my horse for 30 minutes. Sure. Of course I have. But apparently it was more of a Western Pleasure style jog, because when I was sent out for my first “trot” and I learned what that means.

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I realized I have never in my life actually “trotted.” Who knew?!


3. Never leave your spurs on the fence.

This is an old cowboy saying. I’ve used it myself many times but I also ride A LOT of baby horses. And while I’m particularly suicidal brave, I’ll never be the kind of colt starter that climbs on for the first ride with spurs on.

When I ride someone elses horse for the first time I usually skip the spurs as well. So when I found myself headed out for my first “gallop” in a group of horses as a working student, all I could think of was MY horses, who are all off the track.

I had visions of being run away with in front of everyone. I left the spurs off.

Fortunately they put me on the most level-headed of the group, being the newbie and all. Soon I found myself getting left more… and more behind.

Never — EVER — leave your spurs on the fence.

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4. Use two hands for EVERYTHING.

Scooping feed.

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Double the hands, half the time.

5. I don’t, in fact, have lice.

When I did a pretty intense riding boot camp last year I started having some head itching issues. I thought maybe it was the humidity, the long hair stuffed in the helmet all day.

When I went home & back to my mostly-work and not-much-riding life, it went away.

I didn’t think a lot about it. So when I came back for my working student gig AND I had cut all my hair off…

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…I thought surely it wouldn’t happen again. But this time after a couple of days in a helmet it was WORSE.

I was convinced I had ringworm or lice or something horrible. Then it dawned on me. I’m allergic to plastics and detergents of all varieties. The lining in my helmet is different in the place my head was itching and when I got enough mirrors together to make sure I didn’t, in fact, have lice, I discovered HIVES.

OMG I’m allergic to my helmet!

And now I get to make an even better fashion statement in THIS new accessory.

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Bad Eventer in the house!

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Stay tuned as we continue sharing Laura’s “Diary of the Oldest Working Student in History” adventures (and misadventures) throughout the week. Thank you so much for sharing, Laura, and for reminding us to Go Eventing, no matter what the odds.