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 spoke with Sadie Buchenau, who is currently in Germany working for Andreas Dibowski. Do you or someone you know work for an upper-level rider? If so, tip me at [email protected]
I started riding when I was about eight years old and grew up at Mill Creek Equestrian Center in Topanga, Calif. I bought my first horse when I was 12, and she brought me to my first competitions and through Novice level before we sold her to a younger girl at our stable. Several months afterwards, my family purchased Puddles, a 5-year-old OTTB. I spent the next four years training him and competed him through Preliminary, which was the best and most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.
Being only a determined Novice rider, taking a horse who had relatively no experience all the way through Preliminary far exceeded any expectations I ever had. After being successful at Prelim for a whole year, we decided that it was best not to push the little horse, so we then started leasing him out to younger students at Mill Creek, and it was around this time that I decided to start looking for working student positions.
As a senior in high school, I was always certain that eventing was my passion, so rather than applying for colleges, I was applying for interviews. Germany is one of the most outstanding places in terms of equestrianism, and it is highly ranked in the eventing world. As a bonus, my father is German, and I have been visiting the country throughout my entire life, so I had my heart set on spending time there. I began doing some research on multiple riders throughout Germany and contacted those who seemed ideal.
In January 2013, I flew to Germany with my dad, and we met with Ingrid Klimke (who had unfortunately just filled her working student position), Peter Thomsen, Dirk Schrade and Andreas Dibowski. I was extremely fortunate and was actually accepted by all three remaining riders and given the opportunity to choose who I wanted to work for. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided that Andreas would be the most beneficial to me and my future.
I have been in Germany since September 2013 and am planning to stay for one full year. It has been about six months so far, and when my year here is completed, I am not yet sure of my next step. I have spoken a bit with Andreas about my options, and at this time my current, but not set, course of action is to return home for a few months and take some classes in German so that I can come back to Germany and complete my “Bereiter” course. This is a three-year apprenticeship with Andreas where I would attend school once a week here in Germany and work and train with Andreas the other six days of the week. At the end of the course, I would be a qualified Bereiter. I am not 100 percent sure that this is the path I am going to take, but I still have plenty of time to figure it out.
Here at Andreas’ facility, there are two interns — including myself — one trainer, two students receiving their Bereiter training and the stable manager. My day starts at 7 a.m., and we start by feeding all of the horses and then mucking out the stalls. We clean stalls twice a day, morning and night. After the stable is cleaned and swept, we exercise all of the horses.
We have about 25 horses in training, and each horse has a specific training schedule, so Andreas will assign each of us our horses, and we spend the next few hours completing the plan. When we finish our assignments, we then do miscellaneous chores around the barn until it is time to feed the horses lunch and bring them all out to the fields. When we have finished bringing the horses out and making sure everything looks nice, we are able to go on our lunch break. When our lunch break is over, we have our second round of exercising. All of the horses are usually worked twice daily, whether it be lunging, trot sets, or walking.
The afternoons are usually quieter, as the horses have already done their harder work in the morning. After this, we clean the stalls again, feed the horses their dinner and call it a night. Of course, every day is different, as there are a variety of things that always need to be done, but this is the basic outline of the day. I have been extremely fortunate while I’ve been here, and not only do I get to hack the horses, but I am actually involved in training and conditioning all of his horses. Be it gallop work, trot sets, dressage, jumping (when I’m lucky) or even just walking, I am usually riding two to six horses every day.
The things I have learned in these last six months are truly too outstanding to name. I can honestly say that the most important thing that I’ve developed from being here is work ethic. There is such a difference from riding and competing your own horses to coming to a top-notch competition stable and working for an Olympic athlete.
I have learned to work quickly and efficiently and how to be precise and not leave anything left untouched. There is not a moment in my day where I am sitting still or don’t have anything to do. I have learned that there is always work to be done and how to do it well and with a smile on my face.
There are quite a few differences between U.S. eventing and the scene here. The biggest difference by far is simply the fact that here, it is everywhere. Although in the U.S. eventing is important to so many people, in Germany, eventing is a lifestyle and such an enormous scene that you almost can’t escape it. It is possible that it seems this way solely based on the area I’m living in, but what I have noticed is that the equine world here in Germany is incredibly vast. It’s like all of the movies I always watched as a kid, only now I’m living in them.
I always joke with people that I think my goals for this profession are a little bit crazy, and I probably expect way too much from life. I am only 19 years old, but when I imagine my future, it only includes horses. My goal for eventing is to eventually make it successfully to the three-star level and continue to be competitive. If given the opportunity to make it successfully at the four-star level, this would be awesome, but I would be satisfied with being competitive at the three-star level.
I have such a strong passion for teaching, almost as much as I do for riding itself, so I would love to eventually open up my own training facility, compete and train young horses, and teach children to ride and compete. I envision so much — maybe too much — but that is just how I am and how I always have been. I would not be here training with such an inspirational person had it not been for my slightly crazy determination.