The Dos and Don’ts of Working Student Life

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Allow me to tell you a cautionary tale …

In the 10 months that I spent as a working student I created amazing memories, learned volumes and made an absurd number of mistakes. Luckily for you I’m going to reveal some of my own fumbles, as well as what I was able to learn from them in hindsight. Whether you are a working student currently, hope to be one someday or just enjoy a good old cautionary tale, I’ve got you covered!

DO work as hard as you can. I was a terrible rider when I first arrived, but I worked my butt off mucking stalls and helping around the barn and everyone noticed and appreciated it, especially my boss. So instead of being the outcast due to my lack of riding ability I was seen as a valuable team member.

DON’T complain. All of the other working students are tired and sore and covered in bruises and blisters too. They don’t want to hear about it.

DO find healthy, positive ways to handle your stress. I have never been as stressed as I was in my working student days. My biggest mistake was letting my stress get out of control and dealing with it in the most unproductive ways. Exercise, meditate, watch a movie, listen to music, or whatever else helps you feel calm.

DON’T take up smoking cigarettes and drinking to forget about your stress. It won’t end well. Ask me how I know.

DO take the extra time to take care of yourself. Use sunscreen, pack yourself some lunch to eat quickly between rides, drink lots of water. None of this is rocket science, but it’s easy to neglect yourself when there is so much else to do. The healthier you are, however, the more helpful you can be. Your fellow working students, grooms and employers would rather have a happy, nourished worker than a sunburned, hangry, dehydrated mess.

DON’T be selfish. The other working students are in the same boat as you, so help them out whenever you can. They’ll return the favor one day.

DO talk openly with your boss. I was shy and nervous, and this really hurt me in the long run. Looking back I can see how different things could have been if I had been more willing to talk to my boss about problems I was having.

DON’T enter a show when you know that your bank account is literally empty, just because you’re embarrassed to tell coach you can’t afford it.

And finally… DO be kind! Everyone has bad days but, as much as you can, strive to be a smiling face that sets the mood for the barn. Being kind, generous, understanding and patient will have a tremendous impact on your level of success.

About the author: My name is Renee Wright. I am a twenty-something mother of two and a survivor of the Hunger Games working student life. My notable skills include getting lost with a rig full of Buck Davidson’s horses, clipping my own horse half-bald before a lesson with Bruce Sr. and falling off of future CCI4* contenders.