The Ultimate Working Pupil Startup Kit, Part 2: On the Job

Canadian young rider Olivia Alstad moved to the UK to pursue a working pupil (WP) position and has since chronicled her experience via her blog Livin’ Eventing. EN is excited to share her two-part series, “The Ultimate Working Pupil Startup Kit.” If you missed it: Part 1, An Intro to WP Life

“Here is all the information that I wish I had at 18, when I decided I wanted to try the whole ‘WP experience’ but I had no clue on what it actually meant or entailed,” she explains. “If I help even one person who is interested in pursuing this path truly understand and make a plan towards finding their dream WP position, then this article will have succeeded.” 

Keep up with Olivia’s journey via her blog; you can also subscribe to the mailing list and become a member!

Photo courtesy of Olivia Alstad.

Welcome to the second part of the #WorkingPupilKit! In part 1 of the article we talked about what a WP is and does, we then figured out if it’s a role that might be a good fit for you. We finished by going through the interview process; the end result was finding a position you want to secure. Now what?

What Is All This Nonsense About Trials?

So you’ve found the perfect position; you can’t see any flaws, it’s perfect in every way. That’s what I like to call the ‘danger zone’: if something seems too good to be true — it generally is! This is where a trial comes in handy. If you can continue to feel as positive as you did in the interview, through the day or week of a trial, you’re golden.

Your First Day, Week and Month: 3 Tips

 First day:
  1. Remember everybody’s names. Things start getting really confusing really quickly if you don’t!

  2. Don’t feel too much pressure to know and learn everything on the first day. Everybody will have some patience, trust me. (Except when you keep calling them the wrong name, see point 1!)

  3. If you get invited out for something social with your new team in the first few days: GO!

Photo courtesy of Olivia Alstad.

 First week:
  1. Set up your room to be your own little getaway; you’ll appreciate it! Fill it with pictures of your family and friends from back home until you can fill it with pics of all your new mates that you’ll make.

  2. At the end of every day write down what you’ve learned. One day you’ll want to remember that cool exercise you did and how many strides there were in that line!

  3. Try not to get too high or too low about how your first week went. Often it’s not a true test of how things will continue to go. Remember that everybody is getting to know you, and you them, and that it might take some time to get settled!

Fairy lights are a nice touch! Photo courtesy of Olivia Alstad.

First month:

  1. Embrace every job you do, and do it to the best of your ability. Even if that job seems completely unrelated to improving your skillset as a rider!

  2. Listen. Like, really listen! You are in control of the amount you absorb in your time learning from the yard and rider you’ve chosen. Even if it seems like you’re not learning anything, you might be surprised once you look back on it.

  3. Whether things are going how you envisioned them to go or not — show up everyday with a positive attitude. Say good morning, even if the favour isn’t returned! Being grateful makes a difference — count the things you are grateful for every single day!

Photo courtesy of Olivia Alstad.

The Difficult Days

Sometimes it’s -4 in March in the UK — which you were told isn’t supposed to happen! All your events are being cancelled, you’re the only one keeping the yard going because everybody is snowed in (and you live on-site), and you end up having to ride all the horses, alone, in the freezing cold. Endless poo-picking, and tacking up can start to get you down, you’ll miss your family, your friends, and you’ll realize how truly easy you had it before.

When you are missing your freedom or regular work/school schedule day after day to the point where it takes over most of your thoughts…

It’s time to access:

  • A bad day: Don’t think too much of it. Have a bath, eat some chocolate, and watch your fav film.

  • A bad week: Call your mom, or your dad, or whoever you’re lucky to have unconditional support from.

  • A bad few weeks: It’s time to take initiative and have a conversation with your rider, but keep in mind…

When you are planning to have a meeting with your mentor/rider, actually PLAN the conversation! Don’t just go for it out of the blue and stumble over your words. Ask them if they have a time that they are available to have a conversation. When going into a meeting I think it’s easiest to remember three important points that you will commit to mentioning within the conversation. Nine out of 10 times you will find that they want to work the situation out so that you’re both happy. If you are doing your share for the team, they will want to push for you to get what you want in return so everybody can benefit!

Sometimes it can feel like you’re going through a lot of s**t!!! Photo courtesy of Olivia Alstad.

Where to Go Next

So you’ve experienced a rider’s program, spent a good amount of time on a yard and feel like you’re ready to grow into a new position. Perhaps you’ve decided that a career in horses isn’t for you. Fair enough, it’s a tough industry where only the truly dedicated survive!

If you are interested in a career in horses, you’ve now had the benefit of seeing many different professionals at work: traveling groom, yard manager, saddle fitter, farrier, vet, physiotherapist and pro riders to name a few. Do some research into what interests you, network, and talk to people within that profession. There are SO many helpful people out there, who love to talk about their jobs if you approach them in the right way. Be brave, and go for it!

A Note on Financial Security

Being a WP is not a position where you’ll be saving money towards your pension every month. So, you’re going to need some help. Alternatively, you are not going to be able to have a horse, in order to cover your living expenses. Owning a horse is the piece of the equation that makes the WP experience financially frightening.

Make a plan before you move your horse into a WP position. Consider all your bills and make sure that they will all be covered. It’s simple math that either leaves you in the black or in the red, there are no if’s and’s or but’s. You will simply be able to afford it, or have to start thinking outside the box in order to afford all the costs associated. Be smart!

That’s all I’ve got for you keen future WP’s, I hope the #WorkingPupilKit helped! If you have any questions on your path to becoming a WP and want somebody to chat to about it, feel free to shoot me a message — I’m always happy to help.