The Working Student Search from both sides

Classic Skyline having a nice roll this winter. He's owned by my working student, Alice VanBokkelen. Photo by her as well.

We have had a lot of blogs from working students here on EN.  Working students are an integral part of the eventing community.  Without them, a lot of work would be left undone, and  a lot of riders would miss out on very important education.  Being an up and coming professional, I have started to search for working students of my own.  It is a daunting task, as one must find the person that fits your opening the best.  Not all working student positions are the same, and they can vary greatly from farm to farm.

If you are searching for a working student, it is important to make the job description as in depth as you can.  Of course, I had assumed that with a working student position, there is a lot of work involved.  However, you would surprised at the number of applicants that are totally turned off by having to muck stalls.  This was a great surprise to me.  Also, be sure to include the level of rider you would prefer.  If it’s a job with a lot of unsupervised riding, one doesn’t want beginner riders to apply.

The job description must also make it very clear what the person will get if they work for you.  For instance, I offer board for one horse, housing, and lessons.   There is no pay involved, but there is no charge either.  There are many different packages out there.  Some places charge for certain things, while others will even pay a stipend.  Personally, I think if pay is involved, it’s not really a working student position, it’s a paid position.

On the applicant’s side, be very honest about what you can and will do.  Most working student positions are A LOT of work and require a 6 day work week.  Most professionals keep a 6 or 7 day work week themselves, and they expect their help to keep up.  Every position varies a bit, so be sure that you know what you’re getting into.

The riding part of the position is probably the biggest liability for professionals.  When applying for a position, include some of your show history, references to trainers, and even video of you riding.  It is better for a good match to be made from the beginning, rather than getting there and things going awry.  I am big on checking references, and it is always nice to see some video.  A trial ride is not always possible when people are coming from far away.

Be sure to do the research on where you are applying.  Not only do you want to have an idea of whom you are going to work for, but you need to know where the facility is located.  There is nothing more irritating than thinking you have someone lined up to come, and they contact you to say it’s just too far to move.  I would think that location is the first thing you look into.

Know what you need in order to make the position work for you.  If you are not in a position to work without pay, then a working student position is probably not for you.

If you are searching as an employer or an employee to be, there are a few sources that work well.  Social media is a great, free way to find help or a job.  There are a lot of free group areas on Facebook that allow posting for these things.  Also, Yard and Groom and Sport Horse Nation are other great places to find workers and positions.

All in all, this process is tough on both sides of the situation.  The best advice for both parties is to be as honest and up front about things as possible.  No matter how hard you try to find the right fit, there will still be matches that just don’t work.  However, if you approach the situation as best as you can, you should have better luck in the end.  Don’t give up!




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