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. We've often wondered what it's like to work for riders such as Phillip Dutton and Hawley Bennett, so we are introducing a new series called "Working Student Diaries." Do you or someone you know work for an upper-level rider? If so, tip me at [email protected].
Cobie Sheehan had taken a bit of time off from riding in her home country of Australia when she decided to get back in the saddle in a big way. After losing her event horse in an accident, Cobie wanted a fresh start and an opportunity to travel and learn from the best, so she sent resumes to several riders here in the U.S. “I probably sent resumes to about 30 or 40 people and got in contact with Phillip (Dutton). He made me a great offer, so I packed my bags and came to the U.S. for my university holiday,” Cobie said, in her quite delightful Aussie accent. “I remember having posters from the Sydney Olympics of Phillip when I was a kid, so it was a dream come true.”
In Australia, Cobie had previously evented through the equivalent of Training level and had been riding and competing for about 10 years. When she arrived at Phillip’s home base in Pennsylvania, she was put right to work fulfilling the normal everyday duties of a working student, such as mucking stalls and handling turnout. Coming from an environment where keeping your horse at a boarding facility was not the norm, Cobie was interested to see the structure of a true training facility. “At home, we mainly keep our horses at home and haul away for lessons,” she said. “I wanted to improve my horsemanship skills and understand the finer details and behind-the-scenes work of working with-upper level horses.”
Cobie has enjoyed the bonding time with the other working students, as well as the opportunity to hack out some of the best horses in the country. I asked her for the inside scoop on which of Phillip’s string was her favorite, and she immediately responded with Mighty Nice. She also has had the opportunity to hack most of Phillip’s upper-level horses. “William Penn is dead quiet and such a gentleman,” Cobie said. “Atlas is pretty chill too. Mighty Nice is super spooky; my instructions when I first rode him were just to hold on tight! Mr. Medicott acts like a seasoned professional and marches around like he has somewhere very important to be. Fernhill Fugitive is the laziest horse on the farm but deceptively spooky when he wants to be; he’s the only one who has managed to dump me so far!”
Cobie recently posted on her blog about her slight misadventure with Fernhill Fugitive, who spooked after another horse shied into him. By putting too much weight in one stirrup and becoming off balance, Cobie sprained her ankle and found herself utilizing ice boots for a short while.
Cobie will head back to Australia in a few weeks to resume her studies. “I’m hoping to specialize in equine physiotherapy down the road, so one of my goals for heading over (to the U.S.) was to network and get a feel for the industry and how they use complementary therapies.” Cobie has been fortunate to learn from one of the absolute best in the business, and she is excited to take her newly found knowledge home with her as she begins her search for her next event horse.
To keep up with Cobie’s adventures, check out her blog, Across the Ditch.