Tips for Being a Working Student

Becoming a working student is an exciting step in a young equestrian’s riding career. These positions provide great opportunities to learn both in and out of the saddle. As in any new job you may be a little nervous at first, so BarnManager came up with some helpful suggestions.

Have an Open Mind

The two most important things you can do as a working student are to have an open mind and be willing to learn. The main goal of being a working student is to absorb as much information as you can about the equestrian industry. Whether you are riding, grooming, helping with horse show entries, cleaning stalls, or turning out horses there is always something to learn. You should also be open to learning new ways of doing tasks you may already know how to do. Even if a procedure is different than you are used to, learn the new way and understand why the barn prefers it. Also, never be afraid to ask questions. Working students are not expected to be experts so questions are expected, especially when you are still learning the routine of the barn.

Watch Everything

Watching is one of the best ways to learn in a barn. You can gather so much information by watching people ride, lunge, and do tasks such as bathing, grooming, or putting on polo wraps. This is a great way to pick up on small details about how the barn prefers tasks to be completed.

Photo by Jump Media

Keep a Positive Attitude

Working student positions can involve a lot of physical work and include long hours. During those extra-long and tiring days, remember to keep a positive attitude. Remaining upbeat at all times does not go unnoticed and can also help encourage other employees to act the same way.

Go the Extra Mile

Always aim to go above and beyond in your work. For example, if you are asked to sweep the barn aisle, go ahead and wipe off the tack trunks and wall boxes and remove visible cobwebs. Make sure you complete every task to the best of your ability, and if possible, do a little extra. This may mean applying hoof oil and wetting over the mane with a brush when you tack up a horse. Going the extra mile could also mean being the first person at the barn in the morning and the last to leave, ensuring daily tasks have been completed.

Manage Your Time

Although it is important to go the extra mile, it is also necessary to understand time constraints. While you definitely want a horse to be beautifully turned out when you groom it, you cannot spend hours cleaning one horse. If you are given several tasks to complete, you should prioritize each job in order of importance and also have a general idea of how long each chore will take. Additionally, if you finish your tasks early, be proactive and jump in on other tasks or ask for additional jobs.

Although working student positions require hard work and dedication, they are a terrific way to gain insight into the equestrian industry and what it takes to run a barn. If you are planning to be a working student, try to soak up as much information as you can while also having fun and enjoying the experience.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Help Wanted: You’ve Been Hired as a Working Student. Now What?

If you read our first blog about working student positions and how to navigate the hiring process, you may be looking for more resources on how to be a dependable working student and get the most out of the experience once you begin. Since we have had multiple working student opportunities, we are here to offer words of wisdom as you take that next step. If you have made the decision to accept a working student position, here are some things to keep in mind as you get started.

Be an Asset

Training facilities are looking for someone who is positive, hard-working, adaptable, competent, and efficient. Someone who already has experience with horses is preferred, but many facilities are willing to accept someone who doesn’t have experience and will train them along the way. If you embody the qualities they are looking for, then you will become a valued member of their team.

Keeping that in mind, always strive to be an “A+” worker. Our parents taught us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Following these wise words helped us tremendously, and it will do the same for you.

Never forget that attitude is important. If you have a good attitude and are pleasant, having you at the barn will be a joy. A good attitude in addition to a good work ethic will certainly make you a valuable asset.

Be humble and quick to learn. Despite the experience and knowledge you may already have, don’t act like you know everything. Be open and willing to handle tasks the way your trainer prefers, even if the process is different than what you may have experienced elsewhere. Be flexible and quick to adapt.

Pay attention to everything at all times. Some of the things you will learn are taught directly, others are caught indirectly. If you are unsure or don’t know about something, don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask questions to get a better understanding, because being inquisitive is how you learn.

Manage your time well. Prioritize, organize, and discipline yourself and your time. Keep a personal record of your time if the facility or trainer does not have an existing system. In your records, include when you arrive, when you start and complete major tasks, and what time you leave each workday. This record will help you and the facility keep your lines of communication open. It will also help you compare your time worked with the rewards of your labor by tracking both working hours and lesson hours.

Valuable Lessons

When you accepted the position of working student, you may have been thinking of saddle time, but don’t forget school is always in session. From the time you arrive at the barn until the time you leave, there is so much to learn. As mentioned before, there will be plenty of direct and indirect learning opportunities. Being around different horses, watching the trainer teach various students, and carrying out your job responsibilities are all opportunities to learn new things.

Through your work experience, you will learn how to be quick and efficient. There is quite a bit to do from sunup to sundown. From your hands-on exposure to the different horses at the barn, you will quickly realize that not all horses are the same. There will be some that are easy to handle, compliant, and well-behaved. Others will be a test of your patience and require you to think creatively to deal with their behaviors. You will learn how to think on your feet and come up with ways to handle unexpected situations.

As a working student, you will learn so much about how to take care of horses, how to manage a barn, and how to become a better rider, but you will also learn lessons applicable to life outside of the barn, such as how to deal with people. As a working student, you will deal with many types of people that come into the barn, all of which will have different personalities and methods of working. Through these interactions, you will learn how to work with others, how to avoid issues, and how to handle conflict when it does arise.

When you consider the amount of work you put in compared to the riding instruction you receive, bear in mind these other “lessons” you will learn. It may seem like there is little reward for your hard labor, but always consider all the advantages. As a working student, you really are accumulating a wealth of knowledge.

Feeling Discouraged

As with everything in life, you will have good days and bad days. You will certainly get discouraged at some points because being a working student is a lot of work. It will get repetitive and old at times. You will get tired of dealing with some people, especially the ones who are harder to work with. There will be bad days dealing with the horses. You might even get hurt, both physically and emotionally. Mistakes happen and you may get chastised for it. It will sometimes seem like everything is going wrong and you may want to quit. You will sometimes feel unappreciated.

When it gets hard, you will need to reevaluate whether you want to continue in this position. We encourage you not to make any rash decisions when you are feeling low. Taking a break to gather your thoughts and emotions will help to process what to do next.  Also, talk to someone you can trust to share how you are feeling. Having someone listen who can offer you sound, wise counsel is very helpful at times like those. Maybe ask your boss if you can have some time off. If he or she says yes, use that time to reflect on the true importance of the experience

Last Words

Working students can be crucial to riding facilities. Many rely heavily on their working students to keep horses healthy and the facility functioning. Being a working student can help you toward your goal of becoming a better rider. If you embark on this new adventure, we encourage you to use it as an opportunity to build your resume, and then graduate with the advantage of experience.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Help Wanted: How To Decide if the Working Student Position Is Right for You

Written by Emily and Sarah Harris

If you scroll through social media, you have probably seen a post seeking applications from anyone interested in becoming a working student at a barn, stable, or training facility. Perhaps your trainer or someone you know has offered you the position of a working student. If it’s something you’ve considered, we are here to educate you on what this title means and what a golden opportunity it can be. Working students are always needed, no matter the riding discipline or operation level.

What Is a Working Student?

A working student is a young person, typically a junior, who works in exchange for lessons and training. Responsibilities will typically include feeding, mucking stalls, cleaning up around the barn, cleaning tack, taking care of the horses, helping with lessons, and helping the staff, trainers, boarders, and students. Some positions may also include being capable of administering shots and medications, assisting the farrier when needed, operating farm equipment, farm-sitting, and helping out at horse shows, where you might be braiding, tacking up, grooming horses, holding horses, and more.

The job sounds like a lot, and it can be. But the benefits are endless. Some facilities might offer board for your horse or allow you the use of farm vehicles. Also, depending on the size and amenities available at the facility, you might be provided housing on the premises.

Overall, a working student position can be the perfect opportunity for learning and growth. You will get to work with different horses and be able to ride under the instruction of an expert. Doesn’t that sound great?

We have had the opportunity to be working students for several trainers in different disciplines as we’ve learned the ins and outs of the sport. Each trainer had different methods, so we learned something new with each opportunity.

If you are considering becoming a working student, here are some tips and advice to help you get the most out of your experience. We also want to be honest about the challenges so you are well prepared for what you may encounter.

Prioritize Communication 

Communication is number one, not just as a working student but in all aspects of a training operation. Make sure that expectations are clear on both ends in the beginning and discuss all the details of the position before accepting the role. This is a great time to sort out things like job responsibilities and how often things like lessons will be provided in exchange for your work. It may be difficult to approach this subject because your excitement to accept can often overshadow the details, but you don’t want to accept a position and work hard and then receive less in return than you expected. This initial conversation about the details and benefits is also good because it helps you decide if this is a role that you will want to accept.

Also, once you know what the job responsibilities are, consider your abilities and limitations. Be upfront with yourself and the person for whom you will be working.

If you choose to accept the position, be sure to maintain open communication throughout your time of employment. If you are unsure about something or have concerns, speak up; don’t ignore the issue. It is better to discuss the issue than to push past your feelings and end up with a bad experience.

We can’t stress enough how important communication is, and good communication skills will serve you in all your equestrian endeavors for your entire life.

Consider the Cost

Always consider the cost of accepting a role as a working student. Your excitement might make you want to jump at the opportunity to get lessons without paying cash, but don’t rush into a position without carefully considering if it is worth your time and money.

Consider how much a lesson with that particular trainer would be. Also consider all the work you will be doing at the barn. In your opinion, is the input you give the same value as the output you receive? Think about commuting time and associated costs; they can both add up. Keep in mind any other possible benefits, such as the knowledge and experience you might not get otherwise. If you have any horses, is it better to bring them or leave them at home since you won’t have as much time to dedicate to them with your new responsibilities.

Everyone values the costs and benefits differently, so there is no “right” answer. The best-case scenario is that both you and the trainer will benefit from you joining the team, making it a win-win situation for everyone.

Make a Decision

If you need some time to think it over, don’t be afraid to ask if you can get back to the trainer with your answer. Be sure to give them a reasonable time frame for your decision and stick to it. You don’t want to keep your potential employer waiting because then he or she might ask someone else. After you have considered everything, talked it all over, and weighed both the advantages and disadvantages, you will be able to make an informed decision. Contemplate how this position may or may not be to your benefit, then tell the trainer your decision.

Moving forward

Stay tuned for our next blog post about what happens once you’ve been hired; that’s when the work truly starts. There are lots of things to keep in mind once you begin a working student position. Next, we will outline all of them for you!

Head to the Sisters Horsing Around website for more blogs, videos, and tips.

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!