By popular demand, more information on my working student position:
The trainer I am working for is a USDF Gold medalist and has trained students through Grand Prix. Her barn has about 18 horses, including her own 2 Danish Warmbloods and her daughter’s German Riding Pony (they are a super cute pair, I love watching them work!).
I get to her barn around 7:45 and get her first horse ready for her to ride at 8. If she has a 9:00 lesson to teach, I watch her ride or set up cavaletti’s for her while she rides, then when she is done I untack and bathe her horse, then clean his tack and put it away, otherwise while she rides I get another horse tacked for her. Depending on what lessons she has to teach in the morning, I either get her next horse ready for her to ride, or I do other things in the barn. One time I helped clear an area to make room for a hay delivery, another time I hung up all the ribbons from the show in her office, and other times I’ve done more regular barn chores like pull manes. It just depends what needs to be done. Sometimes I get to watch her teach, which I love because I learn a lot, and especially the upper level riders are fun to watch just because the horses are so impressive!
When she has a few lessons in a row, she will have me get on a horse after I get her horse put away. Then I ride while she is teaching the lesson, so she can keep an eye on me and tell me what to do with the horse and give me some pointers if I get stuck. These rides have been very helpful to me because each horse is so different, but they are all well schooled and trained by her, so I know the training is correct and when I ask correctly the horse should give me the right answer. It helps me to feel how it *should* feel so when I get on Liam and ask him to do something, I am confident that I am asking correctly even though he doesn’t always give me the response I wanted.
After her own horses and her training horses are ridden, I get Liam tacked up and have a lesson. After I ride him, sometimes there are other chores to do or another horse for me to ride, and other times we are done for the day. The schedule is a little different every day and mostly works around the lessons she needs to teach.
My favorite part about being a working student (besides the daily lesson of course) is getting to watch her teach. I love to watch the rider and try to see what could be improved or corrected, and then listen to the instructions she gives the rider to see if I was thinking along the right lines or not, then watch the rider put the instructions into action and see how the horse responds. I love watching the process of teaching a horse the more difficult movements, and seeing that it is a process. These riders that make it look so easy in the show ring struggle the way we all do in their daily lessons, and they work hard to improve themselves and their horses day by day.
Another part that I find interesting is watching her go from a training level horse and rider in one lesson to an Intermediare 1 horse and rider in the next. She so easily adapts to whatever the horse and rider are giving her on a given day, and knows just what each one needs next. She can help each progress a step at a time, without getting impatient or seeming to prefer the more advanced horses and riders.
The biggest perk to working in the barn is the people. I love talking to the boarders and hearing their stories. It is a great group of people and they got started in dressage in all different ways. They are working on different things and have different goals, but I have learned a ton talking to all of them. And each one loves their horse, is dedicated to riding, and works at it one day at a time, regardless of what level they ride at. Whether they are about to school flying changes in their lesson or circles at the trot, each one of them is there to learn and to spend time with their horses, and everyone is simply working towards the next step, whether its first level or grand prix.
It is very hard work, especially since I have my own barn to take care of after I get done at her barn, but working with this trainer is teaching me a lot. I am trying to stay focused on my goals, and to remember that they are not small goals that will come easily, so every day I have to be prepared to put in 110% effort and have faith that little by little I will make my way.