VR is so excited to welcome our newest guest blogger, Ashley Harvey! She has provided us with some wonderful insight into the life of a working student and how to make a successful, wonderful experience!
In the eventing world, you would be hard pressed to find a handful of professionals without a working student. What is a working student you ask? Well, think of an indentured servant, then imagine someone who volunteers for that! In all seriousness, being a working student is a highly valuable experience. Every day is filled with hands on education and endless learning experiences. Working students are those who dive headfirst into their equestrian experience; working for a rider in exchange for various accommodations–housing, board, lessons, gas money, hauling, and various concerns. Every working student position is different. Not all positions are created equal, but all provide excellent learning opportunities with chances to create wonderful connections. Being a working student often involves long days filled with countless smiles and frustrations. In order to make it as a working student, it is imperative that you mentally and financially prepare.
7 Steps To Prepare Yourself For Being A Working Student
1) Sleep deprivation: As a working student, you will often be the first in the barn and the last to leave. If a horse is colicy, prepare yourself to not leave at all. Same applies for after cross country day with icing, wrapping, and jogging. To prepare yourself, practice by setting random alarms at night so you can wake up at a moment’s notice. Better yet, get your body accustomed to being ready to pass out at 9pm. You’ll thank me when it doesn’t take two to five months for your body to realize that 9pm is the perfect bedtime. Want to be an over achiever? Start waking up at the crack of dawn and learning to move as quickly as possible, while leading a horse and drinking your coffee. The more you can learn to do while drinking coffee the happier you’ll be!
2) Proper Snacking: Enjoy your lunch break while you have it. If you’re lucky enough to get 20 minutes to grab a bite to eat, make sure you give your boss a hug or high five! There is a way to counter the frequent lack of lunch time so your metabolism does not put its angry eyes on. Putting boxes of easy to eat crackers or chips around the farm are a great way to ensure you have a moment to grab a handful of food. Eating is your friend. It is much harder to ride, work, and keep a smile on your face while your insides melt away from hunger. The same goes with proper hydration. Strangely enough; when you hide bottles of water and crackers around the barn, you don’t get as many strange looks as you would think.
3) Practice Smiling: A good attitude goes as far as a good work ethic. Life is often frustrating, but those who work hard with a smile are noticed. Smile, you’re living the dream! One scoop of poop at a time, you are living the dream!
4) Practice Packing: Chances are you will have to change locations every 6 months. That means twice a year you are packing everything you own into your vehicle or horse trailer. Although it may seem simple enough, you never know how much notice you will have. Often you may be lucky and have a month or two to prepare yourself and slowly pack. Yet when the dates get changed from fate, you’ll thank me that it takes 24 hours or less to pack yourself away and be ready to hit the open road. Your superb packing skills will also translate to epic barn organization skills. The only thing better than playing Tetris with your bags in your car is playing it with the tack room! The better you can organize, pack, clean, and be ready to be on the move the easier life will be!
5) Take Up Gymnastics: flexibility is key! Although I don’t mean literally being flexible. Things change, every day, every hour. Don’t be surprised if you tack up a horse only to be told to untack and get a different one ready. Eventers are quirky people who often live their lives on the fly. Prepare yourself to live without a plan and be open to last minute changes for almost every plan that is made. Go with the flow and learn to enjoy it! Life is an adventure!
6) Saving Money: Often it is the case that you won’t get paid. If you are lucky enough to get paid, expect your horse to eat up all your money. Ways to practice the rapid rate at which your bank account will decrease are similar to flushing your money down the toilet. I can’t say I recommend that as practice as it defeats the purpose of saving. Before you become a working student, make sure you are financially prepared. Everyone has a different way to prepare. Some work two or three jobs before leaving and save as much as they can. Others make a deal with the devil, er, I mean their parents, for funding. Many try to ask their employer for specific hours to they can work part time in addition to their position. If your parents do help, make sure they know how grateful you are. Refer back to tip 3, smiling and being gracious is key! Always have a plan and an emergency fund. You never know what may come up! It is never shameful to get a part time job in addition to being a working student if you have the time. In many “horsey” towns, most employers are understanding to the hectic schedule and still welcome part time employees on a crazy schedule. Financially, being a working student can be very difficult. Where there is a will, there is a way.
7) Time Management: The more efficiently you can juggle everything in your life, the better. Finding time to eat, ride, sleep, call your family, have a semblance of a social life, and relaxing won’t be easy! It is possible! Mapping out your day is by far one of the best ways to get things done quickly. Make a list of chores, horses to be ridden, people to call, and make and effort to get it all done. It takes time to adjust, but after awhile you will feel like superman!
Being a working student is a wonderful opportunity! There will always be the horror stories, that is the way of the world. The experience you can gain will make it all worth it. Being a working student is one of many steps of many different paths to making it in this crazy world.