Working Student Do’s & Don’ts
By: Gaby Ruane
- DO ride ALL the horses you can. Even if it is a horse you don’t particularly love. Often those horses will teach you the most and chances are, if you are going to stick with horses as a career, you will ride many more like it. Don’t pass up the opportunity to do something simple, such as tack walking, either. Saddle time is saddle time.
- DO keep all of your social media accounts professional and appropriate. You are not only representing yourself and your career, but your employer’s as well. Be mindful of what you post, and NEVER share anything about your employer’s horses or those of their clients unless you have their explicit permission. Many farms have social media policies, so be sure you know what is expected of you at your workplace.
- DO treat clients and boarders (and their horses!) with the utmost respect. Pitch in and help, when possible. Pick their stall while they are out riding, roll their polo bandages, throw their dirty saddle pad in the washer; anything to assist. Always keep in mind that maintaining good relationships with clients could positively impact your career further down the road.
- DO work hard. If you have time to think about how hard you think you are working, then you can absolutely work harder.
- DO present (and represent) yourself well. There are always going to be difficult days or long, hard weeks. Do your best to stay as composed as you can be at work. Dress appropriately, and take pride in your appearance, as well as appearance of the horses in your care. Take on each challenge the day throws at you with as much optimism as you can. Be friendly and acknowledge the clients even in times of chaos and stress.
This is often much easier said than done, but it is an important part of your job.
- DON’T assume ANYTHING. If you don’t know, ASK. Over communicate. Make sure everyone is on the same page with feed changes, medications, turnout schedules, etcetera. If you aren’t sure if your employer is aware of something important, TELL THEM. This may seem like common sense, but most problems arise because one person assumed that another person knew.
- DON’T stop learning. This is why you became a working student. Be open-minded; everyone does things differently. Find out why someone does something a certain way. Ask lots of questions and absorb all of the knowledge that you can.
- DON’T expect to get a pat on the back and a gold star for doing your job. While your employer should express their thanks from time to time, you will need to be understanding of the fact that while they appreciate you and everything you do for them, you will not be showered in compliments and praise on a daily basis.
- DON’T overcommit. Make sure that you know what is expected of you well before you sign on for the job. Be sure that you will be able to commit financially. If you aren’t certain that you can handle the workload, or that the job will be a good fit for you in general, see if you can arrange a trial period before committing. Most riders look for someone who can stay through a full season, six months to a year is a common timeframe. It is very inconvenient when a worker quits before their time is up, especially during the busy show season, so it is your responsibility to make an informed and honest decision for yourself.
- DON’T sacrifice your physical and mental health. While it is true that the horses must always come first, your needs are not far behind. Eat nutritious meals, cross train, get plenty of sleep, drink more water than you think you need to, and take a moment to yourself when needed. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience!