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Can a 12-year-old work at a stable?

From: Alex

Hi! My family got a horse a little more than a year ago. We don't live on a farm, so we board him somewhere. I have always wanted my own horse, but we aren't made of money, so I have to wait until I get a job, but I am only 12 and I don't want to wait that long. I have asked my mom if we could ask some stables if they need anyone to help clean stalls or something, but she says nobody would allow a 12 year old to "work" there. I was wondering what age you have to be to work at a stable, and if I was too young, like my mom says I am. Thanks a lot! Alex

Hi Alex! I'm afraid that your Mom is almost certainly right about you being too young to work at a stable. You're dealing with child labour laws (don't be offended, as defined by these laws, "child" means "anyone under 18"), and that can be very tricky. These laws differ from state to state, and I don't know where you live, so I can't offer you much in the way of specific information.

At your age, you may be legally limited to doing chores for your parents or other relatives within the home - or to working as a newspaper carrier. I believe that in most if not all states, you must be at least 14 to get a work permit, although there are states that will allow a 13-year-old to caddy at a golf course. In some states, a 12-year-old with signed parental consent might be able to do part-time work on a farm, or to hand-harvest certain crops, provided that none of the work took place during school hours.

I suppose it's possible that this MIGHT be stretched to include working at someone's horse farm, but I wouldn't want to bet on it - and even if it's possible, you'd still have to find a horse farm with an owner who was willing to take you on. Don't get your hopes up, because there are some big issues involved here for the stable owner - although most of us, at some point in our lives, exchanged stable chores for lessons, this isn't actually legal, and more and more owners of stables are discovering that allowing underage children, or children without work permits, to do ANY work around the stables (for pay OR for lessons), can invalidate the stables' liability insurance.

Probably the best idea is for you and your parents to contact your state authorities (probably the Division of Labour) and get the details about your state's child labour laws. Before you can work anywhere at all, there will probably be a fair amount of paperwork to deal with (for you, your parents, your employer, and your state's Division of Labour). Get in touch with them and find out what you're legally allowed to do.

I know it's hard to wait, but in a couple more years, you'll be able to get a work permit and you will have many more options. Good luck!


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