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Working Student

From: Violet Daisy

Hi Jessica!

I am sixteen years old, and I live in Chicago. This summer, I am going to Long Island to work at Knoll Farm as a working student (Anne Gribbons' farm).

I have been riding and have been around horses for seven years, have been working student at the barn that I ride at off and on for years, and have even done a little teaching. But I am concerned because I will be living on the farm, and it will be much more difficult work than I am used to (i have only been asked to help with the kids tacking up, for the most part-- no mucking or watering, cobwebbing, etc.).

What can you suggest I can do to make my transition a little easier? What are some "dos" and "don'ts" that you can think of? I have 3 half hour lessons a week. How would I use them most effectively in relation to the rest of my riding time (I can ride any school horse when I am not working). I have $70 a week to spend on food; what would give me the most energy (I am recovering for mono and am an asthmatic-- energy is a big deal) as well as will keep me healthy and not hungry (also a big deal-- I'm *always* hungry Finally, I have a tack trunk filled with grooming stuff, leather care stuff, SMBs, 2 saddle pads, I have paddock boots and chaps (on back order) and am thinking of buying a bridle as I don't like using school equipment. What would be the best all-around bit? I understand all horses are different in relation to thier mouths, however I want to get something that would fit *most*.


Lark Baum

Hi Lark! Before you embark on ANY working student program, here are some of the things you should find out.

These are general questions, but I'm sure you will think of others to ask! One of the most useful things you can do is to ask for names and addresses of previous working students. Then you can contact those people and ask about their experiences -- at worst, you'll be warned off a bad situation, and at best, you'll be encouraged about a good situation. Either way, you'll get useful tips!

Now, for your specific issues. ;-)

Get as FIT as you can BEFORE you begin your working student position! It's worth the effort. The stronger and more supple and flexible you are, and the more endurance you have, the better you'll be able to cope with the work load and the more benefit you will get from your lessons and riding time.

Being hungry is always a problem for working students!! Sometimes it's difficult for working students to get to the shops, either because they are busy during open hours or because they are just too tired to do anything but sleep in their off hours. ;-) So bring a supply of goodies with you. Avoid candy bars and juice and other sugar sources -- they're fine for an instant boost in blood sugar, but it's a BRIEF boost followed by a big DROP. Instead, keep sources of protein around. Peanut butter is a working student staple -- PBJ sandwiches and milk will get you far, and they're easy to fix. Other favourites: beef jerky, trail mix..... anything nutritious that doesn't require complicated or effortful (or ANY) preparation...

If you're an asthmatic, take your medicine with you -- AND take your prescriptions in case you run out of something! If you use an inhaler, be sure that you have several of them -- one in your tack box, one in your lodgings, and one on your person. And tell your co-workers and employer where to find your inhalers in case they need to get them for you. When you're fighting for breath, it's easier to say one word: "Inhaler" than to explain what an inhaler is, why you need it, what it looks like, and where it is. Time is important when you can't breathe. Your doctor will probably have some other suggestions -- as it's summer, COLD won't be an issue, thank heaven. But asthmatics often have allergies, so be prepared to deal with those as well.

And do keep some coffee handy -- it can sometimes help ward off an attack (ask your doctor about the research behind this).

I hope you don't have an asthma attack -- this is all PREVENTIVE, "just in case" advice. ;-)

Most riders and trainers who've been in the business for a while have more bridles than they know what to do with -- don't buy one unless you really want one of your own. If you DO buy one, MARK IT. I use plastic tape -- the colourful kind you can write on. I make a loop with the tape so that nothing sticky touches the tack (the tape just sticks to itself) and put a small piece around a browband or cheekpiece, then put my initials on the tape. If you bring your own reins, do the same thing with the reins; if you bring your own bit, ditto. That way, there is NEVER any question about who owns what.

As for a one-size-fits-all bit, a lot depends on what sort of horses you'll be riding. Again, most riders and trainers who've been in the business for a while have more BITS than they know what to do with. ;-) If you really want to bring your own, the best GENERIC, one-style-suits-most-horses bit that I have ever found is a 5" eggbutt french-link snaffle. This will NOT fit every horse. This will NOT suit every horse. But that would be my bit of choice if I were handed a barn full of horses and told "You can use ONE bit for ALL these horses -- so choose carefully."

Hope this helps! Have a great summer, Lark!


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