There is nothing more exciting than to meet a young horseman that has the deep passion for LEARNING and excelling in this field. That is, when they have that true, devoted love for what they want. We have had countless interns come in over the years and also apprentices. Scott and I have interned, trained and learned under many different individuals over the years as well. So, I am writing this blog for all of those that are thinking of doing an internship, apprenticeship, working student position, or entering into a job in the horse industry. I’m writing this as having done it and run it.
Scott’s internship story is probably better than mine, so I am going to use his. He interned with a great horseman in West Virginia, Ken. Scott lived in camper for four months on Ken’s farm, where the camper had no hot water heater so he had to heat the water for his showers from the barn wash stall. No A/C in the summer, no working toilet in the camper, no computer and certainly no internet (not that it was a big thing then), no DVD players, etc. Four months. Four months of working long, hard days, six days a week. He did the morning chores, not just riding. He would lunge the horses, round pen them, and did some riding. However, Scott watched Ken train more than he actually got to ride. The internship wasn’t paid in either direction. Scott will tell you that it was a necessary experience that helped to shape him into the horseman he is today.
I opened with the short story of Scott’s first internship because it is exactly like so many other’s we have heard about. Long days, hard work, more watching than riding and mentally tough. It’s exactly like what we offer! Heck, exactly what they are supposed to be. An internship or working student position is supposed to give you the chance to experience aspects of a field that you are considering pursuing and to educate you. If it is not a paid position, then it is thought of and treated as a work-in-exchange for education. An apprenticeship, where there is a certificate at the end, is thought of and treated like a college certificate program. The apprenticeship is something that you pay for, just like you would a college program and completely hands-on. The details of differences between the two are mostly unnecessary for this particular blog, in my opinion. I want to focus primarily on the internship/working student portion for this blog.
We often hear complaints such as, “I went there to intern to learn about teaching riding lessons and I had to clean stalls!” There is also the, “I interned under so-and-so for training and they only had me ride a handful of times.” “I am interning to learn about horse training, not barn work.” “I already know how to lunge, I want to learn how to break colts.” While these are very understandable feelings and wants, it is all part of the experience.
For those young individuals that are wanting to test the waters of the horse industry for training, instructing, barn ownership, etc…be prepared for hard work. Know that it is going to be hard both physically and mentally. Pay your dues and do it with the understanding that it won’t last forever and you will come out better for it at the end. Don’t quit. Work so hard that you stand out and your boss will want to think about keeping you for a better position after the internship or later on down the road. To the intern and working student, this is how MANY of the professional riders with extensive records have started. They got their feet in the door by interning and being a working student. They lived off of Ramen Noodles and PBJ sandwiches. They didn’t spend every Friday and Saturday night partying, instead, they were show prepping horses and perfecting their braiding, banding and grooming.
To those that ever want to own their own business in the horse world, you are going to put in crazy hour work days, have an erratic schedule, do work that you might not want to do because someone called out and will have to work with horses or people that you don’t click with. It’s all part of the job. It’s crucial that as an intern or working student, you get to experience the “bad stuff” and behind the scenes work too. The long hours, doing jobs that you don’t want to do or that aren’t your favorite, etc. It will truly open your eyes to all aspects of the horse industry. If you can take on all the negative stuff and not so fun jobs, then the rest will be a breeze.
I want this to inform you of what to expect from interning and being a working student. I want you to know that 90% of individuals that have interned in this field and been a working student have done jobs and performed tasks that they didn’t fully enjoy. We’ve been there. I also, want to motivate you. I want you to know that nothing lasts forever and anyone can make something work for a limited time. Don’t quit your internship early. You are learning something even if it is how you do not want to manage people, how you don’t want to run a business or how you don’t like this method of teaching people and horses. It’s all important to learn.
Stay motivated, my friends. This is a tough field.