the Owls Approve Blog Hop is perfectly timed, as I’ve had something occupying a lot of brain space lately. not to mention that I literally cannot remember the last time I rode my horse. i’m sure you’re weary of hearing us CenTex bloggers complain about the weather, but let me tell you, it’s been a really miserable cold and damp few weeks. we need a good spell of sunshine to dry us out enough to ride (and frankly to thaw out our chilled texas toes).
so, what do I wish we could? i wish we could throw in the towel of the day job to go be a working student.
i was a working student at a H/J barn in camden, south carolina, for two summers in college. at the time i had no idea that’s what it was called, i just called it my job. (my early equestrian life would have been much, much different had the internet existed then). it was a fairly easy gig as far as working student gigs go. i showed up every morning at 7, five to six days a week, and started schooling horses. some days i’d have a lesson, some days we’d go off property. most days i schooled three horses, cleaned tack and mucked stalls, bathed, stacked and threw hay, and anything else that needed to be done. we were usually done by noon, because it was too hot to work the horses in the afternoon. i managed the barn when my trainer was out of town, often caring for upwards of twenty horses on my own. looking back on it, it was bliss.
but . . . i just knew i had to go to graduate school, and couldn’t imagine trying to make my career in what then seemed like the impossible horse industry. (it still seems impossible, that hasn’t changed). my parents didn’t support the idea of a horse career (“how will you make a living?”), and that had a big impact on me. the straw that broke the camel’s back was hit the deck’s catastrophic colic and founder. i couldn’t face trying to build a relationship with another horse, so i took it as a sign and turned away from riding completely. i went to grad school and focused on building my career.
more than sixteen years later, i want nothing more than to spend my days mucking stalls and schooling horses. the idea that i could take auto to a barn and, in exchange for my work, we could be educated is so appealing to me. of course, it’s easy to romanticize it, but i know it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. what i do know is that i’d rather be busting my ass with a wheelbarrow full of manure than sitting on my ass at a desk all day.
now that i’m an adult, i have such a greater capacity for learning. that might seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. as a twenty-year-old, i just wanted to jump bigger. now, i want to understand biomechanics, and learn dressage, and manage the individualized care of each horse. i want to learn about breeding and pedigrees, and perfect my grooming skills.
i can tackle elements of all these things in my current life, but nothing compares to being immersed in it all day every day. it’s like foreign language learning–immersion is key.
but what would i do if i quit my job to be a working student? to what end does it serve, other than my education and happiness? i don’t have aspirations of becoming a trainer. i would love to develop a breeding program, but how would i support it financially? i’d love to manage a barn full-time, but who pays a barn manager these days? would i be able to get another job in my career after taking a hiatus “just to ride horses”?
so, becoming a working student is difficult to justify at my age, but i can’t seem to shake the idea of going for it.