You hear “working student” and you may automatically think of the position one may have working at a barn. However, for me, this term is a bit different. I have been riding for ten years and I was very lucky in the beginning to have parents were willing to help me get my foot in the door of the equestrian world. I remember driving to the opposite end of Louisville from my house to go and have a group lesson by-weekly. It cost $25 at the time and the farm was conveniently close to a shopping mall, so my Mom dropped me off and picked me up about an hour or so later.
Oh how I would love to go back to those days! After I got my first “real” job — you could barely call it that because I cleaned six horse stalls every other day except weekends — the owner gave me $40 and started using that to pay for my lessons. My parents have always taught me that if you want anything in life you have to work for it. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t classify my family as being one that could afford a horse let alone an equestrian career attached to it. So, because of this (being self aware is awesome, right?) I knew I had to start paying for things myself.
I got my first car when I got my driver’s license at 18 (I purposely waited that long!) so I was able to start driving myself to lessons. I quickly realized that even though
you can drive yourself to the barn, it doesn’t mean the cost of lessons goes down. It was still as though my parents were shuttling me around. By this time, I had an actual job working retail so balancing that, school, and horses was difficult and still very much is.
If there was one thing I would like other equestrians to learn from me is that being a working student is hard. This is not about pity, this is just the truth. I’ve had to go months without riding in order to save money to pay for tuition. I’ve never purchased brand new riding apparel, never have I owned or leased my own horse, and I have never not worked at a show to relieve some of my show fees. My goal is to someday be able to go to a show and not have to worry about how much over time I’ll have to add on at work or have to cancel lessons so I can pay bills. If you have parents/guardians who are financially able to help you afford your horse, equipment, travel etc etc. be sure to thank them! My parents may not be able to help me in that way, but their support is still wonderful to have.
Sometimes, I think the equestrian community forgets about riders like myself and others. It’s okay, I can understand how it can be overlooked. Riding horses is an expensive sport so after you’ve read all of this you’re probably thinking “Yeah Danielle, it’s expensive and you should have known this going in!” I did. I learned quick that horses were expensive when I found out that leasing a horse to show would be $300 a month plus show fees! However, I don’t think that money should push anyone away from pursuing their dreams and goals. It may take me a lot longer to achieve my dream of riding in a Grand Prix, I may be out their when I’m almost 30 riding with teenagers, but I’ll get there.
If there is a will, there is a way!