A working student is one who works for lessons.
Some time ago I asked Boyd Martin if I could be his working student and he said “No, you are too old”.
So, when James and Taren Atkinson implied that I could work off some of the bill at their place, I was grateful.
Why would I be a working student at my age and with my experience?
I am never too old to learn more about horse training. Training a horse is creating art. I enjoy the process. I have a lovely new, young horse, I wanted to jump and compete and needed good trainers.
Also I had no source of income so if I wanted to use my husband Steve's generosity to be a snowbird with him in So. Cal, and bring horses, I wanted to keep the bills low. Also barn work, saddling and grooming is good for fitness.
I landed at Copper Meadows in Ramona Cal. around mid November.
At the time the trainers there were James and Taren Atkinson. There were 40 plus horses there during my three and one half month stay.
There were 2 other working students there the whole time. They were both 21 year old Albertan women.
Let's put this in perspective, our daughter Anna is 30. These gals were not young enough to be my grandchildren but they were close.
I have been immersed in the sport of 3 Day eventing and other types of riding for 45 to 50 years. I have credentials and prizes at high levels...blah...blah....I don't know much! Horse are humbling and being a working student even more so.
If I let my ego or self righteousness overtake my spirit, I would become unhappy very quickly so I carried on whether I agreed with what was being done or not. I had different ideas about blanketing and graining than was being done but hey, suck it up student! I shared blanketing 30 horses 2x's per day, I helped rotate them onto the Euro walker, I tacked up for trainers, cleaned up, organized things, mixed vast amounts of grain and supps, walked miles for scissors and telfa, I wrapped, unwrapped, washed, groomed, took clients to airport, hauled horses and finally I rode! I passed out every night about 8:30 and slept like a baby.
I had purchased my young horse “True Story” from Parkwood Jumpers on the way down to Cal. He is brand new for me. He was at the sale barn for about 4 months and with their quiet hunter style of riding and jumping, he was quite rideable when I tried him. He had a lovely flying change but his depart from the trot was ragged. He was greener than I thought when I bought him but isn't that the way? Regardless of how green he is, I still admire him because to me he has the mind, movement and scope to be a 4 Star horse. By the time he gets to that level, I will not be riding him because well, that age thing?
I got to ride more horses, the longer I was at Copper. I particularly enjoyed a 4 year old German riding pony named Biscuit but sadly I did not have enough time with him to make the progress I would have liked. I averaged about 2.5 lessons per week on my horse and got to compete Story at Galway Winter Event and some clinics and a jumper show.
I rarely cantered jumps all winter because Story would get too short in neck. Taren Atkinson did a great job with us, trotting jumps.
These young girls I worked with are competent. They can drive a loaded 40' trailer through LA, buck hay, grain, blanket in the dark with great efficiency, ride very well, take orders, multi task, smile when they feel like crying, handle a crisis, be polite when pissed, sleep anywhere, shower anywhere, eat irregularly, work side by side with former lovers and jump big jumps. I admire them and consider them friends.
If you are old and want to be a working student, be prepared to do things around the barn differently than you have been. You will learn a lot. When you finish, you will be humble and good around a horse. You will intuitively know how to handle situations, you will be competent and useful to have around.
I have moved on, headed north but stopped in Santa Ynez for a week to play some music shows, visit our daughter in Santa Barbara and watch and learn with Agapito De la Cruz at A and A Equestrian. He can soften a horse's eye in a short time. My horse gets the message. He slows down and balances himself. Agapito is a vaquero. Rides all day long, 12 a day.....