11 things you need to know before becoming a working pupil

  • Becoming a working pupil on a yard can be highly rewarding and beneficial to your equestrian knowledge and skill set. But before you take the plunge, here are some things you might want to consider.

    1. Don’t expect to ride all of the top horses

    Great, you’ve landed your dream working pupil job on a top yard. This does not mean you will immediately be legged up onto their best horses. In fact this might never happen, but if it does it will be worth all of your hard work.

    2. What you get paid

    If you’re thinking of becoming a working pupil to make money, think again. You should always be paid at least the national minimum wage for the hours you work, but if you are provided with accommodation, training and/or a space for your own horse the cost of these will be deducted from your wage after tax and National Insurance. Make sure you know where you stand with a wage with your potential new boss before you start the job.

    3. Your social life

    Often the hard work involved with working with horses means you will be far too tired to contemplate anything other than falling asleep on the sofa at 7pm.

    4. Expect to ride your own horse outside of ‘office’ hours

    Some yards will accommodate working pupils riding their own horses during work hours, but you shouldn’t assume that this will be the case. A lot of yards will expect you to exercise your horse during your own time.

    5. Be prepared for disappointment

    Sometimes promises or plans will be made between you and your boss about which shows you might get to go to and sometimes they will fall through. These things happen. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going. If, however, you are being let down with regards to more core parts of your job, raise the issue with your boss, complete with your contract of employment to check everyone knows where they stand and what both parties are expecting.

    6. Don’t expect to be patted on the back frequently

    Yes you might have swept the yard to absolute perfection, or worked super hard at a show, but it can be harder to get praise in some jobs than others no matter what industry you are in. But when those two special words: “thank you” are uttered by your boss, you will really know that they mean it.

    7. Accommodation

    If you are provided with accommodation with your working pupil position, you will often be expected to live with the rest of the yard staff. Love them or hate them, you’ll need to learn to cope with all sorts of people in all sorts of moods! On the flip side you could make friends for life.

    8. Your time off

    A lot of yards expect their working pupils to work six days per week and if you want to compete your own horse, that day might be counted as your day off. Remember you are doing this job for the love of it and it will be worth it.

    However there are good bits too…

    9. That rewarding feeling

    Being part of a team and going through the highs and lows of horse sport together will make the good times great, and when there’s a good result within the team, there is nothing more rewarding than feeling like you were a part of that success.

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    10. Rapid learning

    Immersing yourself in the world of horses means that your rate of learning should increase 10-fold compared to if you were having one lesson per week around a non-horsey job. Your new-found depth of knowledge in stable management will also serve you well for life.

    11. Some jobs afterwards will seem like a walk in the park

    If you eventually decide that working with horses isn’t for you and you find yourself in a ‘normal’ job, the hours and lack of manual labour might make it seem like a total breeze in comparison. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone and remember you still have to make time for your own horse even around a ‘normal’ job!

    This article, originally published on Thursday 10 November, was amended on Monday 14 November to clarify some points relating to employment law.

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