Summer Working Students

Isabel, Lauren and Mia looking like professional equestrians headed off to learning event.

Isabel, Lauren and Mia looking like professional equestrians headed off to learning event.

Many barns with top trainers and riders have summer working students that come and essentially work for free in return for proximity to such amazing learning opportunities.  Okay, so our little backyard barn does not house a resident trainer or a hot-shot rider to motivate the working student to spend grueling hours under the hot Texas sun, but apparently we have some draw as two students joined us this summer for a four-week program.  The program (I am being generous here) was designed (thought up one night in response to the impending arrival of the students) to aid the students in learnIng multiple facets of the  equestrian business, from running a barn smoothly to greater insight on the horses they ride.

Mia on my horse, Investment Art (Nova)

Mia on my horse, Investment Art (Nova)

Mia, formerly of Houston, returned from her current home in Malaysia (I bet my working student came further than yours did) to spend the time under Lauren’s tutelage and took up residence in our home.

Isabel and Prosecco Classico on course.

Isabel and Prosecco Classico on course.

Isabel, a boarder, from Katy, Texas, came daily to work, learn and sweat with the group.

Both girls have trained with Dev Branham and continued riding multiple mounts for him during the summer program.  Timing was such that everyone got a shot at showing as well.  The Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Show conveniently was scheduled mid-program.  Dr. Lynn Criner helped out with offering up her pony-Just George for Mia to show.

It wasn't all work!  From left, Alex, Isabel, Mia and Jordyn having some fun at the GHHJA show.

It wasn’t all work! From left, Alex, Isabel, Mia and Jordyn having some fun at the GHHJA show.

Next year, if we do this again, I have advanced plans of much better ways to incorporate time and teaching to the working student.  But for this year, I put together some opportunities interspersed with amble time for riding, barn management and hopefully some fun.  Several days a week the girls had responsibilities for horse turn-out, cleaning stalls, barn management and arena perfection.

Discussion was had over variety of feeds, hays and type of work that the horses were doing (or not).  Pasture management including important things how/where manure is dumped and pasture rotation was an ongoing subject.  Certainly there was never a shortage of opinion or feedback about pasture assignments (horses, just like people {or dogs}) like and respect others in varying degrees.

We set up some other educational sessions as well.  Dr. Kendrick Govan did a tremendous job helping the ladies build a perfect barn first-aid kit.  Additionally, she walked them through what a lameness exam in a horse is meant to show and basic first aid tips.  The group was very complimentary of Dr. Govan and what they all learned.

Likewise, the girls spent a day auditing the Emerging Athlete’s Program sponsored by USEF at Katy Equestrian Center.  After listening to American Olympic Gold Medalist Joe Fargis work with the riders in the program the students and Lauren raced home to recreate his course in our arena.  When trainer Dev arrived and questioned the unique course, I told him to ask Mia or Isabel to explain the point to of this particular course.  Without hesitation, Isabel clearly articulated to Dev what the horse and rider would gain from riding it.  I call that a big win.  (I would note that course pretty quickly got changed-it was pretty tough to handle.)

Tony's Timber Ridge Farm

Tony’s Timber Ridge Farm

A trip north to the beautifully built and appointed barn of Tony Font was a fun educational outing provided by trainer Trapp O’Neal with the help of Caitlyn Epperson.  Trapp,  a rider and trainer of Grand Prix horses, aided the girls in understanding basic horse anatomy and how it plays out in the jumping ring.  The girls were asked to evaluate several horses based upon the criteria they had just learned.  Caitlyn also did some jumping demonstrations which were case in point.  It is doubtful that any of these students will be jumping around a Grand Prix course any time soon (or ever) but it is always fun to see inside the world where you have been a spectator in the past.

Mia modeling the new helmet visor.  A lot of shopping was included for the students-just ask their parents.

Mia modeling the new helmet visor. A lot of shopping was included for the students-just ask their parents.

Four weeks of summer fun which included a lot of laughter, fast food and shopping when the group was not hauling dirt to fill the rain-soaked pastures, working another horse in the hot, humid environment of summer in Houston or dragging the arena yet again in the endless circles of perfection. A heartfelt thanks for all that you accomplished this summer.   I would call our first working students, Mia and Isabel, amazing, intelligent, and hard-working. I saw them get tougher, stronger and become better horse-woman.   I am grateful they came to learn, to work and to grow with Six Meadow Farm.

And to all of you, thanks for riding along!

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