Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
I don't think it's really that surprising.
Like you look on here and the first advice from a lot of people is to volunteer somewhere to get horse experience/time. So why are we surprised when barns don't want to pay, when we're sending all this free labour their way?
I don't mind the concept of a working student if they're working for someone real good, and the conditions are good. In some places board/lessons are expensive when compared real sort of minimum youth wage. When I was working full time at 17 I was only getting $300 a week, and then I had to pay all my living costs like rent and food. If I wanted to keep a horse in the city where I lived the minimum board would have been at least $120 week, so it was not even an option. If someone is offering you food, accommodation, horse board and lessons, if the place is of high quality it's a pretty decent deal for the unqualified.
I've seen a lot of working student positions that are based on a lot of riding and very regular competitions, which I think can be a good, short term way of getting started.
It's not just the horse industry though that this happens in. I'm going to begin a volunteer position at a family centre in order to get more experience in social work, as I plan to do a masters in it. Many people volunteer in the field of interest to get some experience in order to be employable.
It's a bit rough being a working student I think - but the horse world has never really been easy, especially now when horses are mostly a pleasure thing, they're not used for much work anymore. Back when they were used a lot on working farms or something, then there would have been more jobs around. People know the horse world is hard when they get in it, I've seen many unemployed people struggling to do something - anything really - with horses, and these were good, experienced riders. It's a choice they make.
I guess it boils down to the fact that a lot of people will work for near nothing in order to "get ahead" in the horse world. But this actually works to lower the overall conditions. If every horse person stopped working right now and demanded better conditions then businesses would have no choice but to improve or shut down. Not going to happen though.
Limited positions + many desperate workers = very low wages.