By Eden Pessin, My Barn Child Co-Owner and VP of Awesome
Currently, at the age of only 20, Eden is Stable Manager for Steven Bluman at Bluman Equestrian.
You see a lot of articles floating around the internet that barn rats, hard workers, and brave young riders are disappearing from our sport. I remember seeing those posts as a junior rider and wanting to scream “I’M RIGHT HERE!!!”
And I know other riders like me are out there: Riders who are mucking stalls quietly in a back shedrow, finding it hard to find a place in a very pricey sport. To them, I would like to say “Don’t give up!”
Here are some lessons I have learned in my own journey that I hope other struggling young riders will find helpful:
Say YES to every tiny opportunity
Say yes to riding the naughty pony. Say yes to the muddy hose that needs to be rolled. Say yes to waiting for the trailer to get home with horses, even if you had one leg in your car to go home. Trainers and employers notice the YES kids. It might not be obvious that they know but pay attention to the signs they know. They will see you doing a hard task and come work alongside you, shoot you some extra jobs, or let you be the first to try a new horse.
See disappointments as opportunities
Some steps in your work and riding even feel backwards but maybe they are just meant to take you back to a fork in the road you didn’t see before. Or a new option or opportunity.
Work while everyone else sleeps
Take days off when they are forced on you. Work holidays. And take the tiny $20 jobs. YES take days off. Don’t exhaust yourself. But take the workdays other people pass on.
This is a big one, when you are trying to make money and build a reputation, especially during busy show season. Take work on any and every day you can find it. There will always be days when no one needs you and you can’t make money. Sleep on those days.
Take the gigs NO ONE wants. No one wants to work Christmas or the 4th of July. That’s OK! MORE WORK FOR YOU!
Those teeny tiny jobs that only pay a bit do add up. Even if they only buy a bottle of fly spray, HEY, now you have flyspray!
Have good manners
In person and in text, great manners will show you are respectful, thoughtful, and are enjoyable to be around. Good manners will help your trainer or employer feel comfortable letting you communicate with clients and sponsors. “Hi” and “I hope you’re having a good day” don’t seem important when you are rushing off a text but they make an impression about the kind of caring person you are.
Learn to talk on the phone
I knew how to write a polite text, but I turtled on the phone. I got shy and squeaky. It’s a business skill most young people don’t think to develop, but it is really important. Busy trainers need to fire off 80 instructions to you while they are riding one horse and warming up a client on another horse. They don’t have time to text.
Have SQUEAKY CLEAN social media
Social media mistakes are F O R EV E R. Keep it clean, keep it professional, keep it uncontroversial and keep the spicy opinions for private conversations. You don’t need to agree with everyone on the internet but you shouldn’t fight with anyone. Especially if you want to work with riders and trainers at the top of the sport, it is important to be professional, not problematic, on the internet.
Don’t buy expensive boots
Every dollar you save is a dollar you don’t need to earn. I have had the same inexpensive boots for 4 years. I don’t go for soft leather. I go for leg-killing boots with leather so tough they will stand up in a windstorm by themselves. Those super soft boots give me heart-eyes just as much as any other rider with a dream and a heartbeat but I used to ride way too many greenies and hit the dirt way too many times to risk losing a $2000 pair of boots to an eager paramedic.
Never apologize for having HUSTLE
Being a hard worker is something you should be proud of! I was shy, at first, about posting on Facebook that I was available for work. But I did it until my schedule overflowed and I was turning down work or referring other people for jobs. If people see you are willing to bust it to GET work, they know you’ll bust it AT work.
If you can dream it, you can do it.
But you still have to DO IT.
It is hard to be an underdog. It’s really tiring and you often smell like horse tinkle. And a lot of times you feel unrecognized and unrewarded. You will have moments when you think “this is why riders like me quit the sport.”
You just have to find the right people, focus on the moments when you think “this is why riders like me are special and important in the sport.” Read that again. And say it to yourself over and over until you believe it.
And always remember to thank and be loyal to the people who help you along the way. They are rare too.