If you have a dream of becoming a professional anything, you need to learn from the best and if that’s what you’re after, I salute you. I think hardships and hard work are absolutely necessary to make it to the top in any sport or profession. Thus the reason for interning, it’s the best way possible to gain that experience.
Im sure different types of internships come with their own unique set of challenges but I’m gonna talk about my experience, working for barrel racing/horse trainers.
When you have any sort of employment, there are times you are working for them, which to mean measn working on your own tasks. Then on the flip side, you can work WITH someone. As an internship situation, working with them is what you’re after. It is only a small word, but it totally changes that statement. In case you’ve missed it, interning with someone is a lot better than working for them.
I have interned at a few different places in the span of four months. It is quite a lot of moving around but some of these internships weren’t very long. However, I still learned a lot during my time working for every each professional.
How to Get Started
Just a heads up, most of these positions you need to travel. When relocated and put in a very vulnerable position, you give up a lot of your independence. You are there to work and do what your boss says, no question. From the first placement, it felt like I was just dropped off on a farm and unable to choose anything. You don’t choose your hours or your work, where you sleep, or even when to eat for that matter. All you think you can say is “yes and I’ll do it.”
I’m assuming most of you are horse people and you already know what it takes to own a horse, take care of a horse, ride a horse etc. You know it’s not easy to schedule a play by play of what you’re doing, how long it’ll take, when you’ll be done and you know you’re done when the job is done. As for me, I totally get that! I spend my summer nights after my 9-5 job in the barn riding, washing, mucking and just making sure my horses stay alive for another day and I don’t mind it at all. However, in that sense, I am working with myself (which is glorious). When you begin interning, in my experience you start working for someone and it changes that willingness to be doing what you love because you love it. Keep that in mind and never let someone make you hate something you love.
So with that being said, proceed with caution. I have heard many horror stories from other women that have gone through some pretty dehumanizing shit while working for people. Interns have always been the bottom of the totem pole and there’s no changing that. Just accept its where you’re at and move along your journey with you’re head held high. Like I said before, sometimes working your butt off is necessary to grow.
Through all the shit that you’re probably going to have to shovel, all the saddles you’re gonna have to throw, all the horses you’re going to warm up, hose off and walk around, you WILL be learning. You don’t know what it is right away but put in that position, you definitely will. Then you can look back on this and be like “oh ya, now I know what that weirdo online was talking about”.
Learning is a great thing to strive to do daily and there are so many forms of it. Through my experience, other then the actial training horses part, i learnt the things I dont like and you know what girl? You take that and you can still apply it your life.
I said that so much while I was away, “hey I don’t like this person, I’m never going to act like that guy”. We all have said that! There’s always another side though. The flip side is you might learn things that you like and you want to do! You have the ability to take that knowledge and apply it to any aspect of your life. Yay for life experience.
For me, I honestly think I learn just as much about people and living somewhere foreign then I did about my actual riding skills. Which is totally ok.
I think to begin that journey of self-improvement by internship will be very beneficial , but you need to start with an open mind. You have no clue what these professionals are like; you know, in real life. And unfortunately for you, the only way you figure it out is when you 100% commit to work for them and move to their place!
They at least give you a warning by saying in their job description “need to have the ability to go with the flow” and they’re not joking. If that is a skill that you don’t think you have, being able to take things as they come is going to help you in your riding and just in life; so it’s something you should work on.
A few tips that I could give to you through my own internship experience
If you don’t want to feel totally stuck, like who really does? Take a vehicle with you! Reason being, I flew to Oklahoma at first, clearly didn’t have my own vehicle and it was really hard to adjust. All of a sudden your needs that you could easily go into town or take care of on your own are gone. You now have to rely on other people that you just met and unless they’re amazing, chances are your needs don’t get met the same way.
Another thing I learned early on is it OK to say no. Right off the bat, I was asked to do something with a horse that I wasn’t super comfortable with. The horse was hardly halter broke and I was supposed to start working with it without anyone else around. That was not part of our agreement and I was just plain worried for my safety. I said, “uhm, this seems dangerous to do alone, the horse wasy crazy so I’ll wait for you to show me.” I wasn’t actually rude about it but still, I said no.
It would’ve been different if that whole “working with or working for” someone came into play. I wouldn’t have had a problem if I was working alongside Ms.Bosslady and learning from their professional expertise. That was not the case and I said I’m not doing that. To me, it wasn’t safe and wasn’t worth me getting hurt and doing it all for no pay. Ya, I don’t think so.
As I just said, very few places will actually pay you! The agreement is for you to be housed for free, learn and be taken care of in exchange to work. For some weird reason, food was a big problem! My first month I swear I ate as much as I would in a week. I understand when you’re working you don’t just stop to eat, but at times the Hanger was real and it was a real problem. So if you have a car, problem solved. Go into town, buy yourself simple food that you would probably bring to a horse show weekend and snack on that when you can. And I only speak from my experience. I did not have a car, therefore, I could not provide the food I needed and wanted that would be easy to ease the hanger.
Due to the events of moving around the country a little; and by a little I mean Oklahoma up to Wyoming. Very South to very North and there is a big weather difference. And me, living out of a suitcase thinking I was going to be in the hottest state possible all summer, I only brought summer clothes..like a romper? which was evidence I was way too optimistic about my trip. Needless to say, the romper did not make it home with me. When you’re not getting paid, which is fine and all, you just cannot deny you still will have expenses. Having to buy warm clothes or season appropriate clothing should not be one of them. So Take it from me, pack for all weather but if you have to, a thrift store is your best friend and will have perfect barn clothes you can destroy.
Last but not least
Take advantage of this incredible opportunity! Interning is usually only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so fricken embrace it. This is your chance to meet like-minded people and learn about the culture of the sport. Again, this is only from my experience. I came from Canada and move to the USA. It is a whole different world! Through it all, I stayed focused and tried to stay positive by taking it all for what it was and not letting certain situations get me down.
Going into an internship was a blind move and you can only try to plan what’s going to happen, but chances are you’re wrong (sorry). Your greatest tool will be your ability go with the flow and keep an mind open! Learn as much as you can by the people around you and walk away from it a more well-rounded person. It will probably suck at times but power through, I promise it will be worth it.
Have as much fun as you can and I wish you absolutely all the best in your adventures.