The Secret Life of McKenna & Dorito: So you wanna be a working student

Horse Nation’s teen sensation McKenna offers advice on how to land a sweet working student gig.

From McKenna:

Going into 2012, I thought it was going to be a great year. The best one yet. Unfortunately, I’ve found myself thinking, “Everything happens for a reason, right?” a lot. This past week I’ve had discoveries and accomplishments and learned that I have some very important decisions to make in my life. One thing I discovered is that when your sump pump breaks, it floods your basement and it REALLY sucks. I accomplished several ribbons at a local jumper show and got out for the first time this season, which proved to be very beneficial! After shaking off the cobwebs and getting my head in the game, ponpon and I rocked the 3-ft. classes.

I had a comment on my last article asking how I got a working student position and how you go about it. While this will be my first position and job (!!), from seeing friends do this, this is usually a standard procedure. So HN, let’s go back in time a little bit.In 2010 I had a dream opportunity to attend the annual O’Connor Eventing Camp, hosted by Karen and David O’Connor and Virginia Horse Center. Of course I only got to attend the camp if I met my mother’s challenge of raising $800 by myself… needless to say, she was not expecting that I would truly be able to do that! Anyway, I had the time of my life and learned a lot and it really opened a new door in riding for me. I made lots of new friends and connections and I’m still very close with everyone to this day!I made the tough decision that in 2011 I was better off putting money towards shows and lessons with my trainer but I still wanted to attend OCET camp to see old friends, learn, and of course see my favoritest people of all time! I dragged my at-the-time newly converted eventer best friend, Jackson, with me, bragging about how she’d love Karen so much and about how she would learn a great deal.

After getting up at the crack of dawn and struggling to find what barn everyone was in, we arrived at the end of the ever-great XC talk. We were able to stay and audit for two camp days and learned a great deal, made lots of new friends, received some harassment from KOC about not riding, and I even got what might be the biggest compliment ever in my whole entire life. When Karen called me a good rider. Yeah, I wasn’t even on a horse when she casually mentioned it during our conversation… I’m still kind of in shock about it. But I have to tell you, it makes you feel pretty darn good when you have Karen standing in front of you giving her opinion and then BAM! She says that.

I believe it was Wednesday night at camp, we were all gathered in the barn and Equifit and Point Two, whom are both sponsors to the OCET, were there to show off their products and give us some giveaways. We were all gathered around chattering away and bonding and somehow my mom found her way between Lauren Kieffer and David O’Connor. She somehow has a way with doing this, she’ll find the most important person in the room or area and just chat away. At our first Rolex in 2008 while we were on a course walk with Amy Tryon, she found Amy’s husband and started chatting it up and swapping advice. As you can imagine, traveling with her is quite the experience. As I was saying, she found herself between two world-class riders and she starts chatting it up about me… She explains my situation and says that I want to become a working student blah blah and DOC and LKieffs come up with Emily Beshear. They say that she really has a great teaching style and will be an awesome mentor, especially for someone who had never been a working student before. And as they say, the rest is history! Emails swirled, plans were made to meet, and interviews were done, and of course we all know how it ends… with me heading to VA in a matter of months!!! Have I mentioned how excited I am?

My advice for anyone who is looking to be a WS is ask around and email to find out about people’s programs and what they offer. Some people offer you great benefits (housing, boarding, lessons, etc.) while others may not (for example, you still must pay board or you receive only three lessons a week, etc.). And one thing I definitely learned is the earlier the better! I’ve had my plans set in stone since December and I can tell you it’s made everything much easier!

I’m off for my first cross-country school for the year and to ride the training test for the first time in front of a judge. EEP. I’ll be back next week with a report on the nitty gritty embarrassing moments.

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