Hope for the Horseless: How to bum a ride

Jessie Widner was excited to spend a university semester abroad in England, but the prospect of going months without riding? Not so much. Here’s how she made it work.

From Jessie:

Although it’s been forever, some of you may remember my first article bemoaning the difficulties of being a broke student and still trying to ride. Rather than complaining, I’ve decided this time I should offer some advice to those in the same position as me, those who are horseless and looking for some riding!

1)     Be friendly.

Word of mouth is IMPORTANT in the horse industry. If you have a nasty reputation, or even just one of being slightly difficult, people will probably pass you up as a potential rider for their horse. If you are meeting someone for the first time, a good impression is everything. I’d rather hire someone less experienced who was a total sweetheart and seemed like they would love my horse than a better rider who came off as rude, inflexible, cold, etc. While I am a confident rider, I am no where near being amazing at it, and I would say many of my riding opportunities have come from me being friendly and accommodating.

2)     Search every day and make connections.

Look on local message boards, speak to people in the barn, put yourself out there. If you mention to a friend that you’re looking for a horse to ride, maybe later they’ll hear someone saying they need a rider. Networking is great, and super important.

3)     Be honest.

It is tempting, when talking to a potential owner, to make yourself seem more accomplished than you are. However, once they see you ride there is no way of hiding what your actual abilities are. Be considerate of these owners who are giving their precious time to help you out and be honest about your skills from the beginning.  Say what you can do, say what you’ve done, and then tell them what you have to offer. For instance “I’ve competed up to pre-training level, and I have varied experience riding young horses and exercising school horses. I have very quiet hands, a balanced seat and nerves of steel!” Highlight the qualities that you think make you an excellent choice. Don’t claim to be schooling prelim if you’re not because once you’re on the horse, it will become apparent. Similarly, don’t promise to come up five days a week if you can only make two. Be completely honest about everything so you can find the ideal situation for you and the owner.

4)     Don’t expect too much.

Maybe you’ll get lucky and someone will pay you $50 an hour to ride their Grand Prix Dressage horse. More likely you’ll start out on backyard ponies for free. Every bit of experience is good experience. Start at the bottom, work your way up, be grateful, and have something to be proud of at the end of it all.

There you have it. Hopefully these tips will help you be the best, classiest rider you can be. It’s hard being horseless, but sometimes you end up finding opportunities and learning lessons you wouldn’t have had if you had a horse of your own. Happy Riding!

Four-year-old Dutch WB Joey, one of the horses I was lucky to ride in London!

About Jessie Widner: I’m Jessie, a 20-year-old student from Toronto, Ontario (Canada!). I recently enjoyed a semester abroad in London, England. I’ve ridden since childhood and worked in various stables throughout my teenage years and compete as an eventer. I currently ride with former Team Canada eventer Martha Griggs who is the most experienced and helpful coach I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Though I still ride regularly back home, I’ve had to put horses on the back burner slightly in order to be a “responsible” university student at the University of Toronto, where I study English. I love school, but am looking forward to being done and leaping headfirst into the horse game!


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