The Ultimate Equestrian Apprentice Startup Kit
by Olivia Alstad
My name is Olivia Alstad. I’m a Canadian rider who moved to the UK to train and learn more about the sport of eventing with no real plan or knowledge of the UK apprenticeship scheme. Where I could’ve worked with a reputable recruitment agency like The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment to find a suitable apprentice position, I decided to “wing it” and instead, made all the rookie errors!
I originally published this article as the “Ultimate Working Pupil Startup Kit” on my blog Livin’ Eventing, as that is the terminology I grew up around. Here is the article, ‘updated’, to help you in your pursuit of a suitable apprenticeship, avoiding all the major mistakes that I made, I hope it helps! – Liv (Livin’ Eventing)
What is the Ultimate Equestrian Apprentice Startup Kit?
Here is all the information that I wish I had at 18, when I decided I wanted to try the whole ‘working pupil experience’ as I had no clue about the apprenticeship scheme. If I help even one person who is interested in pursuing this path, truly understand and make a plan towards finding their dream apprenticeship, then this article will have succeeded!
Let’s start from the base and build upwards, beginning with a seemingly simple but incredibly important question…
What is a Working Pupil vs an Apprentice?
A Working Pupil:
“In the equine industry the term ‘working pupil’ was typically associated with someone who works at a yard, lives on the premises and keeps their horse there and, in return for this, they get training. There is no legal definition of a “working pupil” and this term is not a legal employment status. If you are a working pupil you are more than likely an employee.”
“An excellent way to start out in the equestrian industry is to do a government funded Apprenticeship. It gives you the opportunity to earn whilst you learn. Whilst undertaking your equestrian Apprenticeship you will be employed and there are strict guidelines attached to these government schemes. “
Right off the bat, you can see that a working pupil is a descriptive title nothing more or less in reality. There’s nothing wrong with that as such. I’m not going to get into the semantics of a title, I just wanted to point out whatever the title you have the same employment rights in the eyes of employment law as anyone else including an Apprentice so if you want to learn whilst gaining a qualification, why not look at an apprenticeship position instead?
For your research: You can read an interesting article from the Horse and Hound Magazine which is a good place to start investigating the term “working pupil” – Survey aims to uncover the truth about working pupil positions.
What do apprentice grooms do?
As an apprentice groom you will be employed on a yard to work as a groom with your mentor/rider and you will receive training “on the job”. Your mentor may be your employer, or they may be a work colleague in a more senior position. The exact detail of an individual job role needs to be discussed and made CLEAR in writing before you proceed with accepting any apprentice position.
Is an Apprentice position right for You?
As with anything with horses, it may be a little bit of this…
…but it will certainly be a lot of this!
I’ve been told the best way to look at your apprenticeship is that they are your ‘college years’ and to see it for what it is: an education. You will live and breathe horses, you will have long days and it will be tiring, but if you find the right position I promise it will be worth it!
As with any college or educational course you need to decide what “pathway” you wish to take. You may be keen on Eventing (like me! 🙂), Carriage Driving, Racing, or the horse breeding industry etc. Have a look at job vacancies advertised on The Grooms List in the discipline that interests you and see what the requirements of the jobs are. These are the type of job roles you’ll ultimately be aspiring to, and seeing the details will help you to choose an appropriate career ‘pathway’. You can read more about the ‘pathways’ and course options available via an apprenticeship here.
A day in the life of an Apprentice Groom
This is an example of an average day at home on the yard, and not when you are:
- preparing for an event
- going to an event
- going training
These mornings can start anytime in the morning, end anytime in the evening and they really shake the day around!
The following is an example of an average day at home on an eventing yard, there can be many changes/differences between yards…
Time to start planning!
If you are still reading, and are not scared off by the daunting list of chores then you are ready to do some serious thinking about your next step!
Create a Jobseekers Profile on The Grooms List
First of all, create your free Jobseekers Profile on The Grooms List website. The easy-to-us form will take you through all the information required to help you secure a good job. You can read more about creating a Jobseekers Profile here.
Prepare your CV
Another, less obvious thing to do is create a CV to upload to your Jobseekers Profile. If you’re looking for your first ever job this might seem unnecessary or impossible but, believe me, it isn’t! If you don’t already have a CV you can read more about how to create one, along with a free CV template you can download and use, by clicking here.
Make a “wants and needs” list
I’ve found the best place to start is by gathering your thoughts onto a list. You want to take the time to figure out what you truly need in a position! I can’t stress enough how important this part of the process is! When writing your list you will decide what you absolutely cannot go without, and what you are willing to negotiate on.
The following is are examples of “wants and needs” lists…
Prepare some questions to ask prospective employers
Once you have that organised, write down a list of questions you want to ask about the position. Here is an example with some questions you might want to consider!
Where do I find an equine apprenticeship?
Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start the search! There are many ways to find an apprenticeship, from word of mouth to online listings. The good news for you: people are always taking on apprentices!
Before you jump in and start making calls, do some research! First, find out if the position fits in with what you need (from your list) BEFORE giving the number on the ad a ring or a message. For example: An ad will generally state whether or not it is possible to bring a horse with you. If you have a horse to bring with you and the yard cannot accommodate one, it would make little sense to call-up and ask about the position!
To start your search, you might want to ask around and make your equestrian community (pony club, local riding school, connections from your trainer) aware that you’re on the hunt for an apprenticeship. Online listings are a fast and easy way to find what you’re looking for, but you need to be certain that the position is a genuine apprenticeship opportunity, and not simply a trainee role. This is where The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment can help. Caroline and The Grooms List team are passionate about improving quality in the equine industry, and take fair an legal employment practises very seriously! Have a look through the jobs available on The Grooms List, and see if any yards look ideal for your needs. If the employer isn’t currently advertising for apprentices, it’s always worth it to shoot them a message inquiring about the possibility now or in the future. You can also contact The Grooms List team for a chat about your option – they often know of suitable opportunities that might not be advertised yet!
Phoning and speaking to employers
Now that you’ve found a potential position: It’s time to phone or message to inquire about it. If you are calling, have your list of questions ready and be prepared to answer all the questions they might have for you.
Questions employers might ask you
- “Do you have a horse?”
- “Have you worked with horses/in the discipline before?”
- “How soon could you come for an interview?”
- “How will you get here? (for an interview/to the job each day)”
- “When would you be looking to start?”
It’s easiest for everybody if you avoid wasting time in this process. If you don’t waste time getting to the point in a conversation, or email by saying something like: “Hi, my name is Ali, I’m interested in your apprenticeship position available. I have a horse currently competing at BE100, I would need accommodation, I have my own vehicle and would like the opportunity to compete this coming season.” It saves an awful lot of time, as nice as a leisurely chatting about the recent stretch of sunny weather is!!
Asking employers questions
Remember to ask everything from your pre-prepared list of questions, and keep a notepad out to write down the answers. You may find that during the course of the telephone conversation you will have other questions to ask that you hadn’t thought of before. If anywhere along the line of communication you can tell something isn’t realistically going to work, tell them right away (respectively). If it seems to be a good match, set up a time to meet for an interview.
Going for a job interview
Whilst an apprenticeship is an education you will also legally be an employee, so this involves going for job interviews! An interview is an opportunity to:
- Meet the employer and, if applicable, existing grooms and see how you get on together
- See the yard and the facilities you’ll be working in/with
- See and meet some of the horses
- Make a good impression on the employer and everyone else you meet
- Ask questions and discuss concerns
- Attend a few hours trial to demonstrate your abilities and skills, and ‘trial-run’ working with the team
When you go for your interview – bring a notepad! Any remaining questions, and any you come up with as you tour the yard, should be written down. It might seem nerdy to bring a notepad with you… but keep in mind; with all the information you have documented, you will be better able to make an informed and educated decision that seriously effects your future! #winning
Caroline has given some great advice on going for interviews – well worth reading before you attend one. Check them out here.
After your visit to the yard if you believe you’ve found the right position and the employer is happy to have you as their apprentice groom – awesome! You can finalise your work contract, agree a start date, and look forward to starting your career in the equine industry! 🙂
If you would like impartial advice with professional equine recruitment specialists please do call The Grooms List team for a chat about your options. You can contact the team any time here.
you can also find lots of invaluable information on becoming an equine apprentice in our Apprentice Zone here.
If you would like to follow Olivia’s Eventing career you can visit and subscribe to her ‘Livin’ Eventing’ blog here.