So you think you want to be a professional groom?

Pony Club member Alex Ambelang is back with more life lessons our members learn in Pony Club which help them in the real world. Alex is the head groom for Colleen Rutledge Eventing in Maryland. Follow along as she tells us how Pony Club has prepared her for this position as well as what she has learned since starting out. Alex will be a regular guest blogger, so if you have questions feel free to send them to us for her at

For those of you who have not yet been scared away from being a groom or working student because of this blog, I have more thoughts on ways to prepare yourself and what to do before taking the job.
covert rights

I think one of the most important things to do when wanting to pursue something such as this is to meet your potential employer. I met Colleen by chance, really. Last summer (2014), I was brought in as a USPC Visiting Instructor for a camp in Virginia. Upon my arrival, I learned Colleen had been asked to teach cross country lessons on Tuesday morning of the camp. I had loosely followed Colleen’s career up to that point and was excited to watch her teach and learn more about her. That Tuesday morning, I spent four hours with Colleen listening to her teach and watching the transformations of the Pony Club members she taught. Up to that point, I had only a vague sense that I might want to do something like this after university and that if I did pursue it, I only wanted to work for someone who I respected as an instructor, rider, and horse person. In those four short hours I knew a position with Colleen was something I wanted to pursue. I spoke with her briefly afterward but dropped it for several months until the post-graduation panic began to set in around September. We emailed back and forth occasionally for a month or so, originally me interested in a working student position, but a hard look at my financial situation prompted me to look for more financially friendly solutions elsewhere. Shortly after I let Colleen know of the situation, I was reading an email from her offering me the position I’m in now. The rest, they say, is history. Back to the original point, yes, I only actually knew Colleen for four hours before I decided to stay in contact with her. I appreciated her teaching and riding style as well as her personality and sense of humor and thought that we could get along. So, my advice would be to make every effort to try and meet the person you want to work for and spend a few hours with them; learning their personality and seeing if they are someone you can envision yourself working along side day in and day out.
Water bucket 4
Equally important is to get your priorities of the job straightened out and clear before you start working. What is your goal? Is it to ride often and ride different horses? Is it to further your education as a horse person? Is it to learn the ropes of the industry? Your goals and priorities will dictate what you look for in a job and who you apply to as well. Things to consider include the ability to bring your own horse, the need for your own transportation, the need for a stipend, and any other requirements the employer might have of you and how and if those requirements fit your needs and goals. Do you want to focus on the sales aspect of the industry? Training? Competing? How much do you want to ride? These are all important questions to ask yourself before applying, as they are the same questions your potential employer will ask of you. Something that goes hand in hand with your goals is the type of person you want to work for. As I said above, I wanted to work for someone I respected as a rider, instructor, and horseman. I found that in Colleen. The right situation/person for you may not be in the center of the activity at the moment, they may be on the outskirts of it all with exciting young horses and clients just waiting to break out into the big time. I lucked out and found a brilliant combination of it all, a situation that makes me pinch myself on a pretty regular basis wondering how I got so lucky. I think the lesson here is to know what you want out of a position and what kind of person you would like to work for. Keep an open mind and explore your options as you pursue a job. You never know who you will meet or where you might end up.

Alex Ambelang is an H-A Traditional member of Five Valleys Pony Club in the Big Sky Region. She joined Pony Club at the age of 8 and has been an active member ever since. She has competed in Eventing through Preliminary and in jumpers and dressage. Alex has been a working student for two National Examiners and was a member of the USPC National Youth Congress in 2010. She served as a member of the USPC National Youth Board from 2012 to 2014 and is part of the USPC Visiting Instructor Program as well as the Regional Instructor Coordinator for the Big Sky Region. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Cultural and Medical Anthropology in December of 2014 and is currently working as head girl for Colleen Rutledge Eventing in Maryland.