With different barns come different systems, and that includes methods of incorporating a dedicated working student. There are some fundamental principles that apply at nearly every barn. Then you get down to the nitty-gritty of how each the trainer runs their barn.
Abigail Brayman, a working student for trainer Missy Clark at North Run, appreciates the system applied at one of the most successful performance barns in the United States. “Missy has created a system of communication that is able to keep the barn running smoothly and efficiently,” Abigail tells us. And she is one of the great products that North Run has turned out from its process.
Like many of those riders willing to trade hard work for showing opportunities, Abigail has been able to do more than just ride: She’s becoming an expert in barn management. The guidelines for her day of work at the barn are followed to a T, without a foot out of place or minute unaccounted for.
“A typical day for me would be getting up between four and seven, depending on the barn start time, and picking up a couple of the grooms on the way to the barn,” Explains Abigail. “Once I get to the barn I usually help feed and clean the stalls of the one or two horses I have for the day. Then I help with morning chores like water, hay, and cleaning up the barn.”
After getting the barn chores out of the way, Abigail then goes to ride the multiple horses needing to be exercised, often coming with lessons from the trainers at the barn. These can range from three to seven horses needing to be ridden each day.
Show mornings for North Run are intense, with multiple horses going in the same class at once or having hunters, jumpers, and equitation horses all going at once. Sometimes she will be at the horse show as early as 3:00 a.m. to fulfill her working student duties, but no later than 7:00 a.m.
“The difference between show days and being at home are that when we are at shows we have a much earlier start time and later finish time. When we are at shows the days are a little more hectic and busy.” Abigail — along with a few other working students and staff — are there to help keep everything in line, while showing their own horses, as well. Her tasks can range from tacking up horses and bringing them to the ring to setting jumps for the other riders at the barn.
Not Without Rewards
Day in and day out there is plenty of work, but there’s also a constant stream of exposure, experience and incredible horses to ride.
“Being a working student can be incredibly difficult but also rewarding. I love it because I get to care for the horses I show, and it helps me get to know them better,” Abigail told JN. “I also enjoy it because I get to see and learn not only from my trainers but from the barn managers and grooms, as well.”
Abigail thinks everything she has been through at the barn – good and bad – has molded her into who she is. The hard lessons combined with the rewarding moments have brought her to a higher vision for her life and her future.
Working students rely on their passion to push them forward, and Abigail is no exception. “I am motivated to keep working because of the incredible horses I’m lucky enough to ride. They do so much for me and the least I can do it make sure they are happy and well cared for.”
The opportunity to ride the world-class horses at North Run has put Abigail in a prime position to succeed this season, and she didn’t let the opportunity pass her by. In June she won the US Show Jumping Talent Search class at Upperville on Cassino, a 12-year-old warmblood, and in May she won the Tryon Spring I WIHS Equitation Phase and took fifth overall aboard E-Jazz. She’s continued to show in the Talent Search and WIHS classes this summer and virtually never falls outside the top 10.
The training North Run has pumped into Abigail has allowed for her to succeed throughout her junior career, and she’ll apply those skills to the next stage of her life as she heads to Oklahoma State University this fall to attend school and ride as a member of their equitation team.
As her last junior year concludes, Abigail tells JN that the overwhelming emotion at the end of it is gratitude. “I couldn’t thank my parents, horses, and trainers enough.”
While North Run has stepped up to make opportunities for the talented young rider, it’s her own insatiable appetite for great horses and meaningful success that has lifted her to the top of the sport.
Special thanks to Kerry White Photography for sharing their photos. Lorraine Jackson contributed to this story.
*Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Abigail prepares client horses at shows, which is inaccurate. This is a process handled exclusively by the professionals at North Run. The article has now been updated.