Ironically, I found my first real job and met my first real boss while dressed in my riding clothes. With lifeguarding a non-option, I had already interviewed for a retail position, but I was less than excited about being stuck indoors all summer. While visiting a local farmer's market with my Mom, I decided to ask for an application for employment. I stood in front of my future boss, politely inquiring about the papers, dressed in a t-shirt, breeches and half-chaps. I remember that there was a long line at the register and she was quickly looking up at me and back at the customers and register. She must have sized me up pretty quickly. She was looking for someone willing to work on a farm and I just happened to be a self-made farm girl. The market was within walking distance of my house, so this could become an ideal situation. Just like that, she asked if I could start on Tuesday, and so began six glorious years of working outdoors, preparing fruit platters, and melon boats, running endless lines of customers during strawberry and pumpkin season, and working for two of my all time favorite bosses. I learned how to drive a box truck and a tractor. I learned how to order and stock the market, maintain produce quality, and endear customers. I learned the value of the dollar. I wrangled baby chicks and fed bottles to the baby calf in our petting zoo. By the time I "retired", I could pick the ripest melon at ten paces and describe the flavor and use of every apple.
My bosses were generous people who rewarded hard work, so after the first summer of working part-time, I picked up 40 hours a week and worked every holiday and pick-your-own weekend from open to close. On my days off, I cleaned stalls at my barn, which allotted me extra practice time in the saddle. And if the owners ever needed a vacation, I was the go-to girl for horse-sitting. My "May to Halloween" seasonal job afforded me weekly lessons, some horse shows, riding clothes and boots, an old car to travel to and from college (and the barn!), and eventually the lease of a lovely mare. In college, I picked up campus jobs to balance the financial burden of books and food, so that I could still ride on the weekends. All this and I managed to save for family birthday and holiday gifts. I was dependent upon my parents for major expenses (like college!) and they took care of my clothing and food, but I am proud to say that I kissed riding off-seasons good-bye the year that I started working at the farmer's market.
How did I do it? I worked hard on my work days, I worked hard on my days off, and I rode somewhere in between. I did not spend my money on fashion or fads, but I did always keep my goal in mind. I wanted to further my education as a rider and I knew that the only way to do that was to ride.
Although it was years after leaving, I actually purchased Harley with savings from my farmer's market job, as well as his first saddle. Sure I had a "real" job by then, but I always considered my savings from those long, fruit and vegetable-filled summers to be reserved for my life with horses.