California Riding Magazine • July, 2014

Jen Dallis Lopez in the
Question Corral

Photo: Erpelding Photography

Reader: I don't have a lot of money to ride and show, but I am determined to pursue this sport. How can I make progress and move up the levels without spending a lot of money?

Jen: There are still so many generous people out in the equestrian community who are willing to help a determined and dedicated rider afford the ability to train and compete.

First, the working student program is definitely not dead. In our barn we are always looking for someone who is eager to work around the stable in exchange for lessons and exercising horses. If you're willing to clean bridles, help students tack up before lessons, make supplement buckets or turn horses out, we always return the exchange with a couple of private or group lessons per week. And if you don't have a lot of experience, then we teach you along the way!

Another great way to get more hours in the saddle is catch riding. People with sales horses, especially green ones, are always looking for a confident rider to help get their horse seen and add miles to their growing show record. If you're under 17 and small enough, catch riding ponies is a great way to get show mounts.

The hardest option, and definitely the least fun, is developing a super budget. If you can target one or two shows to do for the entire year, it never hurts to ask your trainer where you can spend a little less at the shows. For example, you can do your own grooming or enter in fewer classes.

Good luck!

Jen Dallis Lopez and her husband Mike Lopez operate Punk Pony Riding School and Fox Canyon Farms hunter/jumper training barn at Malibu Valley Farms in Calabasas. She can be reached at 818-317-4786 or visit

If you have a training question you would like answered by a California professional, or are a pro willing to answer one, please e-mail