When we were 11 or 12 years old, we took lessons at a local lesson program. We have always loved horses and we loved taking lessons. Before long, we started helping around the barn as well as taking lessons. We helped get horses ready for other lessons and started learning the ropes and more "behind-the scenes" of how to take care of the animals. Those were some really great years and played a major role in us wanting to train horses and teach lessons.
One thing we take away from that time is...don't just pick up a water bottle and take a swig. It might just be infested with ants. Yes, that did happen to someone when we were working there. Keep your water bottle screwed or clipped closed and water is probably the best drink. It's clear so you can see if you have any unwanted friends inside and it is less likely to attract them in the first place.
Another thing...if you catch colic early enough, you might have a chance to save your horse. Being observant every day you are at the barn will help with this. You spend the most time with your horse, so you are likely the first person who will notice something amiss. If one of your horses is acting weird and you can't find the cause, vets have an emergency number and can possibly ask you a few questions to better help you decide what to do. An emergency call visit charge could save you time, energy, emotions, and money in the long run. One rainy day, I was helping to lead a horse around who was suspected to have a mild case of colic, basically he had a compaction of his food that would not pass through. It was quite slippery that afternoon as I remember and I was helping to keep the horse of his feet. He did collapse at least once, but we were able to get him back on his feet. I am pretty sure that horse did survive.
A funny thing I remember is working with an older horse. He was a joy and taught me a lot. He actually inspired my "Harry" poem (see http://mysteryofm.blogspot.com for the poem). He was a lesson horse in the program so I wasn't the only person who rode him. On several occasions he came up lame when it was someone else's lesson time. For my lesson, or when I turned him out to get a little exercise, he wasn't lame at all. What can I say, I think he loved me. I think it also might have something to do with the fact that he had quite pronounced withers so there was a special pad the lessons girls were supposed to use on him. I always used it, but the other girls didn't. Without it, he was probably getting pain along his spine.
Working at the ranch made us realize that good and bad things can happen to the horses and to the humans who spend time around them. For us, it makes us want to own our own Slice Of Ranch (http://sliceofranch.blogspot.com) that much more.