Between his towering 6’4″ frame and penchant for bold fashion choices, Danny Ingratta is hard to miss at the show ring.

But it’s his outgoing personality that makes the Canadian groom a popular feature where ever he travels. This week, the Millar Brooke Farm alum is in Rio, making his Olympic debut alongside Amy Millar.

Officially, Ingratta is the caretaker of Millar’s nine-year-old gelding Heros. But, it’s a safe bet, he’ll be injecting his own colorful brand of Danny-isms in the Olympic experience, as well.

Horse Network: You’re very tall. Ian’s very tall. Jon and Amy are very tall. Was that one of the job requirements?

Danny Ingratta: No. But it helps. When Sandi Patterson [Big Ben’s longtime groom] was working with us it was quite interesting. She’s four foot nothing. There’d be the four us quite tall people all speaking eye-to-eye and Sandy in the middle with her stool. Always with her stool.

HN: That’s a great mental image! I think of you as Sandi 2.0. The taller, masculine version. 

It’s a great compliment.

Sandi taught me just about everything I know about grooming. She, Patty Markel and more people than I can count molded me into the Millar Brooke way. There’s your way. There’s my way. Then there’s the Millar Brooke way. We get along great. I still speak with Sandi all the time.

HN: You started off grooming for Amy then became Ian’s groom. Now you’re back with Amy. How does that work?

Ingratta: I started off as [Millar Brooke student] Karen Sparks’s groom in 2011! Then I groomed for Jordan Macpherson and Santiago Núñez Riva. By the fall, I was working for Amy. I worked with her until she decided to retire Costa Rica. She “lent” me to Ian and tried to steal me back a number of times. Now I’m back with her for the Olympics.

HN: I think that might have been the biggest regret of her career so far.

Ingratta: We were at Palgrave in the spring. I had one of [student] Emily Kinch’s horses, one of Ian’s, and one of Amy’s. They were all in the Grand Prix or the Open Welcome. Amy and Ian would come to ride at the same time. Well, who’s horse do I get ready?

HN: How do you decide? By who’s scarier?

Ingratta: [Laughs] It all depends. If Amy’s hangry, you go to her first. If Ian’s in an Ian mood, you go to him. Usually they are both really good.

HN: So Costa Rica was your first international horse?

Ingratta: Yes. She’s a quirky mare. You can’t touch her ears. You can’t fix her bridle at the ring. She’s grey. If she had a poop stain on her ear, good luck with that. God speed.

She was girthy too, so that’s a whole situation. You’d have to put the saddle on so you can see air between the girth because she thinks she’s dying. You’d walk two feet so the saddle doesn’t slip too far. Do it up one hole. Walk two feet again. Go up one more. Stretch her legs then walk and walk and walk. Amy would get on and walk some more, then do it up a few holes. It was a process.

HN: Sounds like she was in good hands. How does Amy’s current Grand Prix horse, Heros, compare?

Ingratta: Costa is quirky. Heros is a punk! He thinks it’s funny to stand up on his hind legs and take a lap around the paddock, then comes to the gate for a treat. We will be hand walking and just for shits and giggles he will bite you or just start pushing against you.

HN: At some point, no matter how well laid the plans, things go wrong. What was the most-terrifying moment of your grooming career to date?

Ingratta: Hmmm. That’s tough. Probably, the winter on 2014 in Wellington, Florida. Ian was doing the pre-circuit Grand Prix on a Sunday with Baranus, one of the horse’s I take care of. I’m videoing him and half way through course his breastplate broke. The running martingale is flopping around. I’m thought, “OMG, I’m going to get fired!” I was beside myself. One of the in-gate guys was laughing because my face was just white.

They ended up jumping clear. I changed the tack in time for the jump off. I think he won that Grand Prix, but that is a moment I never want to relive.

HN: Okay, and best moments?

Ingratta: There are so many! Anytime you win it’s a great moment. Everyone works so hard to get to that point. When it comes together and pays off in the ring, it’s incredibly exciting. Even if it’s not a horse I look after. When Ian won the $1.5 Million CP International on Dixson that was a huge moment! It’s amazing to be part of something like that.

HN: Let’s talk about the Olympics. Obviously, it’s a big deal for a rider to make the Olympic team. But it’s a huge thing to groom at the Olympics too!

Ingratta: When I first started working at Millar Brooke, Sandi asked me what I wanted to achieve. What my goals were. I told her I want to fly on a plane with a horse and I want go to the Olympics. When Amy made the team this year, Sandi texted me right away: “You’re flying on a plane with a horse and you’re going to the Olympics!”

It’s a dream come true.