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10 Ways A Show Can Make Grooms’ Lives Easier

Grooms: it is easy to forget us as we work away behind the scenes, but I promise you, the overall success of a serious showing operation is carried upon the backs of its grooms. Happy grooms make happy (sound, well taken care of) horses, which make a happy barn. Shows like the Ottawa International Horse Show have been taking part in a slowly growing trend where grooms are shown appreciation for the work they do, like by offering free breakfast.

Here are 10 ways a horse show can improve the lives of grooms.

1. Feed us

We are always hungry. Seriously. We live on a diet of crackers, McDonald’s, and determination. We walk a lot. We sweat out any calories we don’t walk off. The quickest way to a groom’s heart is, without a doubt, food. When the pizza lunch was announced at Ottawa, grooms were scurrying around as excited as kids who got their Xmas presents early. Word got around almost as fast as the pizza disappeared.

2. Water us

Sometimes you don’t think about making sure you have water until you run out. Then it’s all you can think about. A parched groom on their way to the ring feels like they are crawling through the Sahara at high noon in search of an oasis. (My kingdom! My kingdom for a tiny sip!) Like all horse people, we tend to be so occupied with making sure our horses are taken care of that we forget our own needs and water is pretty, you know, important. Providing water at the ring is thoughtful and makes a big difference to thirsty grooms and riders alike. You can even find a water company to sponsor the show and it’s a win for everyone.

3. Give us shelter

Yes, we are very simple. Our three top needs are the same as those of the animals we care for: food, water, and shelter. Waiting at the ring for your horse to go, or hanging around between the first round and the jumpoff, can be sweaty business if it’s sunny. It’s also not fun if it’s raining (because we probably put a rain sheet on our horse but forgot a jacket for ourselves.) A tent to shelter us from the elements while we are there is a welcome respite.

4. Offer a Groom’s Prize

It is an increasingly common practise to offer a small cash prize to the groom of the horse that wins the week’s Grand Prix. This is a big deal, not just because we like extra money, but because we’re being valued by an industry in which we’re pretty much invisible, despite how much we contribute to the show circuit even being able to run. You know, it’s like a small step forward for one groom but a giant leap for groomkind. Every show should do this!

5. Keep your stalls well-maintained

Do you know what gives us gray hairs? Nails. Protruding screws. Sharp splinters of wood. Gaps in the panels that a foot could fit through. Gaps under doors. We wake up in a cold sweat wondering if our horse has gouged out its eye on that jagged corner. Please keep your stalls maintained for safety, and we will sleep more easily at night.

6. Keep the rings moving

As a professional whose job it partly is to make sure horses are at the ring when they are supposed to compete, I actually cannot wrap my mind around people who just don’t bother showing up when they are scheduled to go. This is so rude and disrespectful to everyone. If you’re in the top five or so of the order, you should be ready when the class is scheduled to START. If you’re not even on your horse, you are part of the problem. Announcers, we know this enrages you just as much as anyone, but you’ve got to do something about this. Yell at people. Tell them they’re disqualified if they miss their spot without requesting to move down. Anything. Taking an hour to do 15 horses is disgraceful.

7. Make clear and frequent barn calls

At the risk of sounding dramatic, we are crippled if we can’t be kept up to date on what’s going on at the ring. There’s only one show where we don’t need barn calls, and that is the show where everything is guaranteed to run on time. We don’t have time to keep running up to the ring to find out how many have gone. Sometimes it is critically important for us to leave after exactly this many horses have gone, or to know if there is a water and drag, or to know when the riders start walking the course. We need functioning speakers and regular updates. It takes a ton of the stress out of our day.

8. Or at least be on ShowGroundsLive

At some shows, for instance, one the size and scope of WEF, barn calls are not always a possibility. If that’s the case you should be on, and keep it up to date. This is the lesser option though because unless you’re offering wifi, it means we have to use our phone data, and basically pay money to do our job. Either way, keeping us informed makes life so much easier for us!

9. Post orders early

We don’t want to wait until 11 at night to know when our horses will go. We want to be sleeping. If we have to wait until 11pm just to find out our horse goes first at 8am and we need to start work at 6am, we are very unhappy.

10. Tell your tractor guy to slow the heck down

It warms our hearts when an operator of machinery sees a horse throw up its head and start prancing and they stop, shut off their tractor, and wait for the nervous horse to pass by. It does not warm our hearts when the tractor or the water truck go ripping by us, leaving us clinging to a panicked horse in their wake. Educate your crew on the basics of horse safety. Tell them that being in a hurry is not an excuse. Thoughtful, considerate grounds workers are a big plus at any show.

These may seem like small things, but they can be hugely important to brushers. If you want to show some appreciation for the people who take care of the horses, keep these things in mind!

About the Author

When she’s not sharing hard-won #groomtruths, Brooke Nicholls works as a professional groom in Canada.

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