Opinion

So You Think You Can Groom?

From being called entitled and lazy to being accused of ruining the horse industry, Millennials tend to get a pretty bad rap. It’s said they want more and more in exchange for less and less. That they wouldn’t know hard work if it reared up and struck them in the face.

As one myself, I hate to say it, but it’s true that the next generation of grooms I’ve seen are often woefully unprepared for the job.

Are Millennials a lost cause? A generation of mouse-clickers who will ruin the industry? Or do they just not realize what’s really expected of someone who brushes horses for a living?

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s the latter. So I’ve taken the liberty of creating a guide for newcomers to the profession, and if it seems a little harsh, it’s only because I’m trying to toughen you up for the cutthroat equestrian world. Ready?

1. You are signing on for a lifestyle.

©flickr/bowdenartist
©flickr/bowdenartist

Forget working hours and non-working hours. If a horse gets sick, you will stay up all night with it. Then you will get up for work in the morning and work all day. If the horse truck gets home from a show at one in the morning, you will get up and unload it. If a horse needs to be lunged at six, you will start work early.

Do you see the pattern here? You are always working. Accept it, make peace with it, learn to enjoy it. Because otherwise you just won’t cut it.

2. Don’t complain

Groom sitting down on the jobOkay, we get it. You’re tired. You’re not used to mucking so many stalls and your arms are sore. Your feet hurt from all the walking. You were unloading trunks for the first time and you think you crippled your back.

We’ve been where you are, and no one wanted to hear us complain either. Being a Negative Nancy all day won’t make you feel any better and it certainly doesn’t improve things for the rest of us.

3. There are no excuses

©Ryan Polli/Horse Network
©Ryan Polli/Horse Network

In the age of participation ribbons, where a person is considered unfair if they don’t slow things down for those who can’t keep up, our youth are full of reasons they should not be held to the same standard as others.

But let’s be clear: whether you have period cramps, you’re constipated, you missed breakfast this morning, you have a hangnail, you get headaches in this kind of weather, or today is the third anniversary of your hamster’s death, we’re expecting you to keep up.

It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we don’t have time to be sympathetic when we’re busy picking up your slack.

4. Stop pretending you know everything

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I’m going to let you in on a secret. All new people need to be trained, because every barn does things differently. Therefore, the single best trait you can have, as a new person, is not a boatload of knowledge and experience but only needing to be told something once.

You don’t need to cut us off in the middle of explaining how we do something because “yeah yeah, I did it at my other job,” or give us monologues to show off how smart you are, or start offering us better ideas on how we can operate in your first week. Just listen. It’s really that simple.

5. No, you don’t get to ride

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Don’t be sad, there are some jobs where you can groom and ride. It’s not impossible. But you need to realize that it’s not a given. You are not entitled to ride.

In this industry, people pay to ride horses. Much more rarely is it the other way around. You have to prove yourself to be dedicated and tireless and enthusiastic and, importantly, willing to ride before or after work. If you expect it to fall in your lap, you may just be one of the people giving this generation a bad reputation.

Millennials! You have the world at your fingertips. You’ll be the ones inheriting the earth. You are the future, and every other cliché in the book. There are some stellar young grooms out there and with the help of this guide I’m sure there will be many more. Happy brushing!


About the Author

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

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