Usually, we tip people who do stuff for us.

Bartenders and waitresses are high on the list. But unless you’re flat-broke or unforgivably cheap, your hair stylist, pizza guy and manicurist probably receive a little extra monetary love as well. Many people tip their Uber drivers. And hotel staff often get a few extra bucks dropped their way.

But what about your groom?

After a little bit of field (paddock?) research, I discovered that there’s no golden rule for tipping grooms. I did find there are a few myths held by the masses though, and I’m here today to bust them.

Myth #1: Your tipping practises are private

Nope! Grooms constantly gossip about working conditions. Any groom with a few friends on the circuit can find out what it’s like to work for your operation. Have trouble finding experienced staff? Odds are you’ve been branded with the big red A (for a-hole,) the C (for cheapskate,) or the real kiss of death: both.

Everyone knows if you pay poorly. Everyone knows if your clients don’t tip. And everyone knows intimate details of your sex life. The point is: you’re being judged.

Myth #2: Only amateurs tip

If you believe this, then you’ve been perched atop your professional high horse for too long. Professionals tip! As a matter of fact, it is not unheard of for a pro to tip a PERCENTAGE of their prize when they win a large purse (which can be quite a lot of money) and rightly so. If you think the prestige of working for you is so vastly satisfying that a little extra appreciation isn’t necessary, well, hold still while I pin this big red letter to your show jacket.

Myth #3: You should only tip when you win a big class

Let’s face it, some riders don’t win. That’s no reason to punish your poor brusher.

There is no one-size-fits-all rule about when to tip, so I have included a handy list of some occasions when it may be appropriate. Hopefully, this reduces some confusion in the industry.

Potential reasons to tip:

  • You won ribbons this week
  • There have been early mornings lately
  • There have been late days lately
  • Your horse required extra care
  • Your horse was difficult
  • Your horse stepped on, bit or kicked your groom
  • Your horse is annoying
  • You are annoying
  • You required extra care this week
  • You were difficult
  • Your groom showed extra initiative
  • Your groom showed extra patience
  • Your groom had to fight another groom to a bloody, screaming death to get you a jump
  • Your groom was in a bad mood (to cheer them up)
  • Your groom was in a good mood (to reward them)
  • The weather has been cold
  • The weather has been rainy
  • The weather has been too hot

Please, don’t feel confined to this list. I’m sure there are many more reasons to give your groom a little something something than what I have listed here.

Myth #4: Tips have to be cash money

If your team eats three meals a day at your VIP table, gets a solid gold dragon egg every time they do a body clip, and/or you fall to your knees and cry tears of joy every time they walk in the barn, then you can consider them tipped. Tips are about appreciation beyond the lip service of “thank you.”

Among things that count are home baking, pizza, and actual gifts. Heck, I’d be touched if you made me a card out of construction paper and covered it with glitter glue and macaroni. It’s about taking the time to make them feel like you value their hard work.

Myth #5: Grooms don’t care about money

We need to put an end to this harmful “grooms don’t do it for the money” mentality. Just because we love horses more than money does not mean it’s okay for us to be impoverished or that we don’t deserve fair remuneration for our services.

Too many people use this excuse to mistreat their staff, and it’s a surprisingly slippery slope. “They don’t need money because they love the horses.” “They don’t need time off because they love the horses.” “You know what else? They don’t need accommodations. Sling them up a hammock in one of the stalls, because they love the horses.”

Everybody needs money! Passion doesn’t pay our phone bills, and it won’t buy the special orthopedic insoles half of us require because this job destroyed our feet. Stop telling yourself that passion counts as a job perk. Just stop.

It’s not just that grooms work hard, or that they get paid in arena sand and curse words. It’s not even just about incentive—although if you’re very high-maintenance, you should certainly tip as incentive to go above and beyond to help your horse win. It’s just the right thing to do. Show some love. Tip your groom.

About the Author

Morgan Withers is a professional groom on the “A” circuit who has been there and done that and then done that and been there some more for good measure.