For a long time, I thought people were just casually negligent about their grooms’ safety.
Eventually, it became obvious that a lot of people are actively trying to kill their staff. They are clearly trying to do away with them without getting their hands dirty—and make it look like an accident.
Hey! I’m not here to judge. I don’t know what they did to you; slept with your wife, kicked your horse in the leg, looked at you the wrong way. Whatever.
All I know is that you’re not trying hard enough.
Grooms are tough. Casually undervaluing their lives is not enough to get rid of them. You’ve got to go all out.
With that in mind, I have compiled a list of all the ways that barns try to kill their brushers. My advice to you is to do as many as possible in combination if you really want them gone.
All I ask in return for this information is amnesty, that my own life might be spared. (Did you think I was doing this just for you?)
1. Tire them out
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of this method. A tired groom means a clumsy groom who is slower to react and more likely to make stupid mistakes. Crack that whip! Make them work for six weeks straight. No days off. Keep them running. Don’t give them a moment’s rest. If they are ragged with exhaustion, the battle is half won already.
2. Make them drive
To date, this is the most effective way to kill off your staff. Once you’ve got them good and tired, put them on the highway. (You may be endangering the other drivers on the road, as well. But that’s too bad, right?)
If you travel long distances, make them drive across the country straight through without stopping overnight, so that the only sleep they get is a few winks snatched uncomfortably in the passenger seat. If you stay close to home, make sure to demand that they pack up your entire setup at night after the Grand Prix, load everything, and then drive. Even if it’s only a few hours, it only takes one drowsy moment to result in a fiery crash. Don’t make them pull the horse trailer home, though, because then you’d be putting your horses at risk and everyone knows that horses are more valuable than grooms.
3. Don’t exercise your horses
A wild horse is the next best thing to a dangerous horse, and your groom is the one who has to handle your full-of-beans animal all day. A quick 20 minute flat, maybe a light lunge if you don’t feel like changing into your breeches, and after a few days you’ve got a fresh horse that’s raring to kick his handler’s face. If you’re like most riders, you have more important things to do than school your horse properly anyway. Bonus to this method is that afterwards you can shake your head and lament the fact that grooms just don’t know how to handle a little extra energy these days.
4. Don’t discipline them either
Your gelding bites? Give him lots of treats by hand. Your stallion likes to stand up and strike out? He’s just spirited. Encourage all their bad behaviours and reprimand your groom of being “too mean” when they try to introduce some basic discipline for the potentially dangerous behaviour. Then stand back and wait.
5. Put them in danger as often as possible
If you get creative, you’ll be amazed at how many times you can put your groom in danger in a day. Is it a thousand degrees? Ask them to restack all the hay. Are they rushing to grab a racing, bucking horse from them paddock? Rev up the tractor. Are they leading your stallion that rears and strikes? Start walking your mare beside it and strike up a conversation. There’s no limit if you use your imagination!
6. Give them a staff lemon
Many grooms rely on their employers to provide transportation. Be sure the vehicle is a proper deathtrap, and take care to never maintain the brakes.
7. Make them live in squalor
If you provide housing, make it sub-par. Exposed wires are a recipe for electric shock and/or fire (just not if it’s too close to the barn!) Plumbing that backs up periodically will send them outside at night to pee where they can be struck by lightning or attacked by coyotes. Power that shuts down can ruin the food in their fridge and poison them. We’re trying to cover all the bases here people!
8. Give them shoddy equipment
A tractor on the brink of explosion, electric fencing with a mind of its own, automatic doors that close unexpectedly; death is only a malfunction away.
9. Don’t pay them properly
Most people already have this covered, but remember: if they are so poor that they’re malnourished, it will make them sluggish and cloudy-headed, which makes them that much more likely to have a fatal accident.
Like I said, grooms are tough. Some barns have been putting every one of these methods to use for years without managing to kill a single person. But no one can rely on luck forever! If you think about it, it’s amazing we don’t lose more grooms every year. Now go, and don’t forget you promised not to use these on me!
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.