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A GROOMS LIFE BLOG

The grooms accommodation at WEG

Controversy has struck the equestrian world this week after the accommodation for grooms at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon has been found to be worryingly sub-standard. BGA Executive Director, Lucy Katan, writes her thoughts...

"Last night I was in a dilemma, do we say something or not. Then one email, Facebook message, Whats App message after another …. it became obvious very quickly that as the world’s only membership groom’s association, we were expected to pass comment.

The British Grooms Association is very careful when there are stories circulating on social media. As a professional association it is imperative that we also remain professional, measured and only rely on the real facts. So, I spent a couple of hours ensuring we did not fuel a fire and spoke directly with grooms who were actually on the showground.

This is what I have to say on the matter.

The situation is this: having flown over to Tryon, grooms from across the world do not have the opportunity to stay in horseboxes. Instead, they must rely entirely on the accommodation set out by the Organising Committee.

In this case, the planned accommodation for grooms simply was not there.

Instead, grooms have been offered alternative options:

  • A very limited number of on-site RVs and two-bed cabins/pods. (The organisers original plan. Clearly something calamitous has gone wrong with the lack of supply of these perfectly acceptable forms of accommodation.)
  • Off-site rooms at a hotel 35 minutes away from the grounds.
  • Finally, dormitory tents, that were meant to act as temporary accommodation while more cabins were being constructed.

These dormitory tents were the most controversial, and as the news broke, understandibly, a social media storm erupted.

They offered minimal privacy and were not up to the task: a fact that Mark Bellissimo, the owner of Tryon International Equestrian Centre, has now conceded.

But it is highly concerning that these were considered as an option at all.

The tents have been likened to army accommodation by some, but the crucial point is this: this is not war. This is a world-class event. The accommodation for the grooms, a vital part of each competitive team, must be world-class too.

The BGA was contacted last night by a showjumping groom set to travel to Tryon tomorrow. She expressed fears over the accommodation after seeing pictures on social media. Having had mental health and wellbeing issues in the past, she was worried that she would arrive in Tryon with no or poor accommodation and was worried that it would negatively impact her mental health.

This is a worry that no groom should ever have when venturing to an international championship. It is beyond unthinkable.

Having spent the day filming for the upcoming launch of Grooms Minds, I feel even more passionately that this must never, ever, happen again. 

In general grooms are happy to share accommodation with someone they know, such as in the two-bed cabins. Grooms want to be on the showground and close to their precious horses – it is their job to be so.

However, in this situation, where grooms are travelling to Tryon from across the globe, asking them to share accommodation such as these dormitory tents, even for a couple of nights, is asking them to share their close personal space with complete strangers.

This is a wellbeing concern for these grooms; the average demographic of whom are young women between the ages of 20 and 28.

This is not the first time that grooms have been provided with poor accommodation at WEG. When I attended the Games in 2002 as a groom on the British team, conditions were shockingly bad. I was faced with a mixed-gender portacabin with eight bunks with poor quality bedding. We had nowhere to lock valuable personal belongings, such as passports, away, and no personal space.

We were desperately unhappy, and it threw a shadow over what should have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is disconcerting that conditions seem not to have improved in 16 years.

It is understandable, given the poor weather that contributed to the delay of building works in Tryon, that various buildings were not prioritised. What is troubling, however, is that the accommodation for grooms is one of these that became an appeared afterthought.

It is a great shame that grooms were not considered as equally as important as the equine athletes they care for; horses who wouldn’t make to the Games if it wasn’t for the grooms care and expertise.

It is clear from a public apology made by CEO and co founder of Tryon, Mark Bellissimo, that he has an emphatic commitment to the recognition and welfare of grooms.

A mistake was made, and supreme efforts are being made to rectify it.

We at the BGA hope that important lessons have been learned, and that greater efforts will be made for grooms in the future.

The BGA looks forward to possibly working to develop a set of guidelines for any venue where grooms stay overnight in accommodation, in the hopes of preventing an issue like this ever again."

 

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