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A GROOMS LIFE BLOG

'Recruit and Retain' this was the aim of 2019. I award us a B+.

BGA Executive Director, Lucy Katan, takes a look at the year that was...

‘Recruit and Retain’ – this was the aim of 2019. I award us a B+, (done ok, but still room for improvement!). I always take time to reflect at the end of each year; what have we done well, and what could we have done better….

I honestly believe that 2019 was the best year yet since I formed the world’s first professional association for grooms, in 2007.

Membership growth has been steady, and we have retained more members than ever before; this has combined lead to our greatest membership number, and us smashing our set targets every month since June. 

The beginning of the year was hectic as I embarked on a tour of equine colleges and universities. I ardently believe that this is a really important duty of the organisation.

Every college student should know about the existence of the BGA, and what Good Employment actually looks like. This is the way to educate a generation and see change.

2019 was a European Championships year.

When I met with the BEF in the spring, I was very clear – we hoped that when the teams were announced, the grooms would be listed alongside the rider, horse and owner.

For me, this is the greatest achievement of 2019. It happened.

We (Liz) worked so hard with the BEF to source the groom’s details and to get a quote too. When the teams were released, we couldn’t have been prouder to have seen those names on the social media image, press release and Team GBR website. Hurrah!

I was a British Team groom from 1999-2002, this level of inclusion was unthinkable back in those days.

There is a balance to the highs and of course, as with any industry there are times when we all need support. We have helped so many during this year by raising the awareness of mental health in the workplace.

Grooms Minds continues to provide a safe, and confidential zone to get support, advice and the free helpline, supported by our friends at Racing Welfare, has been invaluable to some.

The four British Grooms magazines that have landed on our members doormats, once again, have enabled us to build our community and share the grooms’ life stories, as does our Grooms Life blog.

Sometimes we are criticised that there are too many sponsors pages; but without our precious and loyal sponsors the BGA couldn’t exist, so we do need to give them pages for their financial investment.

At the request of our freelance members, we launched a scheme that enabled a recognition of those that owned and operated as trade professionals. The Certified BGA Freelance Grooms project has been a hugely positive development.

I have travelled multiple times to the head offices of the BEF to represent the backbone of our industry at both Council and 1-1 meetings. It is an ongoing discussion, but I am pleased that at last workforce is embedded in the new Strategy that launches this coming year.

Delivery will be key; I am fearful of ‘hot air’ and empty promises, so will endeavour to continue to work in the positive manner that we have to date. THIS is where real cultural change will stem from, and it has already.

For example, World Class Performance Riders now have it within their Agreements to be on the programme, that they must adhere to all employment law… If proven to be non compliant, termination of the Contract is possible.

So, we now enter an Olympic year. 2020 – for us at the BGA, I hope for this to be a golden one.

The first quarter will be spent completing some crucial website developments to improve the membership sign up journey, and a home page refresh. It is ok as it is right now, but it is not spot on. As any good groom will concur... spot on is the only option.

In January, our sister organisation, the Equestrian Employers Association (EEA), will launch its new Health & Safety Tool Kit, which includes a Risk Assessment Creator and a tool to easily write a bespoke Health and Safety Manual.

Then in February it will hold the first ever conference for equestrian employers. If you are a yard manager with employment responsibility, or you think your employer might like to attend have a look here

Our industry is changing; I feel it, I am living it through the sharp increase in phone calls from employers, grooms, and parents.

Employers are waking up to the simple fact that employment laws exist, and it is not a choice to adhere to them.

The EEA is a crucial organisation at this juncture, as we need to support employers to understand and embrace the legal requirements. It is not easy to run a business; and to balance the books in an equestrian one is extra challenging.

I think as grooms we sometimes don’t appreciate the complexities and stresses that an employer encounters.

We all have to work smarter and more economically.

Changes to the equestrian workplace are imminent – especially as the National Living Wage and Minimum Wage increases, the former to £10 per hour within the next couple of years. Some yards are not viable as they are, and the 'opt in non-compliance of the NMW' is the current strategy for survival. This is not viable or sustainable.

It is concerning that the workforce (grooms) will probably become a casualty of the non-viable equestrian business. I feel this is a major topic that has barely begun…

It is a fact that the HMRC are targeting the equestrian industry. I have never heard of more investigations as there are happening right now. It is not a choice to pay the NMW, it is the law. Through the work of the BGA, it is important for us to educate our members about how it translates to their (your) salaries.

Conversely, the EEA continuously supports employers on how to run their yards to keep on the right side of the legislation to protect their businesses. If there are no equestrian businesses, there are no working with horses jobs….

 
**Please note** - It is not the BGA or EEA’s law, and we have absolutely no involvement whatsoever in a case.

However, just one golden nugget of advice to all:

Grooms – note down your hours that you work.

Employers – note the hours your staff work.

You do not need to do this on a daily basis, just when extra hours are worked; and the easiest way is to create an email address (eg. johnnybriggshours@gmail.com) and email yourself from your phone.

Thus, you have a record.


One thing that has been noticeable this year is the increase in employers who are embracing Good Employment. I have certainly seen a significant increase; and this is a really important development.

My hopes for 2020 are that we see even greater growth in these positive long strides towards an industry where good is the norm. It is absolutely achievable.

However, a cautionary note. Grooms, if you wish to be treated fairly, legally and as a professional, it must work both ways.

We have also received a notable increase in reports of grooms not behaving in a professional way…

Of course, there is always two sides to a story. Yet, a 2020 plea, grooms, please turn up for interviews, please answer your phone and please be punctual, polite and respectful.

We know it is a blooming challenging job, lifestyle and living. We understand that at times you are not respected as you utterly should be – but always remember, professionalism and manners will rule in the long term.

2020 will be a tipping point year for the BGA. It will become (even more) ‘cool’ to belong to the professional association for grooms.

Our blinking brilliant members will continue to persuade their colleagues and friends to join up and belong – it is better to be together, than on ones own.


The BGA is your organisation, the members own it, and me, Liz and Fi (the BGA team) are dedicated to our original aim of a 10,000 membership organisation, that supports, represents and champions the career of all grooms in all sectors of our equestrian industry.

We are on our way to this realistic ambition... if you are not a member yet, please don't sit and watch, please join and be part of it. 


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What the personal accident policy covers you for:

  • Whilst at work
  • All stable duties – mucking out, grooming, washing off, turning out
  • Clipping
  • Riding – including hacking and jumping
  • Hunting
  • Lunging
  • Breaking in
  • Holding horse for a vet and other procedures
  • Travelling horses both in the UK and abroad
  • Competing in line with your job including: jumping, dressage, eventing
  • Injuries that may happen to you whilst you are teaching - but you must also be grooming as part of your duties and not be a sole instructor

What the personal accident policy doesn’t cover you for:

  • Riding in a race, point to point or team chase
  • Stunt Riding
  • Accidents occurring whilst travelling to and from work
  • Riding and competing your own horse (but you can upgrade when applying for membership to include this)
  • Public Liability – this is a separate insurance policy - the Freelance Groom Liability Insurance
  • Care Custody and Control – this is a separate policy - the Freelance Groom Liability Insurance

If you require additional cover then please contact KBIS directly.

   GROOM  RIDER  EMPLOYER

When you are working for other people you do most of the following; muck out, turn out/catch in, tack up, groom horses, exercise Horses (including hacking, jumping and schooling), in the care of your employer/client.

 
YES

 
NO

 
NO

Predominantly ride horses for other people including schooling, exercising and competing.   
NO
 
YES

YES
 Provide grooming services for someone else either full time or on a freelance basis i.e. an employer or a client.   
YES

NO

NO
Employ staff – have an employers liability policy in your name NO NO YES
Buy and sell horses NO YES YES
 
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