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An experience I will never forget

The BGA spoke to Francesca Gorni, travelling groom to Tom McEwen Eventing, as she tells us about her first Olympic Games.

Eventing groom and BGA member Francesca has worked for Tom for almost three years and is #supergroom to Toledo de Kerser.

Francesca shares her thoughts after the Team GB eventers won Gold, and Tom went on to a nail-biting second jumping round which saw him move from individual fifth to second place - claiming the silver medal. 


Tuesday 3rd August

I can't believe these are our last days in Tokyo; what an incredible experience the last few weeks have been.

I woke up this morning feeling like it was all a dream. I looked at my phone and realised that I wasn’t dreaming and we had actually won two Olympic medals, but it took a couple of minutes to sink in again.


This is my first Olympics and I didn’t really know what to expect.

The facilities are mind-blowing and like nothing I ever imagined. There is air conditioning in the stables which are lovely and have these massive sliding sealed doors to keep everything cool.

The arenas are watered constantly and there is a lovely area for hand grazing with a water jump in the middle so that the horses can have a splash.

Obviously, we kept Toledo wrapped up in cotton wool before he competed, until today when he was allowed to have a play in the water, which he loved.


Once the competition started it felt like everything we had all been working so hard for was finally happening, but getting here had taken a lifetime.

We all tried to stay pretty calm as Toledo always picks up on tension so you have to pretend everything is fine and just get him ready at the last minute.

From the outset, we were going for team gold. We have an amazing team of horses, riders, grooms and support staff and everything was very smooth and went to plan.

The most nerve-wracking bit for me was the showjumping. When your horse and rider go cross country you just want them both home safe, so it’s slightly different nerves.

The emotion around the showjumping came as a surprise. There was so much tension and anticipation, which just increased as the competition went on into the individual round.

I forgot about the TV camera being there when it caught me crying – that was a moment of relief and pride, to be at the Olympics as part of Team GB working with Toledo. It was just overwhelming.

Winning the Medals

The medal ceremony was unreal, and to do it twice was just incredible. Wearing my Team GB kit in the middle of that arena, watching Tom get onto the podium was stuff that you dream of as a child. Listening to the National Anthem was so special – I just wanted to bottle it up and keep it. 

Tom has been as cool and calm as anyone could have hoped for throughout the whole competition. It’s been a long time coming to get the results he deserves and I am really proud of him.

After the ceremony both Tom and the horse got dope tested. After that, I took Toledo back to the stables where everyone was waiting and cheering.

I was even interviewed by BBC 5 Live - listen here 

The dope tests were completely fine and I just wanted to get Toledo to bed – he was absolutely knackered!

When we had found out that we had broken a record as well it was quite a special moment. To be part of Olympic history is incredible and we are all still pinching ourselves. [The Team GB combined finishing score is the lowest ever in the history of the Olympic Games].

I’ve never been to an Olympic Games before but the levels of tension, excitement and team spirit in Tokyo have been amazing.

I don’t know how it could have been any better with spectators. It would have been nice to see other sports, but I am looking forward to watching the showjumping later.


The other grooms here have all been fab. They are such a lovely bunch, and having Alan [Davies] two doors down when I arrived was a safety blanket for me and a bit of home comfort, as I knew him already. 

Sarah Charnley, travelling reserve with Ros Canter, has been the most amazing driving force behind everyone. She has been there for every single cool down, which is a mammoth task.

Alex Van Tuyll from British Equestrian has been fantastic. Everything we need has been here and nine times out of ten she had already done it. The Team GB aspect has left us all quite speechless.

The accommodation is great, the cardboard bed is so comfy – I’ve been sleeping really well and Team GB went wild on the rooms before we got here!

Getting to the Olympics is a real team effort and the guys at home are so integral to winning the medals as well. The team at home had all filmed themselves watching the XC and SJ and sent it to us, it was hysterical to see them cheering and going wild - it meant so much.

Today is an easy day, we went hand grazing and let the horses have a paddle in the water jump and have a good old splash around. They all had a fab time and thoroughly enjoyed some downtime.

The riders left today, the horses leave in two days and we will meet the horses when they arrive back home.

When I get home I can’t wait to use a knife and fork that is not plastic! I am also looking forward to getting Toledo in the field for some downtime, and connecting with my friends and family who have all been so involved and so supportive.

It has been an absolutely epic experience and one I will never forget.


If, like Francesca, you would like to become a BGA member, have a look at our membership options.







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.


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.




Predominantly ride horses for other people including schooling, exercising and competing.   

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


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

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