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A GROOMS LIFE BLOG

We have changed the landscape

BGA's Lucy Katan chats about the changing landscape and the impact of grooms in the media...

In 2000 I was selected as the non-travelling reserve groom for Team GB heading to the Sydney Games.

There were moments in our two weeks of quarantine that my heart leapt as I thought we would in fact travel, but alas it was not to be…

That experience lit my Olympic flame and led me to be part of the Team GB support team (non-equestrian) at two future Games and then part of the London 2012 Organising Committee – culminating in the greatest experience of delivering a home Games.

I love the Olympic Games and everything about them, but I’ve never forgotten my experience as a groom, and a ‘nearly’ Olympic one. 

Five Olympiads, or in normal talk, 20 (+1) years ago, the media were quite simply not interested in grooms.

There we were, about to fly to the other side of the world, and not one article was written. No one really cared about us and our work in the background which enabled the horses to perform at their best.

Social media didn’t exist in those days. However, all the same publications that we read today did, and there was simply no interest in the British Team grooms.

Creating the BGA

It was four years after the Sydney Games that I began forming the vision of the world’s first-ever professional association for grooms. The initial concept was based on the R’s – recruitment, retention, reward, respect and, the topic of this blog… recognition.

It was my ambition that the incredible dedication, skill and frankly blinking hard work of grooms was recognised by the wider equestrian industry, the media and therefore the public too.

In my mind, this was how to increase the respect for the profession, which in the long run would lead to the role being given the kudos that it so very much deserved.

I often asked myself, how can a person that is looking after literally millions of pounds worth of horse be treated so improperly, and be completely ignored as part of our national Olympic Team in the public eye?

This of course wasn’t just happening at an elite level – this was commonplace throughout the entire industry.

Creating the BGA gave me the formal voice to see this change.


The British Equestrian Federation has always been supportive of our vision, but at times, it has felt like wading through thick mud!

It has taken 20 (+1) years. But crikey haven’t we simply smashed it during these Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

It hasn’t just ‘happened’. As a team, the BGA has worked tirelessly on behalf of all grooms to achieve a dramatic increase in publicity and recognition.

British Equestrian have won their own gold medal in their constant focus on the grooms.

Our asks have been well and truly delivered upon.

Include the grooms in the team announcements – Simple to achieve and at the FEI Sports Forum I challenged the rest of the world to follow Team GB’s lead.

Great groom photosJon Stroud takes awesome pictures, but someone must decide to use them – and thankfully they now have been countless times.

Name the groom in the photos – not just ‘the groom of X horse/rider’. This has been kept to and it makes such a difference to the individual who is getting the recognition of who they are.

Focus on the grooms – whilst in quarantine and at numerous other times, there have been dedicated interviews and snippets about what the grooms have been doing.

Say thank you – this has been just continuous and glorious. It was also lovely to see vets, physios and other key athlete support staff being thanked for their contribution.


I am even more pleased that this is not just British Equestrian that has delivered this change in reporting culture. Horse and Hound, British Eventing and British Dressage have too.

Francesca Gorni was interviewed on BBC 5 live after Tom McEwen won his individual Silver and Oli Townend twice thanked his team at home on his BBC interview.

However, it is our glittering in gold Patron Charlotte Dujardin, and her mentor, Carl Hester, who have led the way – nearly every social media post included their support team. Charlotte is ground-breaking in the way that she publicly involves and praises her grooms, and always has been.

It is for this very reason that I knew she was the right Patron for the BGA. Both she and Carl adhere to all the R’s – respect, recognition, reward and the retention of staff.

  We ourselves at the BGA have worked very hard to bring you a unique insight into the life of an Olympic groom.

Liz Daniels has spent hours chatting with Alan, Francesca, and many others. Thank you to all the grooms who took time out of their busy day to share their experiences.

Thank you to everyone who has liked, commented on and shared posts. It really does matter. Because we have had exceptional social media reach with these features – this can inspire a young groom into the career that I loved so much – and that of course is back to the R’s … Recruitment.

Social media has been a game-changer for sharing stories and raising recognition. However, it still takes a change of mindset to make it happen.


I believe that Tokyo 2020 will be remembered for more than just sport; these Games will be looked back upon as the ones where there was a change in culture. From Simone Biles raising the awareness of mental health, to the British grooms experiencing a media focus like never before.

Thank you to the team, Winnie and Rachel, at British Equestrian for delivering. I promise to never ask you to focus on the grooms again, because I know the landscape has been changed forever.


You are part of the change...

I formed the BGA as a Social Enterprise. This means that we aim to bring about social change in our community.

I know that there will be grooms reading this who possibly are thinking this is all very well that those that are in the spotlight are having a great time, but here I am being employed illegally, not being paid correctly or being treated kindly or fairly in my role. So how does this all affect/help me?

The industry is changing and there are so many positive employers out there. You don’t need to stay in a job where you are not employed legally, because there are many jobs that offer amazing opportunities and employ you properly – the change also lies in your hands.


Over the past 16 days, we have proven that it can happen and it has.

As your professional association, we need all grooms to believe in that revolution and join us to become catalysts for change in the rest of our industry – yes to make it a good, legal, and happy place to work and have a career.

Our last hope is that being a groom is now seen as a respected career choice and one that can lead to many amazing opportunities.

If our articles, blogs and social posts have inspired you then I hope that you will come and join us and be part of changing history.

BGA MEMBERSHIP OPTIONS




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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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