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Groom of the Year 2021

And the winner of the Absorbine® Groom of the Year Award 2021 is... BGA member Tilly Hughes! #supergroom Tilly is travelling groom to Team GB Olympic eventing gold medallist Laura Collett. 

The Horse & Hound Groom of the Year Award, sponsored by Absorbine®, celebrates the outstanding grooms without whom the equestrian industry would simply grind to a halt. It honours their dedication, skill, and love of horses.

The team at Absorbine spoke to Tilly after she won the award;

Tilly said “I couldn’t believe it when I got the phone call to say I had been nominated for the award because I haven’t been a groom for that long really. There are so many great grooms out there who have a lot of experience it can sometimes feel a bit daunting. Being nominated gave me such a boost, it lets you know you are looking after the horses well and that you are appreciated.”

Winning the award

“So many other amazing grooms have won the award previously like Alan Davies, Jane Felton and Amy Phillips. I have worked with some of them, or seen them at events, and they are all fantastic. I look up to them so I was thrilled just to be nominated for an award that they have won, and utterly shocked to win myself!

“I wasn’t there on the night because I was on holiday so Jane Felton, who is a good friend, went in my place. I found out that I had won at about 2am when I woke up and looked at my phone. I saw that Jane had sent me a photo of the awards ceremony and my name displayed as the winner.”

Tilly grew up on a farm where she and her sisters had ponies from a young age. Her interest in riding blossomed and she went through Pony Club and onto eventing. After her A-levels she secured a place at university to study forensic science.

However, Tilly decided that she would like to take a gap year and work with horses to “get them out of her system”. Having seen an advert on Facebook with Jonty Evans, she applied for the position. 


“I never thought in a million years I would actually get the job because although I had experience with my own horses I had never worked on a yard before. However, I was offered it and was there for a year. I loved it but it was a mixed year because Jonty had a horrific accident at Tattersalls International Horse Trials and had to close the yard during his recuperation.

I wanted to continue my horsey break and work another year, so I went to Laura Collett’s yard that wasn’t far from Jonty’s and I began working there.”


After the 2019 season Tilly left Laura’s yard to go travelling only to find COVID scuppered those plans. She returned home and felt was still not ready to give up working with horses so she asked Laura if she could return, and Laura welcomed her back in August 2020.

As it turned out this was great timing as Laura was going from strength to strength, competing at Le Lion d’Angers and Pau where she won the CCI5*.

Tilly recalls “The Olympic selection process is really difficult and although Laura and London 52 (Dan) were on such good form you never really know until the last minute if you are going.”

However, eight years after Laura’s near-fatal riding accident, she and London 52 were selected to represent GB at the Summer 2020 Olympics as part of the British eventing team. Tilly admits that being the travelling groom for Tokyo is the highlight of her career so far.


“You don’t get much better than the Olympics and I was incredibly lucky to get to go. I haven’t been a groom for that long, so I was lucky that Laura trusted me to go with her.

Tokyo was my first championship, and the facilities were amazing. Everything you needed was right there so as a groom they made it as easy as they could for you. I was completely star struck by all my equestrian idols just walking around - it was like a dream come true!

I don’t regret for one minute deciding to work with horses and not going to university. Grooming is a challenging but rewarding job and I love it."

Tilly’s advice about becoming a groom:

Just throw yourself into it because you get out what you put in. It isn’t a 9-5 job; it is a lifestyle that you live and breathe. You can’t be half hearted, and you must really love it, but it is so rewarding.

Tilly’s top tips:

Be super organised. I am obsessed with lists and write everything down. At a competition, I write down all the timings, such as when Laura wants to get on when we need to be tacked up by etc. So, if everything has a set amount of time even if you do forget something generally you have left yourself a little bit of extra time. There is not much you can’t solve if you have an extra five minutes.

Know your horses, know your rider and if you do that you can generally tell what they are thinking and what they need before they even tell you.

Tilly’s favourite Absorbine product:

We are always mindful of the horse’s feet on hard ground and use Absorbine® Magic Cushion® because it quickly reduces any heat in the hoof. It is great for a 3 Day Event after the XC or anytime when the horses run on going that is firm.

Thank you Tilly for a super interview.
If you'd like to be a BGA member like Tilly have a look at our membership options today.






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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