BGA Member Kate Harley is a yard manager and travelling groom for an International dressage rider.
Kate blogs about her life as a professional groom to give aspiring young grooms an insight into being a groom and working in the equestrian industry.
WHY I LOVE BEING AN INTERNATIONAL GROOM - JULY 2017
For me being an international groom is the best job, I get to travel all over England and Europe and get to see some beautiful destinations and countries, plus the weather tends to be better abroad and there are some lovely restaurants!
Going to internationals is always so much fun, as there are fewer riders from each country there is a real sense of team spirit. Everyone helps each other out and we all go and watch and support other riders where possible, it’s like being in one big, if slightly odd, family.
Each show is different and they are all special in different ways, Biarritz has the most amazing fish restaurant on the beach, and Deauville is about a three minute walk to a lovely little village with a bakery and restaurant that does the best salads, I actually wanted to eat salad! It’s always nice when a venue is near the beach too. You can tell I love food, I remember places by where we eat.
Although internationals are always so much fun they are also hard work, it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds! Some of the destinations can take a couple of days to drive to, so it’s very early mornings and very late finishes sometimes.
It can be quite nerve wracking travelling the horse’s long distances and on ferries, so it’s important to make sure everything is very well organised and you know exactly where everything is.
The logistics of going to some of these shows takes weeks of organisation, and then the packing of the lorry itself can take days and can be a real jigsaw puzzle trying to fit everything in.
As I sit here writing this we have already started planning for our next international in a couple of weeks’ time, plus it will give me a chance to even up my four different tan lines from the rather sporadic weather here in England!
MY TOP TIPS FOR NEW GROOMS - JUNE 2017
Below are some tips I wanted to share for anyone new to the industry or thinking of becoming a part of it, and who knows maybe some of you who are already grooms or don’t even work with horses will take something from it. These are just some of the things that I have learned along the way and think are quite important aspects in the role as a groom.
Punctuality – Always be on time or better be early. If you start work at 7am be ready to actually start working at 7am. Obviously sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control which make us run late, just don’t make a habit of it.
Be indispensable – Be that person that your boss can’t live without. Go above and beyond. There are so many people in the industry who are very replaceable, don’t be just another groom, aim to be the best!
Listen – Become a sponge and absorb any information you hear. Even if it’s not particularly relevant to you at the time, you never know when it will be.
Ask – Ask questions, it doesn’t matter if you think it’s a silly question or irrelevant, there is no such thing as a silly question. Just don’t ask the same one 50 times over! Ask how employers like things to be done, every yard does things slightly differently so better to ask than assume.
There is always something to do – Even if you think you have done everything, I can guarantee there is always more to do. If you have a spare 12 hour or hour pick up a broom and de cobweb, go poo picking, or ask another member of staff what there is to do if you are unsure.
Common sense – If you see a poo in the middle of the yard, pick it up. Or if the temperature changes throughout the day and the horse’s rugs haven’t been changed check it isn’t too hot or cold.
Attention to detail – If you notice something Is broken then tell someone. When you groom a horse check it from head to tail and notice if anything is unusual, lumps, bumps etc. get to know the horses in your care and know what are normal habits for them. When you tack up a horse take pride in its appearance, don’t present to a rider with mud on it and shavings in its mane and tail.
Take advantage – Take advantage of every opportunity you are given, ride every horse you are offered. The best riders in the world haven’t become the riders they are today by just riding easy and readymade horses. Sit on the naughty and sharp horses, trust me it will make you more determined to become a better rider and earn the privilege to ride nice horses. If you get the opportunity to watch training and different people teach then do, you will learn so much by just watching and listening.
Be grateful – It’s all well and good taking advantage of the opportunities, but make sure you appreciate them, say thank you! The top riders and trainers haven’t got to where they are without having to do the hard graft as well. So don’t think that you are better than anyone else or deserve more, everyone has to start somewhere.
Be organised– Pick things up and tidy as you go, put things away in the right places. I’m a big fan of a list, I have them for pretty much everything. If you’ve got it written down, then hopefully you won’t forget.
Communicate – Good communication is key to helping a yard run smoothly. Make sure everyone knows the plan, if something changes for instance feeds, supplements, rugs or if you notice something is wrong then make sure everyone knows. That way no one can turn around and say no one told me or get it wrong.
Team work – This is an important part of any yard. There is no I in team! Become part of the team and include yourself.
Appearance – It is important to take pride in your appearance, it also looks more professional if you dress smartly rather than looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, trust me I know this is sometimes easier said than done with horses.
Be professional – Smile, be calm and helpful even if you’re having a bad day and just want to scream.
Stay calm – There are always situations where things don’t go to plan, but the most important thing is to stay calm, if you panic or get worked up the horses will sense this and then themselves get worked up or panic. Keep calm and carry on!
BGA MEMBERSHIP OPTIONS