Ever since I was little my mom has told me, “There is no I in team.” I always love to respond using the quote that Dr. House of the TV Show once made, “There may not be an I in team, but there is a ME if you jumble it around.” She just shakes her head and ignores me. Really, in all seriousness though, I know that I could not be who/what I am today without having a team around me for support. It is important to surround yourself with people that know more than you so they help build you along the way. That does not mean you always have to do everything their way but it is nice to have someone with a valuable, knowledgeable opinion to know you can count on. Our horse is the most important partner we need and as such, we need to find people that we can trust with their care. It is so hard to find someone to care for your horse that you can trust and rely on who also understands what it means to be a groom. Being a groom is not your typical job and it is not one you undertake to “get rich.”
I wake up every morning and am in the barn by 5 AM to do the morning feed and chores before beginning riding for the day. I love to take care of my horses, although I have been lucky enough to grow up with grooms to help support me. You will still often find me as the odd one out at horseshows though as trainers and other professional riders say, “you are your own groom?” I choose to be my own groom whenever possible. I know that this will have to change as I have more and more horses going to each show, but I do know that I will always still be right there looking after my horses as much as I can. I am also a bit, or a lot, of a control freak to make sure that things are done right and it can be hard to find grooms that care about and love their horses as much as I do.
Horses are not a “typical” 40-hour workweek job, with paid holidays and set hours. It amazes me how many people I have had work for AliBoo Farm over the years who do not understand this concept. We have a girl who works for us during the summer that used to be my intern; I still call her the intern. She is going to Colorado State University for a Horse Science Degree and when she approached me about interning with us, she had virtually no experience working with horses as an actual job. Horses have to eat everyday and can get sick at midnight requiring someone to need to stay up with them. A long show day can last up to 16 hours, an injured horse has to be handwalked 7 days a week not 5. I am not sure that Taylor (my intern) actually understood this when she first started working for us; a year later I think she has firmly grasped this concept and decided that she still wants to do something with horses.
Grooms can often times be taken for granted, but they are so important. They are the ones at the barn at 4:30 AM on show days preparing the horses to be the best they can be, and the last ones to leave at 8 PM after night check. We trust them with our cherished, expensive animals and forget to let them know how grateful and appreciative we are of everything they do for us. They are the behind the scenes people who help to keep the show running. They will work 7 days a week for 3 months straight during show season. Christmas, what is Christmas? For these people taking care of horses it is another day at a horse show these days, or at the very least a day when the horses still need to be fed and cared for.
It is not easy to find these special grooms that you can trust, count on, and know will be there when there is a problem. People today just do not understand what it means to work with horses. It does not matter if you only have 1 horse at a trail barn or 5 at a fancy show barn. There are still people at each of those places we rely on to take care of our horses for us. They still sacrifice their holiday/family time to make sure the horses are cared for properly.
Many years ago we had a groom named Franco, everybody knew him. He finally was forced to retire at the age of 75. He truly loved the horses; he was the first to know if they were sick, and the first/last one to the barn everyday. No matter what happened you could always count on him to be at the barn in the morning. His horse, Milos, was the most important thing to him and he always made sure Milos was given lots of attention and love.
You do not see/find many grooms like this anymore. They just think of the horses as a job not a passion. The horses have to be a passion because they will consume your life and time usually without monetary benefits. The benefits are watching your horse win a big class or simply getting to be around them. As I have said before we do this for the love of the animal!