In between classes at a show this morning I read a FaceBook blog describing how someone had been treated dismissively at an interview because she had been “just a groom”. As a rider this really made me cross.
Not just a groom: A carer: you are up before it’s light to make sure the horses are all fed, even if we have a late start you make sure our horses are never having to watch anxiously as other horses get fed before them. The horses have the cleanest, fluffiest beds, exactly the right number of rugs, exactly the right amount of hay and water. If we have a late class you are still up at 10.30 or 11.00 making sure that last horse has drunk enough, eaten up, is cool enough to have his rugs on, etc. If any of the horses is sick or sorry you are straight on it, on the phone to me, and making sure they’re on the road to recovery as soon as possible.
Not just a groom: A top PA: you check what time all the classes are starting, note any changes to the timetable, let me know exactly what is happening and then we make a plan. Even though I try hard to be a considerate rider, bring coffee and not change my mind too often, I know that sometimes last minute changes happen and because I’m a bit nervous you have to be good-natured about this.
Not just a groom: A dresser and make-up artist: You remember tack changes, which horse has soundproof ears, which one has a red ribbon, which has which saddle pad, which boots. If it’s a show on grass there are studs - a job even worse than summer clipping. Then you remove every tiny, weeny stain and piece of shavings from the horse, tack him up, and oil his feet. The horses look beautiful, which is an accurate reflection of the standard of your work.
Not just a groom: a logistics expert, fitting in hand walking, tack cleaning, massage rugs, ice-boots, lunging etc. between classes, so that nobody is ever hurrying and everybody, whether with four legs or two, arrives at the class in the best frame of mind to give their best.
Not just a groom: long distance lorry driver. Finding your way to the back of beyond in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and beyond. Praying the sat-nav doesn’t send you down a tiny dead-end with ditches on either side, or under a low bridge, or up the Champs Elysees, while the rider, who is nervous, and short of things to do, is occupying herself by wondering where on earth you are. And in this case, the rider has never found her way to Lier by the same route twice either!
Not just a groom: an HR manager and security expert, managing not just the rider, but getting the stable manager on your side, and making sure the mounting block, the hoof pick, the fork and the barrow don’t disappear on an hourly basis.
Not just a groom: moral support and a psychologist: you say ‘that was so unlucky’ not ‘what an earth were you doing, did you forget to put your contacts in’.
Not just a groom: a winner: your winning attitude and attention to detail and care of both horse an rider is a major part of what wins prizes. There is no I in team, the team is horse, groom and rider.
So to the next person who interviews someone who has been “just a groom” for a job. In front of you sits someone with a work ethic to be proud of, with the organisational skills of the best pa, and with the physical and mental strength to cope with almost anything that faces them. Hire them, pay them well and bring them delicious coffee and wine and take them out to dinner to celebrate that you’ve hired them. You’ve found a winner.