New to the world of eventing (after 20 years of low key H/J local riding, schooling shows, etc.) May have a chance to help as a groom this weekend for a level-headed UL rider (that I know thru a friend), who is riding some horses at the OT and OP levels at the MD HTs. I've done a clinic with this rider in the past and really respect the rider's experience, so this would be a great chance to learn more and help out. Any suggestions on what to expect? Advice? Do's/Don'ts as a groom? Apart from general care (keep them watered and cool in the heat, ready to go on-time, etc.) what should I expect to do as a groom? Until I'm ready to get my own horse and start as a Beginner Novice, I'm basically a sponge at this point, trying to learn as much as I can, and thought this would be a good opportunity to get some up-front hand's on experience, as well as lend a helping hand to a friend....Thanks.
Most importantly? Add value, don't add stress. When you're grooming, particularly for someone new, you're coming into someone else's system, and it's important to do things their way. Cheerful friendliness and a willingness to jump in and do whatever's needed will make you a ton of friends.
A few specific tricks I've learned along the way:
Most riders with multiple horses will already have this prepared, but if not, get your rider's times as early as possible, and make up a chart (even handwritten on the back of a piece of paper is fine) that has each horse's name, dressage times, and SJ time (at MD, you go straight from SJ to XC in most circumstances). When you get there, ask your rider how much before dressage and before SJ they want to be on the horse, and write that time down on your sheet as well. That's your cheat sheet - it'll help you figure out what time each horse has to be tacked up, with studs if they go in them, and ready to go. It's fine in most circumstances to have one tacked up a little early and standing at the trailer with a halter over their bridle; it's bad if you're scrambling to get studs in and the rider is antsy to go in.
If you will be asked to put in studs, make sure to ask your rider to pick out what studs s/he wants for each horse and set them out by horse ahead of time. Depending on the schedule, you may have to put studs in before dressage, otherwise in between (I pull off dressage tack, slosh the horse with water, snip out the braids and comb through while wet, and then put in studs while the horse stands to dry - others may have other habits).
Similarly, make sure the rider sets out the tack for each horse, and any tack changes between SJ and XC (e.g., will you need to bring XC boots to SJ to switch out for open fronts; will your rider want you to bring his/her vest with you to SJ so they can put it on afterwards, etc).
Be cheerful, be enthusiastic, throw a towel in your pocket everytime you head down to the ring with your rider, bring extra water and sunscreen and you'll be great.
Expect to do all the stall cleaning, water fetching, feeding, tons of holding, meeting at end of each phase and taking the horse, organizing tack, ride times etc. If this person isn't a professional, it will probably be lower key, and you won't be expected to braid, although be prepared to at least take braids out etc. If you put boots on, ask the rider to check if they are how she/he likes them put on. If there is more than one horse, keep all the individual horses tack and equipment in an organized fashion so that you can grab whatever needed and use it in a hurry. It could be really easy, or really hectic, depending on what the person expects of you. Come up with some questions, and ask what is expected. Some people just want a hand, others expect you to do most everything. Stay out of the way, don't ask questions that aren't necessary, don't comment on the ride unless asked. Keep aware of the time, the time the rider rides the horses, and if the event is running on time. Ask how long before the rider's time she/he wants each horse ready for warm up as it can vary. Let the rider know you are more than willing to help in any way, and welcome direction as well as feedback as you work. Ask about the personality of each horse, any do's and don'ts with them in terms of handling and care. Do you have any specific questions? I could go on forever...haha
I second everything Spots said. I swear I look at the time chart seven-thousand different times, just to make sure something didn't change since the time that I looked 5 minutes earlier.
When I groom, I try to picture "what can I do this moment to help my rider" and then I do it. I don't ask what to do. I try to make her day as absolutely stress-free as possible. I also really enjoy the "managing the athlete" part of taking care of the horses. Again the image is "how would I feel if I just ran and jumped in the heat/cold/rain, etc.", and act accordingly.
Bring snacks, water, sunscreen, bug-repellent, rain gear and changes of footwear. You won't believe how tired your feet will get.
I also try to pick up behind myself, horses and rider as we go so that nothing spins out of control.
I find that grooming is one of the jobs that gives me absolute pure joy so it is easy for me to have a cheery disposition and as Spots said, that will go a long way.
thanks for all the terrific advice! I'm going to spectate Saturday, so if I do groom, it will be Sunday and I'll have a chance to scope things out the day before. My first time up at Maryland HT at Loch Moy, so will want to familiarize myself with the layout (water, loo, etc.). Will definitely plot the schedule, ask the right questions, be prepared. Really appreciate the great feedback!