When he first came to work for rider Louise Serio seven years ago, Andreas Vega was not the most seasoned groom in the barn.
“He was quite young when he started, and he didn’t have a lot of experience, but he always tried very hard,” Serio explained of Vega.
Years of dedication to learning more about his craft paid off for Vega on Feb. 27 at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington Fla.—Vega topped a field of 18 entries in the groom’s class sponsored by Shapley’s Equine Grooming Products.
“Now he is my go-to guy,” Serio said of Vega. “If I need someone to help me, he always jumps right up.”
It was Vega’s unique grooming box set-up that really set him apart from the rest of the class, according to judge Jenny Ross-Koning.
“It was so clean, it was just impeccable,” Ross-Koning said of the box. “And it was a regular grooming box, but then it had a separate extension with hoof oil. So the oil was stabilized and out of the way.”
A well-prepared groom’s box isn’t just for show in classes—Serio can attest to the thoroughness of Vega’s and other groom’s everyday kits.
“They put more things in their grooming box than you can imagine, you can hardly carry them usually,” Serio said with a laugh.
Vega received a check for $350 for the win, along with the ribbon and prizes provided by Shapley’s. Pictures and interviews followed, before Vega and his winning horse, Amy Guth’s amateur-owner hunter Inspired, returned to the stables.
“He just floated away, he looked so happy afterwards,” said Sally Stith-Burdette, a Shapley’s representative who presented the awards for the class.
“I was really excited when I won,” Vega said of the experience. “I really like the classes, they’re really fun.”
Serio is glad grooms like Vega get an opportunity to show-off their charges, like Inspired (known affectionately as “Spy” or “Spider”), who was champion of the regular conformation division before winning the groom’s class with Vega.
“I think it’s really important, because these guys work so hard and they’re proud of their horses,” Serio said. “And they don’t really get the credit they deserve.”
Judge Ross-Koning echoed the importance of groom’s classes for highlighting an oft-overlooked member of a barn’s team.
“I honestly believe they’re the hardest working people at the horse show. They do so much more than people realize, they do so much more than the riders realize,” Ross-Koning said. “They know the horses better than the riders do, and I really think that if riders could spend a week or two doing their job, it would make a big difference at a barn, because their jobs are so much more complex than people realize.
Read about the first of this year’s Shapley’s Grooms’ Class winners, Miguel Barrera, too.