Groom Spotlight: Constantly Calm Luis Diaz Helps Shadow Ridge Bring In The Blues

Dec 27, 2021 - 7:58 AM

It’s easy to become flustered at a horse show, but Luis Diaz, head groom for Shadow Ridge Farm, always keeps his cool.

“I think that’s why all the horses love him,” said professional rider Samantha Schaefer said of Shadow Ridge Farm, in Westminster, Maryland, and Ocala, Florida. “Even when he’s excited, Luis’ energy is calm. He never rushes; he wants enough time to help the horses prepare for their jobs.”

Over the course of 2021’s indoor finals circuit, Diaz’s calm-under-pressure skill set earned him several top grooming awards. He was recognized with the North American Equitation Champion Groom’s Award at the Capital Challenge Horse Show (Maryland) for grooming Grace Debney’s equitation horse, Quimby, when Debney won the 2021 championship. He also won Best Turned Out at the 2021 Washington International Horse Show (North Carolina) with Debney’s jumper mare, Boheme de la Roque.

Along with Quimby, who he’s cared for the past three years, and Boheme de la Roque,  Diaz cares for the rest of Debney’s string of horses, as well as In The Know, Schaefer’s trusty hunter derby mount. When Debney won the 2021 Dover Saddlery Medal Finals at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, Diaz was her right-hand man.

Luis Diaz In The Know
The Shadow Ridge Farm team of (from left) groom Luis Diaz, barn manager Haleigh Landrigan and trainer Samantha Schaefer after a win at Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) with Schaefer’s hunter derby mount In The Know. Photos Courtesy Of Haleigh Landrigan

“Luis understands when it really matters, and it was special for him to see and be a part of that winning team,” Schaefer said. “He takes a lot of pride in his work. … His devotion for the horses is amazing.”

At the Pennsylvania National, Schaefer also asked Diaz, 43, to groom Goldmark, a 6-year old buckskin Dutch Warmblood pony. With Olivia Sweetnam in the irons, Goldmark claimed the large pony hunter tricolor, which led to the grand pony hunter championship title. The pair also won the inaugural $10,000 Pony Hunter Winner’s Stake. Diaz was thrilled.

“At Harrisburg, Luis was strolling back to the barn with all of his loot with the biggest grin on his face,” Schaefer said with a laugh. “He does a great job; he’s an integral part of our team.”

Originally from Honduras, Diaz grew up helping his father with his Western horses.

“When I came to America, I really liked watching the jumping horses,” Diaz said.

In 2006, he took a job with Bobby Ginsberg in New York, grooming mostly for client Isabel Ryan’s horses. When Ryan moved to Shadow Ridge in 2008, Diaz went with her. Shortly after the move, Diaz started working for Shadow Ridge full time.

“He’s such a key part of everything we do; he’s so reliable,” Schaefer said. “He knows more than I do, and he knows exactly how my mom, Stacey, likes things done.”

Luis. Diaz Darc Kiss
Luis Diaz celebrating a win at the 2019 Washington International Horse Show (Washington, D.C.) with Grace Debney and her former mount Darc Kiss Z. Diaz grooms all of Debney’s horses.

Diaz pays careful attention to the horses in his care and knows what they need. “He has a great read on his horses all the time,” she said. “I never worry that his horses will be too fresh or not right. If he doesn’t think something looks right or he thinks they need a longe, he says something.”

Shadow Ridge barn manager Haleigh Landrigan said Diaz takes care of the multitude of little details that add up to big wins. The two spend a lot of time together traveling from show to show, and they have developed a little friendly competition at the annual Capital Challenge to see who will win the groom’s award.

“Luis always wins it, but Haleigh is always hot on his heels,” Schaefer said. “The running joke is that he wants to see how many blue ribbons he can get. He loves it.”

“He comes back from the ring with his blue ribbons, and he’s so proud. He’s like, ‘Look, I got my azul ribbon, Haleigh!’ ” Landrigan said, laughing at the recollection. “You just know he loves his job, and the horses love him, too.”

Technically, Diaz is Shadow Ridge’s head groom and oversees the care of 30-35 horses, but Schaefer says he approaches the job in a unique way.

Luis Diaz_Boheme
Amongst the several dozen horses at Shadow Ridge, Luis Diaz said his favorite is jumper mare Boheme De La Roque, shown here with owners Grace and Karen Debney and trainer Samantha Schaefer.

“He doesn’t want to be the only one in charge—he wants all the guys to look to him for advice and work together,” she said. “When I’m hiring another guy, I always ask him for his opinion and insight.”

Because Diaz is so reliable, the Shadow Ridge team has affectionately nicknamed him “Papa.”

“He knows everything, and he can fix anything,” Landrigan said. “He also lives on the farm in Maryland, which makes me feel better. I don’t ever have to worry with Luis around.”

Although Diaz likes all of the horses at Shadow Ridge, his favorite horse to care for is Boheme.

“She goes really fast and wins a lot with Grace,” Diaz said. “I also really love it when Sam wins a hunter derby with [In The Know].”

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