Denise Moriarty grooms for Olympic show jumper Kent Farrington now, but her horsey upbringing had far more humble roots. She got her start caring for lesson ponies at Turlough Equestrian Center, an Irish riding school, and roaming the countryside aboard young horses. She moved into young rider classes with her Connemara pony Prince Owen before giving up riding while she studied veterinary nursing and earned her masters in agricultural science.
Her first job in the United States was grooming Marilyn Little’s show jumpers and event horses, but with show jumping her first passion, Moriarty found a job with Farrington and has been by his side for nearly a decade. (You can read about Moriarty’s history in a 2016 Chronicle article.)
We asked Moriarty for some of her top grooming tips, and you may be surprised—many of them come straight from those early horse-care lessons, because good horse care is good horse care.
What is your No.1 tip for grooming?
Groom your horse instead of bathing whenever possible. Washing the coat too much strips its natural oils and leaves the skin more susceptible to skin irritation and sun damage. Grooming your horse gives you the chance to get to know your horse’s body and know what is normal and what is abnormal.
What is something about grooming you are particular about?
Pick the feet, remove debris from the foot, and check the shoes. Curry combing helps increase the oils in the coat and removes dead hair and skin cells.
What are some go-to products you like to use when grooming?
A plastic curry comb, curry mitt and a good, clean brush.
What qualities does a top show groom need?
To be observant. The grooms are often the first ones to pick up on a sick horse, a big leg or a loose shoe.
What advice would you give for people looking to advance their knowledge of grooming?
Watch and learn. Ask questions and be observant.
What is your typical schedule at a show?
The show schedule depends on the times of the class. I like to be at the stables a bit early to feed and muck out before it gets busy. I like to use therapeutic blankets in the morning when it’s cooler and while the horse is icing after the class. I make sure all of the horses get out for a handwalk and grass before the rider gets there.
What’s the funniest/most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a groom?
Willow winning the Credit Suisse Grand Prix in Geneva with a purple tail. Don’t leave the QuikSilver in too long, especially if you do not have hot water to rinse it with!