Whether it’s face-to-face or in a text, at least twice a week Josefine “Josie” Eliasson gets asked the same questions: “I’m looking for a groom, rider, manager, etc., do you know someone?” or “I’m looking for a new job, do you know of a good employer?”
Eliasson, a professional groom who has spent the past seven years working for Olympic show jumper Jessica Springsteen, is well-connected in the industry, and people come to her hoping she knows of an opportunity in her large network. She’s fielded the same questions for long enough that she realized there was a need in her industry that she wanted to fill.
“Sometimes I know a great person looking for a job and another great employer looking for a job, but they wouldn’t be a match for each other,” she said. “So I wanted to create something that would help make a perfect match.”
Eliasson did just that, and on Feb. 1, an equine industry job-listing website she created Yehaww.com, officially launched.
“I had this idea of something that I wanted to create, and the support and feedback that I got was super positive,” she said. “I’m surprised about all of the support I got from everyone. It’s been really cool.”
Eliasson hopes the platform will foster connections within the multitude of global equine disciplines like eventing, dressage, polo and driving.
“I want to connect people—I want everyone in the industry to be on it,” Eliasson said. “It’s not just jobs; you can connect with anyone on there and ask questions about anything. Even though we all do different disciplines, the one thing we all have in common are the horses.”
EIiasson also hopes, as a marketplace, Yehaww will put a bit of pressure on employers to be more mindful of their working conditions and wages.
“I think it would encourage the industry to be a bit better in certain cases,” she said. “If you have two jobs on the platform next to one another, and they are the same job but with different conditions or salaries, of course most people are going to go for the better option. But this would encourage the lesser option to do better and value the people that work for them more. I feel like now is the time for this type of service.”
As for the site’s name, Eliasson hoped Yehaww would pique a person’s interest and spark curiosity.
“I was thinking about names, and I wanted to do something that was obvious that it was horse-related, but also something that was a little funny so it would catch your eye,” Eliasson said. “I wanted someone to go, ‘Ooooo, what’s this?’ It’s a funny name, so you want to look into it because it’s not obvious what it is. But I feel like people will remember the name very well.”
Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, Eliasson, 32, also reflected on her own grooming journey as she put the pieces together for Yehaww.
“I was thinking about a new person in the business and wants to come out like me: a young girl in Sweden who wants to go and work abroad with horses in America,” she said. “How do you get your foot into this? It’s so much about contacts in this industry, but if you’re a young girl fresh out of school, maybe you don’t have the social skills yet or you’re shy. Now there will be this platform, and you can see all the jobs. Like you say, ‘OK, I would really like to go to Wellington this winter,’ and you go to the platform and find a job in Wellington that fits what you’re looking for.”
Eight years ago, Eliasson was that young girl searching for a grooming job at the higher levels of show jumping. In 2014, she took her first real grooming job with Swiss show jumper Romain Duguet. After a year she went back to Sweden intending to attain her lorry license.
“You have many more job opportunities in Europe if you have a lorry license,” she said. “It’s like getting your CDL license in America; the process takes quite a bit of time, and there are many steps to complete.”
At the same time, a friend of hers heard that Springsteen’s Stone Hill Farm, whose business is based in Brussels for eight months of the year and Wellington, Florida, in the winter, was looking for a full-time horse show groom. Eliasson and Springsteen’s manager connected, and before she even had a chance to start her lorry license process, Eliasson got the job.
In the winter of 2015 she stayed in Belgium with the horses who didn’t travel to Wellington. But since 2016 Eliasson has traveled with Springsteen to horse shows on a weekly basis, wintering in Wellington. Springsteen’s string consists of eight to 10 horses at a time, ranging from youngsters to Springsteen’s five-star horses.
“There are a lot of horse shows in Europe, so you basically go every week for many different levels,” Eliasson said. “One week you’re at a top show with the top horses, the next week you’re at a smaller show with the young horses.”
While the other grooms usually remain with the horses at home, Eliasson attends all of the horse shows with Springsteen.
“I don’t think I’ve missed a horse show in I don’t know how many years,” she said. “That’s what I enjoy; that’s what I love about my job. Anyone can do it—it’s not that I think that no one else can do it—but I enjoy that part so much, so I like to do it.”
When the Stone Hill Farm team is in Wellington, the normal routine changes.
“Here in Wellington, it’s a little different because we have horses showing left, right and center sometimes,” Eliasson said. “We are a small team of three people, so we help each other out with a little bit of everything. I work with great people; everyone helps with all of the horses.”
Springsteen’s seven show jumpers are stabled in Grand Prix Village, and each horse is walked over to the horse show for their national classes. “Since I am technically the show groom, every horse that I am able to take to the ring in Wellington, I will take, but then sometimes it just doesn’t work. For example, we showed five horses today all before 11 a.m. It’s impossible for me to be there for all five horses in that short period of time. All of us that work for Jessie know all of the horses, so it doesn’t matter who takes which one to the ring.”
Eliasson traveled with Springsteen to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, where the U.S. Show Jumping Team claimed the silver medal. Springsteen’s Olympic mount, Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve, a 14-year old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Bamako De Muze—Diva Van De Donkhoeve, Heartbreaker) owned by Stone Hill Farm, is one of Eliasson’s favorite horses.
“When you take a horse to a championship, you spend a lot of time with them one-on-one, and you get to know them in a different way,” Eliasson said. “Every morning in Tokyo, we would go down to the big grass field in the middle of the Equestrian Village and graze. He loved going down there. I love when you feel like you have a connection with the horses. When you walk in the barn and they call you, or you learn certain tricks that will make them calm or like when you feel like you know them. I really like this.”
She sees herself continuing to groom for as long as she can.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing now, and as long as I enjoy it like I do now, I will keep going,” she said. “I love being outside; I love working with the horses; I love the competitive part of it. I feel like there are a lot of things I haven’t done as a groom yet, so I want to keep going.”
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