Show jumping fans in the Northeast will surely recall rider Daniel Bluman’s remarkable week at this year’s Hampton Classic, where he won three FEI classes in a row on three different mounts. But as enthusiasts of the sport understand, a large team is involved in any rider or horse’s success. Bluman’s groom, Jessica Stanek, albeit a relatively new addition to the team, is a key ingredient.
Originally from Dalton, Pa., Stanek began grooming in 2008 when she decided she was ready to embark on a new chapter in her life. She credits a friend’s suggestion for catapulting her into the sport: Knowing Stanek was looking for a change of pace, “[she] suggested I go groom at a show barn for awhile.”
Following her friend’s direction, Stanek promptly got a job with Harold Chopping, and nearly nine years later, she is still happily hard at work grooming. Following that first job, Stanek logged hours at a variety of top operations, working for trainers and riders such as Ilan Ferder and Pablo Barrios, and traveling around North America, Europe, and Mexico before finding her way to Bluman’s stable, where she’s been working since May of 2017.
“I was only supposed to freelance for the summer,” she said, “but I really like working for Daniel and [working with] his horses, so I decided to work full-time for him.”
Stanek said her job is to “make sure the horses are healthy, happy, and sound,” a task that runs the gamut from mucking out, mixing feed, watering, haying and sweeping to traveling, riding and helping Bluman prepare for competitions. While the hours are long, Stanek remains motivated by her love for the horses and the thrill of good results.
“Every groom knows it can get a little tiresome traveling from show to show, but it’s all worth it when the whole team’s work pays off,” she said.
That dedication certainly paid off this summer at the Hampton Classic, where Bluman won twice on Bacara d’Archanfosse and capped off the week by winning the $300,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix on Landriano Z. The team’s success continued with good results at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show (N.Y.), HITS Saugerties (N.Y.) and New Albany (Ohio).
To conclude Bluman’s fall showing schedule, Stanek spent two weeks at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (N.C.) in October before hopping across the pond for indoor shows in Paris and Geneva. Shortly thereafter, she’ll migrate to Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival. With a schedule like this, it’s hard to find time for other activities, and though she enjoys running and hiking, Stanek admits she spends most of her time on the job: “A lot of times I stay extra hours just because I enjoy being there!”
For the foreseeable future, Stanek plans to remain grooming, but she acknowledges that one day, she may need a change of pace from her busy life on the road. “When I decide it’s time for a change, I’ll definitely stay with horses,” she said, “but I haven’t put much thought into what exactly I want to do.”