Being nervous for your very first class, at your very first horse show, is normal. Winning that class is not.
But that’s exactly what happened to groom Miguel Barrera on Jan. 30 at the Winter Equestrian Festival, where he took top honors in the groom’s class presented by Shapley’s Equine Grooming Products.
Barrera has been a groom for nine years, four with current barn Laura Stern Stables at Country Ridge, but this was his very first time entering a groom’s class.
Luckily for Barrera, there was a more seasoned groom’s class competitor at Stern’s barn that helped coach him to victory— Fernando Mendoza, better known around the show as “Uno”.
“I took care of horses in Mexico, and I rode in Mexico, and when I came here my first job was with Larry Glefke,” Mendoza said. “I groomed for him for 13 years. With Larry, I won classes in California, in Kentucky, and went to indoors and things with him.”
Mendoza placed second in the Shapley’s groom’s class, right behind his trainee Barrera.
“Miguel was sweating he was so nervous, and Fernando kept telling him what to do and coaching him,” trainer Laura Stern said. “And then they announced Miguel was the winner and Fernando was second, and it was hilarious.
“I told Fernando, I bet you want to do this class again and get first don’t you? And he said yeah, he did!” Stern said with a laugh.
Shapley’s paid out $350 to Barrera for his first place finish, money he used to fly back to Stern’s northern base in Mundelein, Ill., to visit his expecting wife for a long weekend. Just before Barrera got back to Illinois, his wife gave birth to their daughter, who they named Valentina.
Barrera won the class exhibiting 18-year-old Lori Harvey’s jumper/equitation horse, Revelation, who attests to both Barrera and Mendoza’s expertise in caring for her horses.
“They have been the most amazing people to work with,” Harvey said. “Even when I’m gone I know my horses will be perfectly taken care of. They’re always one step of ahead of me—anything I need they, they already have it done. They really want to do a good a job and want to make everyone happy.”
For Stern, classes like the Shapley’s Equine Grooming Products grooms class are a great way to recognize members of her team often found working hard behind the scenes.
“The grooms are the unsung heroes, they work so hard and we depend on them with everything,” Stern said. “We entrust them with our pride and joy, our horses.
“Miguel and Fernando, they care about the horses like I do, and it’s a certain pride. They really, really care about the animal. The best way I can put it is I really trust them,” Stern said.