Each year at the FEI Awards Gala, the title of FEI Best Groom is handed out to an outstanding caretaker in the FEI disciplines. And this year, three U.S. grooms have made the short list for the awards.
“Grooms are that special group of people who underpin the success of our entire sport, ever present but rarely in the spotlight,” said the FEI press release about the short list. “The Best Groom Award seeks to highlight those grooms who really go above and beyond for their horses and riders.”
A jury of experts, including FEI President Ingmar De Vos, will pick the winner of the award, who will accept the honors at the FEI Awards Gala on Nov. 13 in San Juan, Puerto Rico during the FEI General Assembly, which is held Nov. 10-13.
|Clark Shipley and Simon
Photo by Mollie Bailey
Clark Shipley, who has worked for John and Beezie Madden for more than 20 years and cared for horses like Authentic, Simon and Cortes ‘C’, among many others, is in the running. You can read more about Clark in the Chronicle’s 2011 story about him, “Clark Shipley–International Groom And Globetrotter.”
Clark’s FEI bio reads: “It goes without saying that his horsemanship and care for the horses is impeccable, but in addition to that, his personality and ability to get along with all the integral members of the team like the vets, the riders, other grooms, owners, shippers, etc., is fantastic. He has a way with people and a way with horses and is able to work with others in a pleasant and productive manner that is second to none. He is truly an effective person who is brilliant at his job.”
Jose Eduardo “Eddie” Garcia Luna, who works for dressage star Steffen Peters, is also on the short list. He cares for Peters’ current star, Legolas.
|Eddie Garcia Luna and Legolas
Photo by Lisa Slade
“Eddie has been a vital part of U.S. dressage for almost 10 years,” read the FEI’s bio. “Eddie is the groom for Steffen Peters, but also the mentor and sounding board for other staff and grooms. He sets himself apart from his peers by being the person who brings the team together—by sharing his expertise in equine care, his good sense of humor or by demonstrating sportsmanship while doing ever the most lackluster tasks.”
Steffen added: “Eddie truly goes above and beyond for not only the horses, but also he is the biggest team player for all of the other team members and their grooms. He is an absolute expert in the care of the horses, and always meticulous in everything he does.”
“Eddie has earned the respect of his peers, his employers, U.S. Equestrian Federation staff and officials in the field,” the FEI description continued. “He is proud of his horses, riders and the sport of dressage. He is integral to the success of our team as he not only embodies all of the qualities of a superb groom, but he is also a great representative of our sport.”
The third U.S. groom on the award short list—Jennifer Arnsten—works in the sport of vaulting, caring for the USEF vaulting team’s horses.
“Jen has traveled with the U.S. vaulting team the last five years and has attended most of the world championships,” the FEI description read. “She volunteers her time, taking personal vacation days off work to travel with the team, and has the unique challenge of working with multiple horse owners, lungers and a volunteer staff of young, aspiring grooms. Her ability to positively share her extensive knowledge of horse care with kids (some who have limited horse care knowledge_, while also communicating with owners and lungers from other countries at a very professional level sets her apart. She manages to make ‘hanging out in the barn’ fun for everyone.”
They’re up against some stiff competition for the award, with these other international grooms on the short list:
- Alan Davies, British dressage groom and caretaker of the superstar Valegro
- Marlen Schannwell, groom to Irish show jumping phenom Bertram Allen
- Zoltán Herczeg, groom to German dressage star Jessica von Bredow-Werndl
- Imogen Mercer, head girl for Australian four-star eventer Sam Griffiths