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How much does a grand-prix level groom make?

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    How much does a grand-prix level groom make?

    Curious how much those at the top of the game get paid (for the Kent's, Beezie's, Mcclain's, Marcus's, etc.) Anyone have insight or educated guesses?

    I imagine it is still not much in the greater scheme of things, but it might be fun to support a gracious and talented rider and learn how they keep their horses.

    I most definitely could not tolerate the traveling lifestyle though.
    Life and times of a mediocre amateur...
    www.another-bay.com

    #2
    Normal A circuit grooms make between $650-700 per week, plus housing, maybe with a vehicle for work. GPx level grooms that stay long term with their riders make quite a bit more, and when they become integral to the operation function much as trainers, earning commissions, etc. All of those you mention have built great teams, where the support staff are beyond 'grooms' and treated them accordingly. Teamwork at that level is the key to their success.

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by Another-Bay View Post
      Curious how much those at the top of the game get paid (for the Kent's, Beezie's, Mcclain's, Marcus's, etc.) Anyone have insight or educated guesses?

      I imagine it is still not much in the greater scheme of things, but it might be fun to support a gracious and talented rider and learn how they keep their horses.

      I most definitely could not tolerate the traveling lifestyle though.
      The team I'm working with currently has six grooms. Starting income is $1,200 per week base. Our head groom makes $1,500 per week base. They each earn a $20 day money supplement - we pay it once a month, so this is an additional $600 per month each. Obviously, housing is included. In Wellington, they share 2 bedroom/2 bath condos - this way, they each have their own "space." These cost between $1,900-$2,400 per condo per month. On the road, we try to get each groom their own room at a decent - not fancy, not gross - hotel. Think Courtyard or Hampton. Something in the $120-150 per night range. If we're only showing for a weekend, sometimes we share two grooms per room. If we're in town for a longer period, we try to get everyone their own room or we rent a house for them to share. (All of our grooms are male, so this makes the sharing arrangements easier. If we had a female groom, we'd put her up separately or she would share with one of our managers.)

      We pay quarterly bonuses - usually $2,500 each. While these are performance bonuses, they also work out as a sort of retention bonus since they're paid at the end of the quarter. Week to week, we also pay bonuses at the owner's discretion (all of the horses in our program are owned by the same person). The typical weekly bonuses range from $200-300 per week. At a top show where we have a great result, the bonuses will be larger - more like $1,000 for those weeks.

      Based on 2018, at the end of the year, our lowest paid groom will earn a total of $86,000 (base + day money + quarterly bonuses + weekly bonuses) and our top paid groom will earn $127,000. Our highest paid groom traveled to more shows, so that is why he earns so much more (i.e. more tips). And, of course, housing is provided. I will say this - I think we have top, top grooms. I've heard of programs that pay less, but you probably get what you pay for. Also, GP-level grooms generally have their paperwork in order, and are able to travel. They can also make feed, apply therapies, give shots, etc.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by HonestPersonFakeAccount View Post

        The team I'm working with currently has six grooms. Starting income is $1,200 per week base. Our head groom makes $1,500 per week base. They each earn a $20 day money supplement - we pay it once a month, so this is an additional $600 per month each. Obviously, housing is included. In Wellington, they share 2 bedroom/2 bath condos - this way, they each have their own "space." These cost between $1,900-$2,400 per condo per month. On the road, we try to get each groom their own room at a decent - not fancy, not gross - hotel. Think Courtyard or Hampton. Something in the $120-150 per night range. If we're only showing for a weekend, sometimes we share two grooms per room. If we're in town for a longer period, we try to get everyone their own room or we rent a house for them to share. (All of our grooms are male, so this makes the sharing arrangements easier. If we had a female groom, we'd put her up separately or she would share with one of our managers.)

        We pay quarterly bonuses - usually $2,500 each. While these are performance bonuses, they also work out as a sort of retention bonus since they're paid at the end of the quarter. Week to week, we also pay bonuses at the owner's discretion (all of the horses in our program are owned by the same person). The typical weekly bonuses range from $200-300 per week. At a top show where we have a great result, the bonuses will be larger - more like $1,000 for those weeks.

        Based on 2018, at the end of the year, our lowest paid groom will earn a total of $86,000 (base + day money + quarterly bonuses + weekly bonuses) and our top paid groom will earn $127,000. Our highest paid groom traveled to more shows, so that is why he earns so much more (i.e. more tips). And, of course, housing is provided. I will say this - I think we have top, top grooms. I've heard of programs that pay less, but you probably get what you pay for. Also, GP-level grooms generally have their paperwork in order, and are able to travel. They can also make feed, apply therapies, give shots, etc.

        #yallhiring? I do have US and EU citizenship!
        Talking to some people is like folding a fitted sheet.

        Comment


          #5
          It varies wildly, just as the jobs do.
          Let me apologize in advance.

          Comment


            #6
            Taxes are usually not withheld , more an independent contractor situation. You may or may not get insurance so the numbers can be misleading. Be sure to ask and not assume anything since nothing is standard across the board.
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by findeight View Post
              Taxes are usually not withheld , more an independent contractor situation. You may or may not get insurance so the numbers can be misleading. Be sure to ask and not assume anything since nothing is standard across the board.
              This is wise counsel. I should note in the numbers that I previously quoted that our grooms are independent contractors. We don't withhold taxes. We also do not provide a retirement plan or health insurance. Interestingly, we interviewed our grooms two years ago and to a man when presented with a choice of greater benefits (e.g. health insurance) or more base compensation and scheduled bonuses, they each preferred the higher base and scheduled bonuses. This has worked out well for all parties. A few of the guys have 401(K) accounts that they fund from their incomes. They pick their own health coverage - some have families, some don't. My sense is that ours is a fairly common arrangement.

              Comment


                #8
                I have no insider information, but it's worth remembering when you calculate the per hour salary rate in your head that these jobs are 24/7, risky, and require a very high level of physical endurance and psychological hardiness. Tremendous respect to all who do this work.
                Check out the latest Fortune's Fool novel, Courage to the Sticking Place!

                Comment


                  #9
                  Yeah I've been an "independent contractor" FEI groom in the US. Rest assured no groom anywhere ever fits the legal definition of an independent contractor.
                  Let me apologize in advance.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by ladyj79 View Post
                    Yeah I've been an "independent contractor" FEI groom in the US. Rest assured no groom anywhere ever fits the legal definition of an independent contractor.
                    I'm a writer and work as an independent contractor, and one of the definitions of being an independent contractor is that you're taken on a project-by-project basis. Independent contractors don't receive benefits but can refuse work--in other words, they can decline to enter into a contract for a particular job, even if they are legally obligated to fulfill the terms of a contract for a job they have agreed to complete.

                    A braider would be a good example of an independent contractor. Paid by the piece (i.e., the horse), uses his or her own materials, may go to a variety of barns or may generally work out of one barn, but is not employed by the barn. Can turn down work (i.e., "I'm not braiding your crazy-ass pony"). Of course, if a contractor turns down work, there's nothing to stop someone not employing them in the future in retaliation, but they are not legally obligated to agree to do a particular job. Only to fulfill what they have contractually agreed to fulfill.

                    Grooms are salaried employees.

                    Many businesses try to get out of paying employees benefits and complying with the greater legal demands placed upon businesses regarding full and part-time employees by calling employees independent contractors. But there's a very specific legal definition of what constitutes an independent contractor in the US.
                    Check out the latest Fortune's Fool novel, Courage to the Sticking Place!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Impractical Horsewoman View Post
                      Many businesses try to get out of paying employees benefits and complying with the greater legal demands placed upon businesses regarding full and part-time employees by calling employees independent contractors. But there's a very specific legal definition of what constitutes an independent contractor in the US.
                      And yet. The horse business rolls on anyway.

                      I could probably count on my fingers the number of places I've ever heard of that pay overtime or provide health insurance for people who work long hours and take great risks around the horses.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Assuming, at the kinds of salaries being discussed here, that the business is deducting the salaries as an expense item (and not trying to do cash under the table or something like that), are the workers then doing estimated quarterly tax payments? Assuming the workers have to do that, what would be the advantage to the workers in having to do estimated quarterlies instead of getting auto deductions? Also, at least in my state, by paying for workers' comp coverage as an employer you get tort immunity. What are the operations that are calling full time grooms "independent contractors" doing to protect themselves from tort liability if a worker gets injured on the job? I would think this would be a great concern--if your operation is lucrative enough to have six figure grooms, wouldn't you be worried about liability?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Which is why when I hear "our grooms make 86k+ a year but illegally" I think yeah, those grooms aren't making that, because an employer paying out that+ times six grooms isn't doing this. It makes zero sense to risk everything to avoid paying taxes/ss/wc.
                          Let me apologize in advance.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by ladyj79 View Post
                            Which is why when I hear "our grooms make 86k+ a year but illegally" I think yeah, those grooms aren't making that, because an employer paying out that+ times six grooms isn't doing this. It makes zero sense to risk everything to avoid paying taxes/ss/wc.
                            Respectfully, I thoroughly disagree with your use of the word "illegally." That is a powerful, specific term. You're mis-using it. There is nothing remotely illegal about engaging independent contractors. I think that what you mean to state is that the IRS has a series of "right-to-control" assessments that can be used to inform a determination of if a resource should be categorized as an employee or independent contractor. A determination in either direction does not suggest an "illegality." Should the IRS make such a determination (i.e. the resource is rightfully an employee, and not an independent contractor), and further determine that there was no "reasonable basis" for considering the resource an independent contractor, then the remedy for such a violation is potential liability for employment taxes. In the equestrian world, this assessment has repeatedly found significant "reasonable basis" for resources being classified as independent contractors. (Obviously, every case is different - I can tell you that this issue has emerged in the past...but not generally relating to grooms.)

                            More to the point, the number one means of referring a matter to the IRS for such an assessment is a complaint originating from the independent contractor/employee in question. Please let me assure you: Grooms earning six-figures, working with spectacular horses in great conditions, are not contacting federal government agencies seeking to complain about their lot in life.

                            This conversation is largely academic and doesn't really address the OP's initial question. More to the point, arguing that grooms should be employees ignores the prevailing reality of the industry. The reality is: This is how our industry largely works.

                            Everyone's case and circumstance is very different. Instead of critiquing that which you may not know and may not understand (i.e. if you're not paying multiple grooms top wages, then your point of reference is entirely theoretical), why not consider celebrating those programs where talented, hard-working people can earn six-figure incomes and provide for their families? Many of our grooms are immigrants with limited educational pedigree. They now have homes. Their children are in good schools. They pay their taxes. They contribute to our communities. And they do this because they have jobs that respect their talents and compensate them accordingly.

                            Isn't that the American dream? Isn't that indicative of a land of opportunity? The working conditions at our barn are phenomenal. Grooms work 50-60 hours per week at shows. 40-50 hours per week otherwise. In Wellington, we have six grooms and three managers taking care of 14 horses. No one is over-worked. Everyone gets a minimum of one day off per week. Every quarter, everyone gets one full week of paid vacation. Should someone become injured on the job, then I'm 100% confident that our owner would provide for all medical costs. Indeed, when one of our grooms was out for six weeks with a family medical emergency, he got paid the entire time. His travel costs to be with his family were covered.

                            My point is: Are some people awful to their grooms? Unfortunately, I'm sure that's the case. Are some working conditions horrible? Again, I'm certain that's regrettably true. However, to suggest that programs that engage grooms as independent contractors are doing so as some sort of underhanded behavior is an ignorant notion. The question was about the top programs - not the lousy behavior that some people try to get away with. In my experience, the top programs are at the top precisely because they know how to value their people.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              As I said above, it is simply not possible to be a groom and an independent contractor. Exercise rider, clipper, braider, maybe even a stall cleaner if the barn is lax about hours. It is not possible to be an independent contractor and a full time groom. It is illegal to call someone an independent contractor who is an employee. You should want the barn you associate with to fairly and legally compensate its employees.
                              Let me apologize in advance.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                I'm not suggesting they're bad people to call their grooms independent contractors, although I do personally and subjectively think they are, but I'm explicitly saying that objectively that's illegal.
                                Let me apologize in advance.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  My point, though, is that if someone has assets/income sufficient to pay six figure salaries and housing for six high quality grooms, what is that person doing to protect their financial assets from tort liability in the event a worker is injured or killed on the job (which would be horse related, or in a car on the way to the show, etc.)? Not providing workers' comp (because they are supposedly "independent contractors" and not employees) opens that kind of liability. A commercial general liability policy, I believe, generally exempts any coverage for employees. So if there is an injury or death, and a later lawsuit, and the commercial general liability (CGL) carrier determines through its investigation the injured/killed worker was really an employee who should have had WC coverage, the CGL carrier could deny coverage for the claim and may not even provide cost of defense. I am just entirely unclear why people of apparent means would want that risk. The lawsuits don't have to come from the worker, either--could be next of kin, or a subrogation action by another insurance company.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    HonestPersonFakeAccount no need to pm to explain further how it's ok to break the law because your grooms make a lot of money. It's not only illegal, it's also really honestly a bad deal for everyone involved, even if it doesn't seem like it to grooms at the time.
                                    Let me apologize in advance.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Bending Line View Post
                                      My point, though, is that if someone has assets/income sufficient to pay six figure salaries and housing for six high quality grooms, what is that person doing to protect their financial assets from tort liability in the event a worker is injured or killed on the job (which would be horse related, or in a car on the way to the show, etc.)? Not providing workers' comp (because they are supposedly "independent contractors" and not employees) opens that kind of liability. A commercial general liability policy, I believe, generally exempts any coverage for employees. So if there is an injury or death, and a later lawsuit, and the commercial general liability (CGL) carrier determines through its investigation the injured/killed worker was really an employee who should have had WC coverage, the CGL carrier could deny coverage for the claim and may not even provide cost of defense. I am just entirely unclear why people of apparent means would want that risk. The lawsuits don't have to come from the worker, either--could be next of kin, or a subrogation action by another insurance company.

                                      exactly.?????
                                      Let me apologize in advance.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by HonestPersonFakeAccount View Post

                                        Respectfully, I thoroughly disagree with your use of the word "illegally." That is a powerful, specific term. You're mis-using it. There is nothing remotely illegal about engaging independent contractors. .
                                        It is not illegal to engage independent contractors. It is illegal to deliberately misclassify your employees.
                                        *****
                                        You will not rise to the occasion, you will default to your level of training.

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