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What makes a GREAT groom?

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  • What makes a GREAT groom?

    I've read lots of groom horror stories on here, the oh-why-did-I-hire-this-person' help, but being in the position of about to be a hired groom for a multi-day show (when I've always been in the position of being the rider/handler without a groom, I have no shows myself that weekend so I get to totally be on the other side of things!) I'd love to know what you feel makes a fantastic groom. I'll be chatting with the owners ahead of time to find out my exact duties (by my request). What are the little extras that your groom does to make you/your horses feel and look great? What would be your expectations/your do-nots/your 'this is how this person went over the top'? I'd love to know any tips/tricks that made your show experience that much better because of your groom. Not being behind the scenes all the time, I'd be very interested to get a few pointers.


  • #2
    Anticipation is key. A great groom knows the show schedule, approximate numbers of classes/rounds before yours, and knows better than you when you need to be on the horse, in the warm-up ring, and at the gate, and what tack goes on/comes off in between warm up and performance. A great groom is never without a towel, damp sponge, and any particular piece of equipment that you may need (say, spurs, stick, martingale), or if without it, a great groom is swift about retrieving it. A great groom doesn't wait until you ask for a boot wipe, to oil the hooves, smooth down the braids, or wipe the foam off your horse's mouth. A great groom knows when you need some quiet moments with or without your horse, such as to study your course, and is always nearby to take your horse when needed, but without bugging you. And a great groom knows when to give you a high-five, a pat on the back, a little sympathy, or leave you the heck alone. Just by asking the question, you've demonstrated you have the makings of being a great groom.


    • #3
      all what ON the Lamb said and...

      a great groom also knows to keep their mouth shut and eyes open...never repeats what they hear in the barn...doesn't gossip. Keeps his/her nose out of trouble..doesn't make a spectacle of himself/herself on off hours (hanging with the horse show crowd in bars acting like an ASS)

      a great groom is polite and respectful...


      • #4
        Be observant and pay attention. If you're not sure, ask. Write things down/type a note to yourself on your phone if you are worried about remembering things. Try not to make the same mistake/oversight more than once.

        Try to remain calm and cheerful even when things are hectic and your client(s) is having a rough day or one of your horses isn't being cooperative.

        Having a really thorough understanding of what your duties are, who your go-to person is and how that person can be reached if necessary will go a long way toward making everything run as smoothly as possible.
        Full-time bargain hunter.


        • #5
          A great groom also reads the horses well and keeps them calm --
          "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM


          • #6
            If you're dealing with multiple horses, it's important to be very organized about their equipment. Owners hate to find that their horse is wearing somebody else's girth or saddlepad or martingale or (worst of all) bridle.

            Either keep each horse's tack by that horse's stall/trunk, or use a bridle rack and label each hook, so you know which stuff goes with which horse. Don't just pile everything on the same tack hook to sort out later.

            Always doublecheck whether a horse is done for the day before you take out his braids!!!

            Also, look for things to do if you have downtime. Instead of sitting on a trunk, you can always pick the stalls, clean tack, sweep/rake the aisle, check to see if the horses need hay or water, etc.


            • #7
              Originally posted by MHM View Post
              Also, look for things to do if you have downtime. Instead of sitting on a trunk, you can always pick the stalls, clean tack, sweep/rake the aisle, check to see if the horses need hay or water, etc.
              I'll have to disagree a little with this.

              In order to be 'at your best' and alert, you can't be exhausted. Show days are very long. 12 hours easily and 14+ not uncommonly. You can't run you butt into the ground that entire time.

              Use 'down time' to fuel yourself with good food that will keep you going. High protein, no greasy 'fair' food, no or very little soda, bring raw veggies, etc. Prepare yourself for tomorrow. Check the weather. Make sure you have or can get what food and gear you will need. Nothing like driving around a strange city/town at 10pm trying to find cold medicine, tampons, socks, a rain coat, hat, or gatorade.

              Take time to get to know the other grooms and riders. Very experienced workers often have super techniques for making even the toughest work easier and efficient. You may learn a great tip from someone else or make a new friend that can help you out in a pinch. Even the most conscientious person will get overwhelmed or caught off guard at some point. Then is when you will really appreciate the fellow groom, competitor, or friend who can point you in the right direction, speak up for you, or loan you the right tool at the right time.

              Working yourself to death will not make you more efficient or effective. Work smarter, not harder.
              "Friend" me !



              • #8
                A great groom does all of the above... basically a great groom means that nobody is worried about anything....

                ... and a fantastic groom knows that their skills are truly valuable and differentiates between the pressures/stresses of the job and unreasonable demands


                • #9
                  Responsible; respectful; experienced; paitent and thorough. They know if something is wrong with the horse or tack etc. They don't leave a stall unlatched or water buckets unchecked or dirty. They make the horses look show ready - always.

                  And I agree with the poster on down time; unless I see the grooms super busy I try to chill a bit... and of course "try" to stay clean.

                  And yes, a good groom is worth his/her weight in gold! And so are their managers!
                  Live in the sunshine.
                  Swim in the sea.
                  Drink the wild air.


                  • #10
                    OP, are you working with a bunch of owners as individuals or is there a trainer involved?

                    If it's individuals, you are going to have to keep a schedual with the names on it updated and in your pocket so you get the right horse to the right ring at the right time. You have to stick with that. Don't be afraid to say no if there is a conflict, your showing rider has priority. Keep up with that.

                    If there is a trainer involved? They will have that schedualed for you...and be nice to the owners but remember you work for the trainer. There may also be a head groom or barn manager in charge and they would be your immediate boss.

                    While it is important to take care of yourself, make sure ALL of your duties are done for at least a little while. Make SURE no other groom is backed up, the aisle does not need sweeping or there are not a bunch of bridles on the cleaning hook and a bag full of clean wraps that need to be rolled laying against the aisle wall. And tell whoever is in charge or at least one of your owners where you are going before you leave so they don't think you just booked.

                    The most successful show barns pretty much all go on the "nobody is done until everybody is done" theory regardless of job title. If everybody is on board with it, it runs pretty smooth and nobody gets backed up or swamped. Things get done because they need to be done and when they need to be done, not wait because it is a particular persons job and they cannot get to it at that moment.

                    One other thing...it does not hurt to keep yourself reasonably clean and wear professional attire like a polo shirt and cap to confine your hair. Bring an extra shirt in case you get soaked or spill something.

                    Cheerful, positive, no excuses, mouth shut, eye and ears open and you will be fine...and get more work.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • #11
                      Remember that horses need water and breaks too, especially when it's hot. Offer to have the rider dismount (while waiting endlessly for their class to finish, trainer to come, etc.) and "take a break" (aka give the horse a break, and give it water when available).

                      Be quick to pull martingales/wipe mouths/do feet/rub sweat marks before hacks and jogs.

                      KNOW HOW TO GIVE A GOOD LEG UP!

                      Help nervous or inexperienced riders (especially adults!) stay on top of the ring. Nothing worse than a Nervous Nelly rushing to get to the ring on time!

                      Make sure your groom box is packed before you head up to the ring. I love when I know there is a pair of spurs, ear plugs, extra number string, etc. at the ready, when I inevitably flake something.

                      Remember: horse shows eat towels, especially when you need them most! Such as when the pony kid let their pony eat a field full of grass right before the hack...Have towels in your box, hanging out your back pocket, stuffed in your bra, whatever works!

                      Let the rider focus when getting ready to go in the ring. That time is precious between the horse, rider, and trainer.


                      • #12
                        So many good points made already. Organizational skills, especially if you've got more than 4 horses to deal with, are critical.

                        On the road, 14 hour days are standard at a minimum, excluding night watch shifts. Take care of yourself, of course, but there is always work to do ...

                        I'll also add that a great groom knows that while they spend hours with the horse and thus know the ins and outs of the animal very very well, they are ultimately not the trainer/vet/rider/owner and thus do not get too proprietary or territorial toward their charges.


                        • #13
                          And never forget the answer to just about any question an owner asks you about their trip, the course, the way they ride, what they could do better is "ask the trainer".

                          Also never forget they are all for sale-if not now, later. So they are always "cute, honest, really trying, full of heart, just had bad luck". NEVER, ever say anything negative. You don't have to lie, just change the subject-or just shut up. If somebody else starts running down one of your trainer's charges, just find something else to do and don't lend an ear.

                          The barn area is a very, very small world with few secrets populated by those who have memories longer then the Amazon River. Easy for some to ruin their own reputations by and unfortunate remark or being perceived as rude or lazy-and really hard to prove otherwise.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                          • #14
                            When I groomed, I was... always on edge. But in a good way! I was very alert to what was going on and I knew how to work with each specific horse (I groomed for my trainer at the time, so I knew the horses already). I hardly was ever idle.

                            I don't use a groom because I like to do the whole one on one thing with my horse, so I can't really give an experiences.


                            • #15
                              The guy we have help us at shows is the best ever. The best way to put it: He is always a step ahead of me, which is wonderful when I am rushing around. He understands the horse show world, and knows which horse is in what division, and he keeps an ear out for barn calls. He understands that my horses need to jog, so I never have to worry about him taking one back to the barn while I ride the other (and he knows how to jog!!) He is an excellent horseman who takes exceptional care of the horses in his care. I never worry when he is around. Probably the best thing ever? He has an easy manner about him that makes not only my anxiety level go down, but the horses appreciate it too.


                              • #16
                                This `` I agree with this ``` good post `

                                Originally posted by juststartingout View Post
                                A great groom does all of the above... basically a great groom means that nobody is worried about anything....

                                ... and a fantastic groom knows that their skills are truly valuable and differentiates between the pressures/stresses of the job and unreasonable demands
                                This I agree with this
                                Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by findeight View Post
                                  Also never forget they are all for sale-if not now, later. So they are always "cute, honest, really trying, full of heart, just had bad luck". NEVER, ever say anything negative. You don't have to lie, just change the subject-or just shut up.... Easy for some to ruin their own reputations by and unfortunate remark or being perceived as rude or lazy-and really hard to prove otherwise.
                                  Excellent points!!!

                                  As for the downtime, it's fine to sit down for a few minutes to catch your breath, or eat some lunch. If you're sitting for an hour when there is work to be done, you're probably not really cut out for the job at hand.

                                  If I take two new grooms to a show, and one is always sitting, and one is always working, guess which one I'm more likely to ask back for the next show?


                                  • #18
                                    On the flip side, I think a large number of the "groom horror stories" are told by trainers who don't advertise the job correctly and/or expect their grooms to be miracle workers. A groom can only do so much and if the employers set their workers up for failure there is really only one outcome.. It says a lot about a program if they have a high turnover rate with their employees.
                                    ....Of the younger variety


                                    • #19
                                      I think the biggest thing is attitude.

                                      Be cheerful. Accommodating. As laid back as you can possibly be. Roll with the punches, go with the flow. Don't get pissed off at customers/clients. Whatever you do, don't snap at customers, even if they probably deserve it - that won't make anyone happy. Don't yell at customers/clients for not cleaning tack/wrapping their horse/putting stuff away fast enough, especially if it's part of your job to do so. If you are crunched for time, work quickly and efficiently, but don't run around like a chicken with your head cut off and have a freak out. Always be kind to the horses when it is possible, and don't take out your anger/frustrations on them. No owner or lessor likes to see their horse pummeled or attacked because they are pawing or nervous or what have you.

                                      Be a step ahead whenever possible... know when it is time to tack up and leave sufficient time to do so. Know how many trips remain until rider needs to go in the ring. Communicate effectively with the trainer who is going from ring to ring and be able to tell the customer exactly what the trainer is doing and when they will arrive to warm the customer up. Wipe boots, mouths, tack, horse, etc. without being asked. When back at the barn, don't just stand there aimlessly when a customer is obviously in need of some help or is running late. Take breaks, because you deserve them, and eat. Don't let yourself get so run down you become useless, slow, and inefficient. Offer help to customers who need it - if a customer is taking their horse to the wash rack, ask if they need help. That sort of thing.

                                      Oh, and keep up on trims, tails, and cleanliness of horse before it goes in the ring. If it's your job to ensure that the horses are clipped and show-ring spiffy, then make sure they ARE!


                                      • #20
                                        Making sure there is beer in the cooler - along with everything everyone else has said.
                                        And nothing bad happened!