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Tips for a Newbie Groom

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    Tips for a Newbie Groom

    Hey guys!

    I'm wondering if anyone has any good tips & tricks for someone entering the horse show groom world. I've done the whole working student thing on a smaller scale (shows included), but I will be entering the big leagues very shortly and would appreciate any advice from those who have been there themselves.

    Thanks in advance!
    Our Blog - the (mis)adventures of a rerider and a petite warmblood

    I love the grooming resources here:

    and here:


      Outside of the actual grooming tips you will receive...

      Wear skinny jeans with paddock boots or muck boots to avoid your feet, socks and the bottom of your pants getting wet.

      Bring on-the-go snacks. You won't sit down much and can't keep on the go without some fuel!

      Carry some cash or a wallet that fits in your pocket (for the rare time you ARE by the food stand and have time to grab something).

      Wear a hat and sunscreen.

      Always have your phone on you AND on ring not vibrate. (I have either not felt the vibration or dropped mine while running up to the ring and not been able to find it more times than I can count)

      This should be a given but, don't use clients personal stuff on other horses without asking (even the small things like ear plugs, hoof oil, etc.).

      Have fun!
      There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the
      inside of a man.

      -Sir Winston Churchill


        The lucky braids site is amazing. So many of my own thoughts voiced and so many I didn't understand explained. Love it.

        Originally posted by mfglickman View Post
        I love the grooming resources here:

        and here:
        My herd for life:
        King: 21 year old Foxtrotter gelding
        Ruais: 8 year old Friesian/Arabian mare


          Watch the other grooms! You can learn some awesome tricks from the guys who have been doing it forever


            Watch what the other grooms do and try to learn the routine and anticipate it without having to be told or reminded.

            If you see someone raking the driveway one morning, put "raking the driveway" on your to-do list for the next day. If you see someone going through and dumping all the muck tubs in the grooming stalls, see if you can quietly do it the next day without being asked so that they go, "Wow, I didn't even have to tell her!" Don't wait for someone to assign a task to you, see what chores need to get done and try to anticipate them.

            That being said, it can be a good idea to still check in with people, because while you are raking the driveway, they might be wondering, "Where is she, I need help with this other thing." So if you are about to self-embark on a project, it is a good idea to say, "I was going to dust the cobwebs in the little barn, would you like me to do that or is there something else you would like me to prioritize first?" This is a good way to draw the line between showing initiative but also remaining communicative and part of the team.
            The Noodle
            Boy Wonder
            The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!


              Very important one here- keep your mouth SHUT. You will hear many things not intended for client ears. You will see many things and form opinions about them- don't share unless asked by your boss. And for sure don't offer anything that could be construed as evaluation of a ride or trip to a client, tell them they looked real good to you or you missed most of it but they need to ask the trainer.

              One innocently dropped comment by a groom can wreck havoc with everything from sales to client trainer relations and even client/client relations within the barn. A complaint about long hours, work load, horse acting like a POS, client overestimating the horses talent overheard by clients can mean an early exit from that position.

              Mums the word. Talk to your boss. Period. Pleasantries only with clients
              Last edited by findeight; May. 20, 2015, 12:35 PM.
              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                What meupatdoes and findeight said times a million. (That advice goes for any career, btw!)
                Originally posted by BAC
                I don't think FF's post was rude (not this one at least).


                  Oh, I forgot to add three very useful phrases:

                  1. "Your horse is beautiful."
                  Just tell everyone their horse is pretty. Tell it to other people you board with, tell it to the other working students you work with, tell it to the clients, it works in any situation and it never gets old. You can literally tell someone every time that you see them, "God, I just can't get over how cute your horse is."

                  2. "You and your horse make such a nice pair."
                  This is equally true if they just won at capital challenge or if their horse was a saint to cart them around. It also works for everyone and you can once again literally tell people the same exact thing every day.

                  3. "Any other questions, ask the head trainer."

                  Deviate from these phrases at your peril.
                  The Noodle
                  Boy Wonder
                  The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!


                    Bring clothes for a wide range of weather. Bring a raincoat. Bring spare shoes in case your shoes get wet. Bring whatever you need to get through the day without a break- snacks, drinks, band aids, sunscreen, Advil, phone charger, etc. You might get a break, but don't count on it!


                      Be prepared to see things you don't want to see, and think about how you will react, ie will you stay or will you go?

                      There are questionable practices in the horse world, and downright awful ones, but there are definitely some wonderful people as well.

                      Don't be afraid to leave somewhere that does things you really have a problem with, because there will be another opportunity to work for someone you genuinely admire (with the added bonus of being able to face yourself in the mirror).

                      You really can't ever have enough towels.
                      Let me apologize in advance.


                        Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                        Oh, I forgot to add three very useful phrases:

                        1. "Your horse is beautiful."
                        Just tell everyone their horse is pretty. Tell it to other people you board with, tell it to the other working students you work with, tell it to the clients, it works in any situation and it never gets old. You can literally tell someone every time that you see them, "God, I just can't get over how cute your horse is."

                        2. "You and your horse make such a nice pair."
                        This is equally true if they just won at capital challenge or if their horse was a saint to cart them around. It also works for everyone and you can once again literally tell people the same exact thing every day.

                        3. "Any other questions, ask the head trainer."

                        Deviate from these phrases at your peril.
                        Oh, boy is that phony!! I would counsel against this behavior - won't be long before everyone knows it is disingenuous (sp?)


                          These are all good tips, here is a practical one that I have found really helps. When the horses are eating first thing in the morning, if I have a couple of minutes I like to brush all of the horses and pick feet etc. so that when I am rushing to get the horses ready for a class, I just need to quickly go over the horse and check their tail. It sounds simple, but it has saved me the most time at shows.


                            Originally posted by luvdogz72 View Post
                            Oh, boy is that phony!! I would counsel against this behavior - won't be long before everyone knows it is disingenuous (sp?)
                            No one ever catches on to this. Complimenting someone's horse is a great way to start a conversation, end an awkward silence, smooth over a situation, whatever.
                            Originally posted by BAC
                            I don't think FF's post was rude (not this one at least).


                              My boss' rule is that we never say anything negative about a horse to their owner or to their owner's "people" - if the horse bucked them off we say they were feisty and nothing more!

                              Be sensitive about what information owners might want to keep private. Don't talk about a horse's health or soundness issues or the price they were purchased for or the cost of their tack. You very well might know this information but it doesn't mean it's supposed to be public knowledge.

                              Horses get taken care of before you do. It's like the "officers eat last rule" - even if I've just finished an hour long ride in the summer I won't stop for water until my horse is at least untacked & boots off, preferably hosed down as well.

                              OTOH, make sure you bring a water bottle and some easy snacks with you to shows - you won't always have time to run to the snack shack for food, and you do need to eat to keep going! I know I tend to forget to eat until I'm in full loopy mode, especially at shows where there's hardly any peace.

                              Make friends with the other grooms if you can - sometimes it's awkward being the one girl at a show where all the guys are already friends, but they're great people to know and have a lot of knowledge about the job.

                              Depends on your barn setup, but if you braid regularly consider getting your own braiding kit. My boss has her own braiding stuff that I can use, but I like to know that all the particular things I like are in my bag and ready to go. No riffling around at 4AM looking for working scissors or the comb & clip I like, and I can also control what kind of yarn I want to use.

                              If you're working on your own a lot, make sure you communicate with your trainer when there's time to do so, usually in the morning when they get there. Check the horses that need to get done and have a rough plan to go over with them before they get there - keep track of who can be left waiting in the barn vs. who needs to be supervised and make sure you can work around that, know the lesson schedule and feeding times. The trainer will have their own plan, but they appreciate it if you can give them a heads-up about potential issues way far in advance instead of as it's happening.

                              Have a list in your head of what you need to do when you have downtime; write it on the whiteboard or your phone if you need to. Easy to get distracted for ten minutes and then remember that whoops, that horse needs braids pulled and now there's about eight seconds to do it.

                              Handwalk your horses as often as you can! This might depend on the trainer, but personally I think it makes a huge difference when they're stuck in a tiny show stall. With one or two horses at a show I generally walk 30-45 mins in the morning, a lap around while we're waiting for their rider, 30 mins after ride and another 30 before bed.

                              Learn your trainer's preferences in tack & handling no matter how weird. Everyone has their own way of doing things and it helps things run smoothly if they're not always tightening the throat latch another three holes or moving the saddle up or whatever. There's almost always a logic behind how they do it.

                              Learn what each horse typically spooks at & try not to rile them up right before a class - I always have to remember to listen for the water trucks before taking my trainer's horse out, they just freak him out for some reason. Desensitization is great, but five minutes before they go in the ring isn't a great time to do it!

                              Keep on top of tack cleaning! Some trainers are more lax about this than others, but it really does help if you don't have to do a mass scrubbing the night before a show. Wipe everything down after schooling, and get some of those scrubby kitchen sponges so the bits are easy to keep clean. Best practice is to clean everything before you pack it in the trailer to go home; once you've unloaded everyone for the night you probably won't want to.


                                Oh my... I was worried I might leave something out but I think that's all!


                                  I loved being a groom. Lucky that I groomed for good people, that respected my work.

                                  My thing to add is to be nice to everyone from the gate person to the other competitors. For example, if you are standing by a jump and someone else knocks it down, then help set it up...that said, make sure you know how to adjust fences in the warm up: adjust from the SIDE, not by standing in front of the jump or eventually you WILL be jumped.

                                  I found that by being nice (even when I was tired and grumpy), other people were more likely to be nice back: sharing warm up jumps, being more accommodating at the gate as two examples.
                                  Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                    Great advice here so far. I would double/echo the advice to be NICE to everyone (even when tired/sunburnt/soaking wet/etc) and also to be extremely discreet with respect to any personal information you might end up with about clients, their horses, the trainer, or anything to do with money.

                                    The one thing that I would add is just a gentle reminder that there are quite a lot of riders who get nervous before they show. This may manifest itself in different ways right before they go to the ring - they can be a bit abrupt, or snap that they need X, stuff like that.

                                    It really really really helps if you can ignore the tone, smile and help them with whatever it is. Remember it's the nerves, and if you can, let it roll off your back.

                                    Along those same lines, be mindful of how you deal with the clients' horses in front of them. I'm not saying to let the horse walk on you, nip or whatever, but having a CTJ session right before the owner/rider goes into the ring is probably not the best time to do it.

                                    Oh, and WEAR GLOVES, especially to set jumps. It will really save your hands.

                                    Good luck and have fun!
                                    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                                      Smile ~ Work methodically ~ Enjoy !

                                      Smile ~

                                      Work methodically ~

                                      ENJOY !
                                      Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                                        From a customer point of view, these are all good suggestions. Especially the one about hand walking the horses. I love to see that my horses get out of their stalls for more than the classes they go in. I will often hand walk my own horse, but it is wonderful to see that the grooms will do it, too.

                                        I have a question to ask of all you experienced grooms about tipping. ---- The barn I am at charges $100/day for daycare. I have no idea how that money gets allocated to the trainer and each groom, and it is not my business. But I know how hard the grooms work and I think they should be financially rewarded for their efforts.

                                        So........ What kind of tips do you all expect, over and above what the customer pays for daycare? 1. When each groom is assigned several horses so the client knows who has taken care of their horse, or 2. when all the grooms pitch in and do whatever needs doing at the time, so there is no one groom who has helped with your horse?

                                        And, is it appropriate to hand a tip to each person, or should the customer pay tips to the trainer and he/she adds tips to your pay?
                                        "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"