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being a groom...

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  • being a groom...

    I just started working as a full time live in groom at a fancy schmancy private A circuit barn. And I seem to have a couple issues that slightly need to be vented, but more importantly I need advice as to whether this is dysfunctional or indeed normal for my position. I will describe...

    I've worked at multiple barns (3 long term positions), from busy dressage boarding barns with resident grand prix trainer, to average joe lesson barns, to upper middle class multi-discipline boarding barns, to rich girls with horses on their private property. So I'm pretty experienced on a variety of daily farm chore routines, I've even been responsible for doing the extra stuff like lungeing, wrapping, grooming, medication, etc.

    ANYWAY, I came to this barn and got pretty confused about the daily events.

    The maintence chores such as mucking, turnout, feeding, sweeping, random chores like cleaning water buckets, that type of stuff, are all planned out. After a couple days I got the routine down pat, easy as pie, nothing too radical, pretty standard stuff.

    (Side note: all the riders are staff employed by the stable and all horses owned by the stable)

    The thing that puts bumps in my day is that all the regular chores have to be planned around the riders and which horses they ride. Which is fine, well, being, I am a groom after all!! The problem: no one ever communicates to me who's being ridden when until it happens. Not to mention I'm never really told anything else like when the farrier is coming, or when the owners are making a special visit to the barn, or when clients are looking at horses, or if various media organizations are coming, until I'm getting yelled at for not doing something special for an event I didn't know about. I'm starting to get really frustrated being kept in the dark, especially since the earliest I've left after work so far is an hour after finish time (sometimes it's been two hours after, we get paid wage, so no over time), and I could deligate between my chores way better if I knew what everyone else was up to.

    I have been trying to take initiative and asking if I can start a chore or turn out horses, but the answer has always been 'not yet!', when I ask for something to do in the mean time I'm told to 'hold on'. So I end up awkwardly standing around until I get in trouble for slacking and get told to do the next chore or turn out Fluffy. I ask tons of questions about the routine and the workings of the farm, but besides the chores like mucking and shavings, the details of how many horses to bathe, groom, tack up, etc. I'm never told.

    This kind of freaks me out a little, because I get the feeling that the riders think my position doesn't NEED to know the details. The details are apart of decisions by people above me and none of my concern. But honestly even if I don't handle Studly the Stud, and will never be grooming him, isn't it better for everyone if I know that he will be bathed this afternoon? That way I might not walk Ginger the flirty mare by the wash stall and go the long way around. And yes there *is* a daily list of whos being ridden and whos to be groomed and whos going to the show, but its contents have never been made available to me.

    That being said I've only *just* been hired, will it get better with time? Will I be informed of whats going on? Should I bring this up with management? Dare say, should I bring this up with the riders?? (and yes if I do bring this up I will extensively soften my words while staying true to the issue, if I've learned anything about the horse world, death be to thee who questions ones horse management skills!!)

    I'm fairly easy going in terms of being told what to do, I do it to the best of my ability, fast and efficently and I don't complain. During a *busy* time period I only ask the questions needed to do the chore to standard, nothing more, nothing less. But I love to atleast know the basis of whats going on before hand because I'm really strong at deligating and time management. That way the busy times become less busy due to the prep that occurred during the slow times.

    *sigh* maybe I'm just too darn independant for a 'I say jump you say how high' type of job???

  • #2
    I would talk to whom ever hired you.

    Comment


    • #3
      I would definitely communicate that you would like some more well, communication! I would say it nicely like "I understand that you are really busy and that things can change at the drop of a hat but would it be possible to have access to a schedule each day so I know when not to do things with certain horses/when certain things need to be done by." Or something to that effect (my brain has turned off for the night now that the bell tolls 11 )

      Good luck
      No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle. ~Winston Churchill
      For Hope, For Strength, For Life-Delta Gamma
      www.etsy.com/shop/joiedevivrecrafts Custom Wreaths and Other Decorations

      Comment


      • #4
        Speak with the person who hired you. That may be asking who the "keeper of the calender" is, and approaching that person.

        My strategy with both all these peeps would be:

        We are all on the same team, and I want to do my part to make things go even better than they did before I was hired. So I'm just asking for a schedule so that I can do my job better.

        If you make it clear that your request isn't a criticism of their communication style, but a way for them to ultimately get what they want, it should work itself out.

        Otherwise, keep doing what you are told when you are told to do it. Once they have the idea that things could go better if you could plan the day, they might find a way to put you in the loop. But don't take their inability to manage time as a personal thing.

        Best of luck to you.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat

        Comment


        • #5
          I've seen dry erase whiteboards set up before with the day and the time. If you had one of those, the owners could mark in the slots for "farrier" and the time each horse should be ready each day. I think it would help everyone, and it shouldn't take very long for them to fill it in. The only problem might be that they take issue with someone trying to "organize" them.

          Comment


          • #6
            Debbie Downer here...

            Being a groom sucks. You'll either learn how to deal with their management style or you won't. And they may be keeping you in the dark about daily chores because they are waiting to see if you're going to quit. There's such a high turnover for grooms, so many people don't want to waste time teaching someone who's just going to quit in a week anyway. You might get better at anticipating what they want without them telling you, but the working situation usually doesn't get better, it gets worse. Some people don't see anything wrong with chaos, and have no sympathy for a groom that was just told that 8 horses need to be groomed and tacked up in the next 5 minutes, even if they just made you stand around for an hour doing nothing. You can politely suggest a dry erase board, or even better, ask if there's a way to post a daily schedule that can be changed (that way it makes them look like the genius for "coming up" with a dry erase board) but if they like things the way they are, they're not going to change. So unfortunately, you either learn to make it work or you don't.

            I know, I know, I'm a buzzkill...

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Seven-up View Post
              Debbie Downer here...

              Being a groom sucks. You'll either learn how to deal with their management style or you won't. And they may be keeping you in the dark about daily chores because they are waiting to see if you're going to quit. There's such a high turnover for grooms, so many people don't want to waste time teaching someone who's just going to quit in a week anyway. You might get better at anticipating what they want without them telling you, but the working situation usually doesn't get better, it gets worse. Some people don't see anything wrong with chaos, and have no sympathy for a groom that was just told that 8 horses need to be groomed and tacked up in the next 5 minutes, even if they just made you stand around for an hour doing nothing. You can politely suggest a dry erase board, or even better, ask if there's a way to post a daily schedule that can be changed (that way it makes them look like the genius for "coming up" with a dry erase board) but if they like things the way they are, they're not going to change. So unfortunately, you either learn to make it work or you don't.

              I know, I know, I'm a buzzkill...
              This. What Seven said.
              "Aye God, Woodrow..."

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm not a full time groom, but i'm a working student at the barn and basically that makes me the groom/excersizerider/slave/etc. So i pretty much know what you're going through. Granted, I can usually keep myself motivated if i have to work late (ugh. working 12 hours on a saturday is NOT fun. the ONLY thing that keeps me from going bonkers and slacking on those types of days is how i remember i'm getting $10/hour!)

                Now, I'll admit, we're a little more organized here. It looks like you at working in a sale barn. I work at a lesson and boarding barn, so it's a littttle bit different. There is a lot more communication here, but there is always a little "oopsie i forgot to tell you this, now can you go get these 5 horses ready for the lesson that starts in 2 minutes?" every week. But fact of the matter is, no matter what place you end up grooming for, this is going to happen. They're going to forget to tell you something, and *somehow* they will decide it's your fault--best not to ruminate over it. Just get those 5 horses ready as fast as you can, and you know no matter what it's not going to happen in 2 minutes, and arguing won't make it happen faster either.

                However, I DO suggest that you speak with whoever manages you, assuming it's the same person that hired you. Explain that you are trying your hardest but feel that you could be more efficient and productive if there was a set, written, CHANGEABLE list of things to do in the order to do them (like the dry erase board--a staple of a barn) and a schedule of some sort, and you feel that the lack of communication makes it harder for you to get all your work done on time--give an example that maybe no one told you til the last minute that there was a lesson with XYZ horses, and now the lesson will be late because you can't get them tacked up in an instant (say it this way so it sounds like you're blaming yourself, not blaming the people who didn't tell you.) and you feel something to show when the lessons/rides are would help make sure you can get everything done on time so the schedule runs smoothly and the trainers won't have to wait around (let them naturally come up with the dry erase board idea. i mean, after all, your employer IS a genius, isnt he/she? )

                good luck! hang in there. being a groom is not easy. but hey it's a good work out all that sweeping and mucking? great for those abs! (well, actually, it IS isnt it?) think of it this way: you're getting paid to be around the animals you love. you might be mucking their poop, but you still love em :P it beats sitting in a cubicle all day. and another way to see it is that the people you're getting the horses ready for? they probably don't know squat about horse care if they can't get the horse ready themselves so consider yourself an intellectually superior being! haha
                (|--Sarah--|)

                Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3

                Comment


                • #9
                  Maybe you could approach your boss and tell him/her that you are concerned that you still haven't picked up the rhythm of the farm, and ask him/her if he/she has any suggestions... Express your concern that you don't want them disappointed in your work. Ask them for any ways they think you could run more smoothly... I would start there, if you wanna keep your job... if you are unhappy, then maybe its just not a good fit? Different barns have different rhythms, it takes time to settle in, i would just be humble and explain that you are trying to figure out how the barn runs, and ask everyone to help you out a bit if possible...
                  www.millcreekfarm.net
                  **RIP Kickstart aka Char 12/2/2009**

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    just wanted to add... Flexibility is sooo important in a groom... sometimes people show up last minute and want to try horses, sometimes people cancel... sometimes people show up and are a bad match for a horse you had in mind and horses need to get switched out quickly... Sometimes rings move slower than expected and horses need to go back to the barn to relax, sometimes rings move faster and horses need to be tacked superfast and jogged to the ring... i could go on and on as im sure you know... Don't let your confusion on the way the barn runs come off as being rigid...
                    www.millcreekfarm.net
                    **RIP Kickstart aka Char 12/2/2009**

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You mentioned that you get no overtime. If you are in the U.S., a groom's position doesn't qualify as a salaried position, which means you must be paid for every hour you're working...and overtime for every hour over 8/day and 40/week.

                      If you're an employee-haven-state like me, it's even better for the employee and worse for the employer.

                      I know, I know, so very often abused a rule in the U.S.; but I know the IRS (and our state's agency) are really cracking down this year on employers who violate the wage & hours laws.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        okay, the double edged sword of groom/ employer relationship.
                        1. a poorly run barn is that way because the higher ups don't communicate clearly. whining from below only gets more s&%# tossed down hill. Any type of sensible communication from below will be translated by said employer as whining.
                        2. taking it upon yourself to manage the situation with superwoman cape a-flowing shows the employers that you are a super great grunt and .... it gets more s*%# thrown down hill on you, cause you proved you can handle it.
                        welcome to the soft underbelly of the horse industry. get used to it. If you are tenacious, you will survive this barn long enough to learn some valuable stuff you didn't know before. If you just can't hack the disorganization and the overuse and abuse of the nameless faceless slobs the employers shout orders to, let's go find a well run barn for ya. Either way, keep your chin up. not all barns are run with their heads up the perverbial horse's arse.

                        A great groom is priceless. A great employer is priceless too.

                        when I was in my twenties, i bent over and took it because I wasn't considered "experienced" enough to know what the hell I was talking about to make suggestions on improvements. That never stopped any of my empoyers from seeing my ability to multi-task, thus expecting more than was humanly possible of me.
                        As I left my twenties and entered my thirties, my age alone earned me more respect among my peers. I hadn't changed how I felt or what I knew would work. I guess it just sounded better coming from a "seasoned" horsewoman.

                        Now I own my own barn and tell folks to eat it, albeit my age and experience makes it so much more diplomatic that it sounds. the one good thing about wrinkles...
                        ...don't sh** where you eat...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          My personal opinion is , if the head trainer is this disorganized you do not want to work there. Bide your time, bite your tongue and look for another job, Yes you as GROOM should be able to have a established routine since you the groom are responsible for the daily care of the horses and the smooth running of the day . If they are treating you like crap now it will only get worse, Good grooms are hard to find and if they are that good they are hard to keep .. If your good you will be hired by people who appreciate a hard dedicated worker and will treat you with respect..

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MIKES MCS View Post
                            My personal opinion is , if the head trainer is this disorganized you do not want to work there. Bide your time, bite your tongue and look for another job, Yes you as GROOM should be able to have a established routine since you the groom are responsible for the daily care of the horses and the smooth running of the day . If they are treating you like crap now it will only get worse, Good grooms are hard to find and if they are that good they are hard to keep .. If your good you will be hired by people who appreciate a hard dedicated worker and will treat you with respect..
                            I agree with this.

                            Also, someone mentioned not coming off as rigid with needing a schedule. I really would not worry about that particularly. Of course, things come up at the drop of a hat in any type of barn no matter how it is run. Generally a decent employer will approach with, "All the sudden I need XYZ done, can you do that as quickly as possible, right now? Thanks." But in this situation it sounds like you'd be treated like an idiot for not having ESP and knowing ahead of time that unscheduled XYZ was going to need to be done. You can't make people like that happy, ever.
                            2016 RRP Makeover Competitor www.EnviousBid.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Raises hand, I vote with MIKE MCS.

                              Start looking for another job. Cover your ass. You will be a lot happier. Not everyone or everyplace is the right match in life, sometimes time to move on is the only thing to say.

                              Ask how many grooms they've been thru and how long each worked there, if there is anyone you can trust, maybe not there in that barn, someone outside of the situation.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I pay off my training by working on Sundays at a busy boarding/training facility. I guess I am pretty lucky I am kept in the loop with mostly everything. A dry erase board dictates what horses go out when boots ect. And another board does feed/meds. I tack for the trainers as well as stalls/turnout and other chores. Trainers will tell me a general list of what horses they are riding and are very mindful if the horses are out and rides the ones that are inside first. Of course things will pop up and I will have to drop something to do another but they let me know what is priority.

                                No farm is perfect but you should go ask and find out what the schedule of what is going to be going on that day. It really makes more sense for them to be better organized so they dont waste time and money.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  You don't say how long you've been there, just that it's not very long. If it's 2 weeks, yes it will get better, you will figure out the rythm of the barn and you'll be able to forsee some of the things that are happening on a regular basis.

                                  If you've been there for 2 months and things are still crazy then you might need to look around for a situation that fits you better.

                                  My advice to anybody is to give it at least 6 months, preferably a year (unless it becomes absolutely unbearable to be there).

                                  Unless you are assigned to a specific rider/horses it might be that you are not getting informed because nobody has taken on being your "boss" and the big boss is too far away and presumes everybody knows what's going on. Try "buddying up" to a rider that you like and who's horses you mostly care for. Ask him/her to help you out with a heads up as you don't want to mess up.
                                  Or make friends with another groom and have them help you out by giving you small chores etc.

                                  Nobody wants to have to micromanage anybody else though.
                                  Once you've been there for a while you'll know what needs to be done and what you should always do just in case.

                                  One trick I've learned is to find busy work for times when you don't know what to do. Take it upon yourself to find something that you can do that you can also leave in a haste if you should be called upon to do something else.
                                  Rolling up bandages is a great one, so is cleaning tack, (if it's not your tack, tell whoever groom is responsible that you don't know what to do for the next 20 min and would love to help him/her out to have something to do, grooms can get pissy if they think you're trying to one-up them)
                                  Take a brush and do cobwebs, dust something off, polish brass/windows etc. Organize messy shelves, the list is endless, you've just got to find somethings that are yours to do without having to be asked and that everybody will appreciate.

                                  As you've noticed you get told off if you just stand around, so learn "the-stressed-out-walk".
                                  It's very simple, always carry something, a leadline or a halter for example. Even when you are in fact not moving, don't stand still. Fidget with your halter, step in place and look around you as if you were on your way somewhere. Keep your hands busy straightening things out even if you happen to be in a conversation about the upcoming weekend with one of your co-workers. This will most likely keep you out of troubble even if somebody is looking for you to do something else.

                                  Oh and also if somebody who way outranks you (like the big boss or a rider who might be asked to give his/her opinion on you) asks you to do something that you don't completely understand/know how to do or where to find (as long as you get the general gist of it) just say "Sure, no problem". Then find somebody else that can explain it to you in more detail.
                                  Nobody wants to spend more time explaining something then it would take them to do it themselves, but if you come to somebody else who's not busy and say "NN just asked me to do XX I don't know what he means/where to find this etc could you please help me out", they will most likely not have a problem with giving you directions.

                                  Watch what's going on and who does what in different situations, look for patterns and try to predict what might happen next, if somebody is giving a lesson or is just riding and starts looking around for a stick, go get one before they ask you. They might not need it, but if you get one and put it on the fence just in case, this will be noticed. If there's a vetting going on, go get a lungeline in case they want to see the horse on a circle. That kind of stuff.

                                  In a busy high-pressure sales or show barn there's days when everybody is stressed. If the big boss is in a bad mood it filters down. Learn the difference between when you are getting snapped at because somebody else just got told off on their end, a customer was difficult or a sale went sour and when it's because you messed up.
                                  In the former, shrug your shoulders at it and think, ok they got to vent a little, I'm happy I could be of service! (Nah, it's not right but it happens and there's no point in taking things personally if they aren't) In the case of the latter, hang you head in shame and then do better next time!

                                  Again, it could be that you are not "informed" because it's a busy barn, you float inbetween and nobody has been assigned to be your "manager". Once you find/develop your place in the machinery everything will start to make more sense.

                                  Give it some time, find a mentor and do your best to roll with the punches and you'll be just fine.

                                  Good luck!
                                  Timothy, stop lurking

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I've also had a few different difficult jobs, here's a story from my past just because i really thought of this job when I red the OP.

                                    I once worked for a guy who has adult ADD. The first six weeks on the job I was running around like a headless chicken most of the time. I was trying to do something, then shifting ways mid stride when he changed his mind. I once tacked up three different horses without riding either of them because he changed his mind before I had the chance to get on. I lived on peptobismol I was so stressed out. Two things happened that changed it all. A I went up to his office just before we were shipping out for Kentucky and said, I need to talk to you. He said, "Why? Are you quitting?" And I said, "As a matter of fact, yes." I can't do this job the way you want it to be done, so i think you need to hire somebody else. I'm not leaving this minute, I'd never just leave you high and dry. I'll do Kentucky with you, stay until you find a replacement. I'm really sorry, I thought I could be the person you needed here but I can'tseem to get it right.

                                    B, After that the manager came out in the barn laughin her head off. She said that the look on boig bosses face when I said I wanted to quit was priceless. She told me that she really appreciated how I had gone about it. That I told them I would stay on until they found what they needed instead of just running away in the middle of the night like everybody else. She also fessed up to me that big boss had ADD and couldn't keep a thought in his head for more then 5 seconds at best. She said that despite of what you think he doesn't jerk you around on purpose. Best thing to do is just sit tight for 5 min until he's figured out what he really wants you to do.

                                    In the end I stayed on for 7 months. Doing all kinds of wierd stuff, sometimes freaking out (like when he flew me down to palm beach to drive his car up north for the Hamptons. I had to drive alone straight through to make it in time for Old Salem and bring his ancient incontinent poodle with me on top of that) but mostly having pretty fun doing it. I'd have been there longer if 9/11 hadn't happened.
                                    Big boss came back from Europe after seeing his stock plummet, decided that he was going to cut down drastically and relocated (sold, LOL) most of his staff. He simply said, I've got to cut down. I've found you another job, they will pay you $100 more then I did. You have an interview there tomorrow if you want it!
                                    Pretty cool thing to do. Cracks me up to this day!
                                    Timothy, stop lurking

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I agree w/what most of the posters stated and I also want to reiterate what Star Creek mentioned about overtime. Depending on your pay structure you might very well be entitled to overtime pay - which is typically time and a half for any time worked over 40 hours in a week. But your employer might get around this by including housing and whatnot - it is not always that cut and dry.

                                      As far as being left out - sorry to say that can happen in any industry... in any job position - oh my I could tell you some stories about my boss..

                                      how about having your boss call or you while they're on vacation in Italy - to ask You how to get from one Italian town to the next... Hello I'm in the USA...and while your at it look for a hotel... and a good restaurant for us to stop for dinner... huh? I kid you not...

                                      If its a nice place and for the most part you like your job - I'm thinking your employers must have confidence in your ability so just assume you know the drill.. Remind them that you are good but not that good - meaning you don't have a crystal ball.

                                      Best of luck to you

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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by DancingQueen View Post
                                        I've also had a few different difficult jobs, here's a story from my past just because i really thought of this job when I red the OP.

                                        I once worked for a guy who has adult ADD. The first six weeks on the job I was running around like a headless chicken most of the time. I was trying to do something, then shifting ways mid stride when he changed his mind. I once tacked up three different horses without riding either of them because he changed his mind before I had the chance to get on. I lived on peptobismol I was so stressed out. Two things happened that changed it all. A I went up to his office just before we were shipping out for Kentucky and said, I need to talk to you. He said, "Why? Are you quitting?" And I said, "As a matter of fact, yes." I can't do this job the way you want it to be done, so i think you need to hire somebody else. I'm not leaving this minute, I'd never just leave you high and dry. I'll do Kentucky with you, stay until you find a replacement. I'm really sorry, I thought I could be the person you needed here but I can'tseem to get it right.

                                        B, After that the manager came out in the barn laughin her head off. She said that the look on boig bosses face when I said I wanted to quit was priceless. She told me that she really appreciated how I had gone about it. That I told them I would stay on until they found what they needed instead of just running away in the middle of the night like everybody else. She also fessed up to me that big boss had ADD and couldn't keep a thought in his head for more then 5 seconds at best. She said that despite of what you think he doesn't jerk you around on purpose. Best thing to do is just sit tight for 5 min until he's figured out what he really wants you to do.

                                        In the end I stayed on for 7 months. Doing all kinds of wierd stuff, sometimes freaking out (like when he flew me down to palm beach to drive his car up north for the Hamptons. I had to drive alone straight through to make it in time for Old Salem and bring his ancient incontinent poodle with me on top of that) but mostly having pretty fun doing it. I'd have been there longer if 9/11 hadn't happened.
                                        Big boss came back from Europe after seeing his stock plummet, decided that he was going to cut down drastically and relocated (sold, LOL) most of his staff. He simply said, I've got to cut down. I've found you another job, they will pay you $100 more then I did. You have an interview there tomorrow if you want it!
                                        Pretty cool thing to do. Cracks me up to this day!


                                        Haha, I had the ADD boss too. Every day, you'd hear about why hasn't XXX been done yet, that's the first thing that should get done EVERY DAY!!!" Except it was a different thing every day. I had 53 things to do first. And there were 2 bosses who constantly told me, "Don't listen to her. You do what I say." I think they just did that for fun so they'd have something to yell about.

                                        Mine didn't end up nearly as good as yours, though. I ended up quitting at a show, tried to give 2 weeks notice but was told I sucked and couldn't do the job (total 'Well I didn't want to play with your toys anyway, they're ugly and they smell bad' routine) so I walked out right there. I lasted a year at that job, which is 364 days longer than I ever thought I could make it with those particular idiots. And now, a year later, they're still trying to find a replacement. And they're hiring 3 different people for the job I did. Ya' know, since I wasn't good at my job or anything.

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