When Freya first started school and I was getting to know the other parents of course the conversation would come up, “so what do you do?” For some reason I always replied with “oh I just work with horses.” I downplayed my job role and I really shouldn’t have! I think a lot of us are like that aren’t we?! We don’t give ourselves enough praise and credit for our own abilities and achievements. But also I think I did it because if you aren’t in the equine world you wouldn’t really understand. I recently read a blog by Lucy Blain about being “just a groom” (you can read it here) and it really struck a chord with me. She wrote about how she had been for a job interview and the interviewer looked at her previous job roles and saw that she had been a head groom and an event groom and the interviewer completely dismissed it as “just a girl who worked with horses.” It seems that people who are outside of the equine industry have no idea how hard grooms work, they are some of the hardest working people I know. Yes, there are the exception and there are lazy grooms, but isn’t that just like any other profession? However, most grooms I know are extremely passionate about their work and work bloody hard at their job.
I have worked with horses my entire adult life in various different yards and roles, each one of them has taught me life skills and moulded me into the person I am today. I’m going to share with you the many skills I have learnt from working with horses which are well and truly transferable to outside the equine industry and proof that grooms should not be so readily dismissed as someone who “just mucks out and pats ponies.”
Teamwork. More often than not yards have more than one groom and if you can’t work well within a team being a groom can be a tough gig. I have been lucky to have worked with some really great people in the past. It’s your team that get you through the last hour of the day when you are wet, cold and tired and waiting for the last hunters to come home for the day and still need to be washed, rugged and fed before you can even think about going home for your own warm shower!
Leadership. As well as being able to slot into a team, grooming as allowed me to develop my leadership skills, deligating tasks to other team members and making sure jobs are done up to the correct standard. Which in turn has gained me self confidence, the confidence in myself that I know what I am doing and able to manage others.
Communication. You very quickly learn how to communicate well, whether its a phone call, a text, person to person or even a note scribbled on a whiteboard communication is key when it comes to working with horses. Things change all the time such as exercise and turnout schedules to what feed/supplements horses are having so being able to communicate effectively is all important when you are a groom.
Planning and organisation. From vet and farrier visits, to what needs to be packed in a lorry for a stay away show. Grooms have to be incredibly organised especially if you are working on your own. I remember packing for my first show as a groom thinking “There is so much to do and remember and it’s all my fault if something is forgotten!” Being a groom you very quickly learn how to be extremely organised and realise that lists are your best friend!
Self management. Whilst I have worked at yards where I have been in a team of grooms, I have also worked at yards where I have the sole groom. Being self managed can sometimes be really tough, especially mid winter when its cold, dark and miserable. You have to be your own motivator and organiser or the job simply doesn’t get done.
Customer service. Yes being a groom has taught me customer service skills. I have worked at big yards where clients are coming to view potential horses and you are face of the business. Being pleasant, polite and patient even when the job/life is getting you down, the clients don’t know (care) that you’ve been up since 6am and its actually your lunchtime, they’ve come to view a horse and you have to put your customer service face on and “kick on” and help them out in anyway way you can.
Dedication. I think is goes without saying that anyone who works with horses is dedicated. It isn’t just a job, it’s your passion and a lifestyle that you choose. But when its 3am and horses are arriving from Ireland and you are the one that needs to greet the transporter or its the snow is knee deep and pipes are frozen but there are horses in fields that need hay and water that’s when your true dedication to the job shines through as you just do whatever is needed.
Observation skills. Grooms have to be extremely observant. Horses obviously can’t tell you if they aren’t feeling right until they really aren’t right. Working with horses you get to notice every lump and bump of your charges and notice the slightest of changes in their behaviour and the quicker you notice any differences the quicker they can get sorted.
Problem solving. Horses = problems, they are never straight forward and there is always something to sort out. Whether that be which horse can be turned out in what paddock and with who or a horse who has suddenly started behaving in a strange way and it’s your job to help find out the cause. Being a groom you become very quick at being able to sort out issues.
and last but definitely not least, a sense of humour. Horse people have the best sense of humour, they are able to smile through all sorts of weather that they have to work in, laugh about the days when shows don’t go exactly to plan and they have the best banter going.
So no, we are not “just a groom” we are highly skilled people who are empolyable across any work environment. If you are a groom don’t let anyone belittle your job and your self worth because being a good groom takes a certain sort of person they simply just don’t understand what it is to be a one.