What it Means to be a Groom This Week: Five Things You Need to Know August 24 2015 12 Comments

Why grooms need plenty of appreciation this week

Louisville week has begun and we are all exhausted already! We’ve been up early and up late every day to see every single class on the schedule and hit every exhibitor party there is because it’s Louisville week!  Well let me tell you who is 10x more exhausted than you can even imagine: your grooms! Here are five things you need to know about what it means to be a groom this week.

1. Exhaustion, Exhaustion, Exhaustion

Sleep's going to be minimal for a groom at any show. But this is especially true at Louisville, as the show happens to be a full seven days, instead of the usual three or four. This means that your grooms have actually been there for more like 13 days to get the stalls set up, and to get the horses there and settled before it all begins. That also means they are going to be running on an average of two to four hours of sleep - two for a normal day, and four on a slow one! Their level of exhaustion is incomprehensible. It’s like… stupid tired. It’s the kind of tired where you fall asleep if you lean on something solid (even standing). It’s the kind of tired where you occasionally don’t know if you are awake or dreaming!

2. Nutrition Is OUT The Window

Not only are your grooms exhausted - their access to healthy, nutritional food is very limited, and they'll very rarely have the actual time to MAKE food if they have brought healthy food with them. This week is a grab-and-go for EVERY meal kind of week, and that means eating a lot of fair food. If you recall that day or two when you head to your local county or state fair and eat the fried, greasy crap that we all love to have every once in awhile, remember how TERRIBLE you feel afterward because it’s just plain unhealthy (delicious, but unhealthy).  Now imagine eating only that for the entire show week (including a few days before), while functioning on minimal sleep and working a physical job in the summer heat.

3. Sleeping Conditions Suck

One of the biggest causes of exhaustion is the fact that your grooms are keeping your tack and your horses safe by sleeping in a sleeping stall AT the stables. That’s right, no comfy hotel room bed with a continental breakfast (see above), but a stall, hopefully with a little plastic for the floor and for the ceiling (as a barrier against bird poop), and hopefully a mobile air conditioning unit. And even in the event they've got all these things, they're still sleeping in a barn.

4. Before, During, And After Care

Your grooms are spending countless hours clipping, sanding and polishing feet, washing legs, washing tails, and putting braids in just to prep for the show. They then spend at least 30 minutes brushing up and getting your horse ready for your class, making sure you have the perfect saddle pad, your saddle and bridle are spotless and your horse has all the little things they need (including THEIR road boots - if they need them - and a candy before they get their bridle on). They delicately and expertly put in their tail switches and braces (if needed), bridle and walk the horse until your moment has arrived. When it does, they help you on, wipe you down and ensure your pants are rolled down and clean. They then take absolutely EVERYTHING their hands and pants pockets can hold in terms of extras and what-if items to ensure that nothing is out of place for you and your horse and before you head in, they drop your tail, wipe down your horse, and wipe you down one last moment to ensure you are SPOTLESS for your moment.  Finally when you come out, no matter how your ride went, they will take your horse back to their stall, bathe and hot walk them, brush them up and put them to bed with a pat, a candy, and maybe even if a kiss if they groom like I do. The list of to-do’s on show days go on and on and on and this isn’t even the half of it!

5. They Love Your Horse As Much As You Do

Grooms love their horses. Their string means the world to them. They take pride in their group of horses and they want them to be perfect for you and for the world. When you win, they win. When your horse is hurting, they are hurting.  And when your back is turned after giving your horse peppermints and you have headed back to the front of your aisle to socialize, they are telling your horse how great they were today and how beautiful they looked (they are also definitely giving them more candy).

So while we think WE are tired from all the fun and that WE work hard to get to all the exhibitor parties, take a moment to really appreciate your grooms and ALL they do to ensure your experience is the best of the best.  Little things make a big difference like showing your gratitude with a “Thank You” whenever possible, bringing around fresh fruit and vegetables whenever possible, and contributing ice and drinks to the barn cooler for them. And if you are lucky enough to win some roses, consider giving some to your groom for their own shadow box… believe me - the ribbons you forgot to pick up from last year’s big shows are hanging in their room with a photo they printed off. A rose would make all the difference in the world.

Photo from National Horseman, used with permission.