Is the industry getting tougher or are grooms getting lazier? Is grooming a real career?
So often these days you hear of employers looking for grooms, and saying there are no ‘good grooms’ anymore, or that a ‘good groom’ is hard to find, or that grooms are getting lazier.
So what makes a ‘good groom’? I believe what makes a good groom is someone who is reliable, hard working, dedicated, passionate and professional.
Over the years I have come across and worked with some very good grooms, but sadly have come across probably more that are not. They moan that the work is too hard, they constantly clock watch, spend more time on their phone than actually doing any work, and moan if they have to stay late. Unfortunately being a groom is not a Monday- Friday or 9-5 job, I suggest that if that’s the job you’re looking for then go to Tesco. I’m not saying that all younger grooms are unreliable or lazy, this is not the case at all, a lot are very very good, and I appreciate that until you really try something how do you really know if its what you want to do, so of course people will leave and move on.
So it begs the questions; is this because they are lazy? Are the next generation of grooms coming through miseducated or misinformed about what’s its really like to work in the industry? Do they have unrealistic expectations? Do employers have unrealistic expectations? Is the industry or job as a groom getting tougher?
Personally I don’t think that the industry is getting tougher, but neither is it getting easier. It will always be physically demanding. I believe it is however getting easier in the way of minimum wage, sick pay, proper contracts etc and with dedicated organisations such as the BGA to offer help and advice on aspects of pay, contracts, living and working conditions it is becoming a fairer industry.
A lot of the next generation of the grooms coming into the industry are coming through college and university. I think the courses offered are a good way to gain valuable knowledge and experience and qualifications, however I don’t think they perhaps give the most realistic portrayal of what the industry is actually like.
When I did my college course I was only required to complete two weeks of work experience within a yard. I worked in a busy competition yard alongside college anyway so I knew full well what it was really like to work in the industry, but I think for others who didn’t work on a yard separately this two weeks alone would not give you a proper insight into what it’s really like to be a groom.
I think doing work experience is such a good way to work on different yards and in different disciplines, that way you can hopefully get a really good idea as to which area you want to work in or if being a groom is the right job for you at all. As well as college a lot of apprenticeships and working pupil positions are available at top yards each year, these are a brilliant opportunity to gain on the job experience and qualifications, and who knows what opportunities it may lead to.
So do employers expect too much from grooms? I don’t think so, perhaps there are some that do but on the whole no. The employers, riders, owners all put so much time, money and dedication into the industry so its right that they expect a certain level of care for the horses. I myself always think how would I want my own horses to be looked after and what would I expect and then always strive to do that to the best of my abilities for the horses in my care.
I think that the job of a groom has become more recognised and rewarded in recent years. This fantastic for all grooms out there to have something to aspire toward and to get the recognition that is so deserved. Hopefully it will also help to inspire the younger generation, and encourage more people to want to make a career of being a groom. I think social media has played a huge part in this, its so much easier for people to connect and engage in what’s going on in the industry. The British grooms association work tirelessly to raise the profile of grooms and help to make sure we get the respect we deserve, they also try to help with issues such as contracts, national minimum wage and better working and living conditions.
There are now awards specifically for grooms in the industry such as the Haddon training awards and FEI awards. Other grooms in the industry Alan Davies, Mark Fisher and Jackie Potts to name a few also work hard to help raise awareness of how hard working and dedicated grooms are. It also helps that top riders have become more active in supporting their super grooms on social media.
Although it’s become more of a celebrated and respected career which Is fantastic, I think we need to be aware that it doesn’t become ‘glamourised’ if you like, its important to educate the next generation of grooms on what the job really is like to hopefully help them to become the next award winning groom. We can’t ignore the fact that it is a tough industry to make a career in, its both very physically and mentally demanding. Apprenticeships are a great way to gain on the job knowledge and qualifications, a great groom is worth their weight in gold and to work with one is invaluable if you want a career as a groom. There are now qualifications available specifically for grooms, such as the ‘BHS equine excellence pathway’, they offer courses from stage 1 care which is designed for anyone who enjoys caring for horses and is aspiring to perhaps one day carve a career in the industry (a good starting point in your career), then all the way up to stage 5 stable manager, which is aimed at those wanting to fulfil a more senior management role. These courses not only cover the care of the horses but also cover management, health and safety legislation, grassland maintenance etc so requires extensive knowledge and practical skills.
As well as the brilliant courses available I believe on the job experience is invaluable to making a career out of grooming, it also helps to have a good sense of humour, dedication, passion, ambition and a thick skin!
If you think you’ve got what it takes to turn your passion for horses into a career then as I said above there are many ways into the industry and lots of training available, however if you think you just get to pat the pretty ponies all day and you don’t want to get your nails dirty of horse slobber in your hair then grooming is certainly not for you and I suggest a different career path.