9 Types of Groom You DON’T Want to Be!
At the moment there are so many blogs and articles discussing the negatives that grooms face, I often wonder if we have the balance right. We are always hearing about the grooms perspective and the horror stories encountered, which undoubtedly do exist and need to be aired. BUT….whilst they need to be addressed properly, mature, reasonable grooms will know there are also stories on the other side of things which can range from funny to annoying, to toe-curlingly bad, and sometimes dangerous in the extreme. The following article exploring some groom stereotypes takes a slightly light-hearted look at the other side of employment within the equine industry, poking a bit of fun here and there but nevertheless, a very serious message is underlying. We all need to remember there are DEFINITELY fabulous grooms, but also some not so fabulous grooms, and I think we all would have to agree we have all come across them at one time or another!
Over to our resident blog writer Becky Parker, groom and mountain biker extraordinaire!
9 types of groom you DON’T want to be!
By Becky Parker
1. THE “NEVER STOPS TALKING” GROOM
Characteristics: While this person is often not actually a bad character, they are not terribly useful to have around, and can be very distracting. Often they have the effect of slowing down everybody around them and encouraging bad habits in younger grooms.
Identification: As described by a fellow groom….
“Ugh! The people who talk for England but lack the capacity to work and talk, so just stand there talking, broom in hand, doing nothing!!!
Any groom worth their salt will know that standing entirely still is, in fact, illegal! These characters are mostly well-meaning but lack the tact to realise when you are busy, in a bad mood, or that the person whose ear they are now talking off is actually a client/the farrier/the vet and their chosen subject of dialogue is entirely inappropriate.
2. THE LAZY GROOM
Characteristics: Often can be seen leaning against something, on the phone 24/7, or missing from the yard entirely.
Identification: Often they have a vast array of physical ailments to call upon, gained in action of course ;), which mean they regularly have to be substituted by the increasingly embittered yard junior because their “faceous tendon”, which snapped at the 2000 Olympics is “playing up” AGAIN!
3. THE BOLSHY/”BLAGGING” GROOM
AKA – Little Miss know-it-all
AKA – The Sullen Smirker
Characteristics: This character is the insufferable smarty pants who always has an answer for everything and won’t be told what to do or how to do it by ANYONE and who knows better than EVERYONE! Should you have the misfortune of trying to explain something to this individual, they will either, watch you with a snide smirk on their face or rudely walk off halfway through assuming they know the rest.
Identification: Easily recognised by their tendency to interrupt any story you are telling with the words “Well, when I worked for such-and-such-famous-person“, or tales of the horse they once jumped a 1.3m class on (note they never mention how well!). This stereotype often has some underlying “blagging” traits, and when someone “pretends” to know what they are doing around horses when they actually don’t – let’s not sugar coat it – someone can get killed!
4. THE -er- “STRETCHING THE TRUTH” GROOM
Characteristics: Caroline herself has a great example for this one…..
“When I first came across xxxx she was applying for a junior role so she didn’t have a long work history to check, references were mostly non-horsey and entirely non-committal but not alarming in any way. Anyhow, the Groom didn’t show for one of the interviews we had lined up for her. Naturally, we did our best to find out what happened and when she eventually surfaced after 2 weeks of radio silence, she sobbed inconsolably as Nanna Johnson had unexpectedly passed away, and I reassured her best I could. I suggested she take some time out to regroup. Then after 10 months regrouping, full of sympathy for her plight, one of my colleagues put her forward for another job and she did exactly the same thing. When she was eventually tracked down, guess what? Nanna Johnson had passed away again! Not so much sobbing this time but as much consolation from my colleague, as at this point she was unaware of this miracle which we now refer to as Nanna Johnson’s second passing! To my amazement, some years later this particular job seeker applied for a job directly through the website. The employer called in and said a groom had failed to show up, and when she told me the name I said I would follow it up, as by now I had established who it was that had failed to show and the miracle that had occurred a third time! I called the groom (who amazingly answered the phone first time on this occasion) and said “Nanna Johnson?” She hung up, and needless to say we haven’t heard from her since – poor Nanna Johnson, what a time she had! NB: the name is changed to protect the innocence and reputation of the real Nanna Johnson 😊”
Identification: I find lying (or stretching the truth as Caroline has asked me to call it!) is often the sign of a lazy character too. They can’t be bothered to do the work and so they lie and say a job’s done when it isn’t. This is not only lazy it’s also selfish and often plain dangerous. At best we will all get into trouble for something you’ve not done, at worst a horse escapes, goes hungry or someone gets hurt. A yard is no place for a “truth stretcher”, and, in my opinion, this is one case where being a grass can be the right thing to do!
5. THE WANNABE SUPERSTAR GROOM
AKA – The Drama Queen
Characteristics: Such characters are often of the opinion that they are FAR too good for menial yard chores and should be spending their day solely riding. This is often despite the fact they have only just left college and can barely correctly work the yard schoolmaster. When this plan of theirs is foiled, expect immediate health problems to arise that prevent them from working at all i.e sore back, skin allergies, hay fever, joint issues. The wannabe is an expert drama queen and hypochondriac.
Identification: Can usually be spotted at the job interview stage. Here is how to easily recognise a potential wannabe superstar….
- Appearance – Perfectly straightened hair, fake nails, Gucci handbag, full Pikeur or Ariat outfit and more make up than you would normally wear on a night out in TOWIE.
- Characteristics – Chauffeured by Mum, giggling, flirting with the male boss, many sightings of said person’s mobile within 5 minutes, exaggerated avoidance of mud.
6. THE “OFF THE WALL” GROOM
Characteristics: Too many variations to list!
Identification: Here are a couple of examples…
“I was once on a call with a prospective groom when after 5 minutes of struggling to hear her I asked why she was talking so quietly? Dead casually she answered “Shhh! I was just reading my horse a bedtime story!”. Needless to say I didn’t invite that candidate for an interview!” – 3* Event Rider
While these sort of shenanigans might be ok in some roles, for an eventing or hunting yard who tend to have a ‘kick on and toughen up’ moral, it’s unlikely to be the sort of behaviour they appreciate.
I once worked with a groom who would drink a 70cl bottle of Vodka every night. She would frequently still be under the influence on the yard the next day and was frankly, a bit ripe, and a liability out exercising the fit fresh horses on the roads. One evening she was so out of it I tried to help her off a stool and she fell flat on her face in the tiled kitchen chipping a tooth!
7. THE PUNK ROCKER GROOM
Another true story told to me by Caroline…
“I had a groom with excellent references who had been in all her jobs for many years. The perfect candidate in all respects and we love it when we come across individuals like this. However, unbeknown to us she was literally tattooed from neck to foot. In reality, this wouldn’t have stopped me forwarding her for jobs whatsoever, but I would have like to have known so I could pre-empt any reactions to this which might hinder her chances of getting the job.
She went along for an interview to an old-fashioned carriage driving yard, where I think headscarves were still the order of the day! Shortly after her arrival I received a call from the very proper employer, who was at this point crouching in the corner of her tack room, voice shaking and whispering “Caroline I am sooo scared, I think the wrong person has arrived for the interview, she is a punk rocker and I am here on the yard on my own with her!” A little taken aback, I asked the client whether the person on the yard matched the photo of the person who’s ID we had sent through in advance (this was a head and neck shot from her driving license to verify she was ok to drive the yard lorry, in which she was covered up in a charming Marino wool polo neck jumper). The employer said yes it was, and I then proceeded to talk her down, rather like one of those “999 emergency, how can I help you?” programmes. The groom has now been with the employer for 8 years and they both rub along nicely. I do have to report though, to the best of my knowledge, the employer hasn’t got a tattoo and the groom isn’t sporting a headscarf!”
8. THE SHY GROOM
Characteristics: There are many reasons why a new person might struggle to come out of their shell and become part of the team. They could be nervous, naturally shy, there may be a language barrier etc. For many young grooms, this is their first time living away from home. It can be an intimidating experience, there’s so much to take in and learn. Often yards are miles away from home and sometimes from civilisation too which many would find isolating.
When I worked in Germany on a private yard helping to produce youngsters my boss and the liveries there would often make me feel very excluded by chattering away in German. This was despite the fact they were all equally fluent in English. I understand I was in their country but in many situations it was inconsiderate and made me feel very lonely. Since then this has made me super aware of the effect this has. When working with foreign grooms we should really make the effort to talk a little slower, ask their opinion and be aware of the fact they are miles from home and would probably appreciate a friendly invite to the pub. A little understanding goes a long way.
Identification: When working with foreign grooms we should really make the effort to talk a little slower, ask their opinion and be aware of the fact they are miles from home and would probably appreciate a friendly invite to the pub. Likewise, when dealing with a young or novice groom be considerate that they are possibly feeling a little overwhelmed and may need a little patience from you. A little understanding goes a long way.
9. THE TROUBLE MAKING GROOM
AKA – The Gossip
Characteristics and Identification: This delightful character is the yard gossip, who for no conceivable reason seems to enjoy going from person to person passing grievances, insinuating offence where none was intended and just generally causing trouble. Within weeks a calm peaceful yard with a close-knit team can be turned into a seething pot of resentment until it all blows with maximum drama and backlash. Why exactly these people do this is beyond me, I have never been able to understand what they hope to gain as it always comes back to bite them in the end. My only conclusion is that they simply love the drama. Well, the horse world has quite enough of that and one too many of these characters already, no more needed!
Being a good groom isn’t just about how well you do the job, it’s about your attitudes and how well you interact with other people every day. As discussed in Caroline’s Top Tips for a Successful Job Interview, employers are savvy and a lot of these negative traits can set you back before you’ve even secured a job! If we want to improve standards for grooms, as Caroline says, we must swerve both the dodgy employers AND the dodgy grooms. Even if they do make for some hilarious stories!