“Just a Groom”
by Lucy Blain
My name is Lucy, I am 22 years old and live in central Scotland. I am former Head Girl and Event Groom and I am now a Freelance Groom (recently moved to Fife). Working alongside the SSPCA, I am also a real-life vlogger and blogger! Having been a Groom for a while I am keen to support the industry in any way that I can by bringing the fantastic work that many grooms do both in and out of the spotlight.
Not too long ago, I went to an interview for an equine (plus other animals) role I was really set on, the interview was going swimmingly and I was feeling pretty damn good about it, right up until we started on employment history. When we made it to my role as Head Groom and Event Groom, a member of the panel turned to me and said ‘’so you were just a groom then?’’ with a vacant, almost unimpressed look stamped across his face. I smiled and shrugged the comment off but felt hurt and disappointed that this was the view people took of this role, a role that I poured my very being into every single day for three years.
That grooms’ job that he dismissed so readily taught me more than any other role I have had to date. That job taught me the meaning of hard work. I woke up before the sun every morning and never arrived late to work. Come rain, shine, sweltering heat or freezing snow the horses came first. It didn’t matter if there was no other staff available to work, the horses were still mucked out, bedded down, hayed, watered and fed, even if it did mean finishing at 9pm.
That job taught me the true meaning of organisation. It taught me how to handle pressure and deadlines without breaking a sweat, how to juggle ten tasks at once whilst making sure they are all completed to incomparable standards. It taught me how to plait, pack lorries, wash, bath, trim and pull whilst managing the yard, making sure all the other horses were also cared for.
The margin for error in an admin role or a customer service position is sometimes pretty wide, but when you’re ‘just a groom’ you often aren’t afforded that luxury. One slip up in medication, feeding or turnout can equate to a vet bill, a competition withdrawal or worse. You have to have your eye on the ball and be one step ahead all the time. You have to be able to spot lameness and colic from miles away and know your course of action before your hands even touch the horse.
This job taught me resilience, it taught me how to get back up when you have absolutely nothing left in the tank, how to battle through freezing rain and wind to make sure your horses were comfortable, happy and warm when every other member of staff had packed up and gone home.
Being ‘just a groom’ made me believe in myself, it gave me the confidence to trust my own instincts and make decisions based on facts, not emotions. This job opened doors in my life that, otherwise, would just not have been possible.
Being ‘just a groom’ wasn’t always about horses, it was about being a support team for your rider, being there when the training session didn’t go to plan, riding every stride along with them and wishing your rider and horse home safe from every run. It’s so much more than just the horse, it’s about being part of a team.
Sitting up with a sick horse or hand walking into the night wasn’t in ‘just a grooms’ job description, but I did it, because being ‘just a groom’ wasn’t a 9 to 5 job, it was a lifestyle that I made a commitment to and I refused to waiver on that just because I was tired or wanted to have a shower.
So, you see, in my case being ‘just a groom’ has given me skills that take people twice my age three times as long to acquire. You may look down and dismiss my role as ‘just a groom’ but I know this role was so much more than that and one day, when your sister, brother or best friend decides to follow a dream and work in a professional yard, you might just understand what it took to get there and the hard work involved.
Here’s the thing though, we can change the views of people like the one on the interview panel I referred to. Slowly but surely we are beginning to see a change in attitudes but we need to keep pushing forward and to keep up momentum on the changes that have been happening. There are two partner organisations specifically who speak with one, strong and united voice. If you are a groom or interested in supporting the Grooming industry you should join the British Grooms Association, (I am feeling extremely privileged to be an ambassador for the BGA) and if you want a great job or career advice then you should register free of charge with The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment. Together we can change these attitudes and ensure that people both in and outside of the equine industry really recognize and appreciate the fantastic work that most grooms over the UK and Northern Ireland are doing.
If you would like to read/watch more ramblings please do give me a like on social media: