Tips for Grooms Working with Horses at Christmas
Most weeks on social media I wish everyone working or not, a good weekend. Here at The Grooms List by Caroline Carter Recruitment we recognise that a groom’s lot can sometimes be a Cinderella-like existence – whilst others are off relaxing, shopping etc., the world of the horse is around the clock weekends, holidays or not! Christmas and New Year are certainly no different.
Becky Parker and I, plus The Grooms List team members have all done what you do, and this week’s article features 10 fun ideas to make the best of the forthcoming holiday season on the yard. I will certainly be thinking of you when I am out doing my own horses over Christmas. I wholeheartedly recommend most of the ideas below, must read that book though! (Tip 9).
Ho ho ho!
10 Top tips for a KOOL YULE 2017 – for the working groom
For the vast majority of ‘normal’ people, Christmas means a nice relaxing few days off, spending time with family and lounging around over a long boozy lunch. For the vast majority of employers and grooms working with horses at Christmas, it just means business as usual. In hunting and racing yards Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year, as boxing day meets are one of the most popular days out for owners.
Though it may be hard to fully convince yourself that shovelling poo is the first most ideal thing you would like to do on Christmas Day, there are plenty of ways to keep the festive spirit alive and still enjoy Christmas. Here are our top suggestions for how to survive the holiday season.
1. Have an early pretend Christmas
Many of us with separated parents will have cottoned onto this clever way of bagging yourself two Christmas days long ago. Move your personal celebrations with family/friends to your nearest day off to the event itself or better yet book a whole weekend off and make it your own mini bank holiday. This is a fantastic way to legitimise two separate days of eating excessive quantities of chocolate during the day and overindulging on beverages and too much food in the evening. When Christmas day itself comes round and you have less free time for both you won’t feel so much like you’ve missed out.
2. Organise a staff Christmas brunch
If you work with a few people or perhaps if you are just friendly with your boss or fellow local grooms from smaller private stables perhaps you can organise a get together for breakfast/brunch before everyone heads off to their respective family do’s or back to work. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a hearty fry up or bacon roll, some spiced Christmas punch (or sneaky glass of mulled wine) and piece of cake – it is Christmas after all! Something to mark the day as special.
3. Skype/Facetime calls with family
This will really be a tactic that divides opinion. Being part of festivities through the wonder of free internet calls that also allow you to see the caller either make you feel included and part of the celebrations or bring heightened awareness to the fact that you are not there. Modern technology has made it so much easier to stay in touch with loved ones no matter where in the world they are. Whether it’s for you or not there’s no denying that It has certainly made a job that allows worldwide travel that bit less lonely.
4. Go for a Christmas jolly
Depending, of course, on the type of horses you work with and their respective schedules, it can be nice as a break from normal routine to head out for a long picturesque hack. If there is company to be had, either fellow workers or a fun outing with liveries it can be made into a jolly Santa type ride. Add tinsel (where safe to do so!) reindeer horns, bells if you’re really brave and see how many heads you can turn in the village. Alternatively, head out for a nice explorer type adventure around the countryside by yourself. Pray for the kind of crisp frosty morning that makes working outdoors worthwhile and enjoy the peaceful quiet of empty roads enjoying the fresh air, while others are all still indoors. The silence can be soul cleansing.
5. Treat yourself to something special
If circumstances are such that you find yourself spending Christmas evening home alone do not let this deter you from joining in the traditional spirit of overindulgence. Unlike everyone else, you will actually have earned all the extra calories! Understandably, cooking a full roast from scratch for one may feel like overkill but investing in a small joint and some pre-prepared stick in the oven veg, or just whatever meal tickles your fancy as a bit of a treat is a must. Get in a few nice drinks, sneak an extra sweet thing or two in the trolley and feel smug at how all this can be enjoyed in your PJ’s and slippers!
6. Watch all your own favourite cheesy Christmas movies
Do not underestimate the pleasure of full selfish control of the TV remote and/or DVD schedule. The joy of watching the terribly predictable Eastenders with no-one to point out the flaws, chuckling at how much you can relate to the Grinch and/or Scrooge, guiltily enjoying the horribly clichéd Love Actually/the epic 8 hour version of the Wizard of OZ for the 100th time. Apologies if anyone loves that, apparently Caroline is a big fan, LOL! Make the most of this opportunity with a fully planned line up of interruption-free rubbish TV watching!
7. Get crafty with gifts for the horses at Christmas
It is quite possible that your main companions on Christmas day will be the horses themselves. A nice way to mark the occasion for them and keep yourself feeling festive is to make up some treats and laugh at them trying to eat them. Using a screwdriver or any sharp implement make a hole in the middle of several different pieces of fruit/veg which you can thread a rope through and tie a knot at the end. This makes a basic hanging kebab stick for the horses to play within the stable. For the really enthusiastic groom here is a link to homemade ‘horse cookie’ recipes.
8. Make your day as easy as possible
Option A: Provided there are no impending events perhaps yourself and fellow grooms or employer can split the day into two shifts so everyone only has to work half a day. This may require starting early or finishing late but could give you up to half a day off to spend with family and friends.
Option B: If the above is not an option it should always be possible to make the day a little easier for yourself. Plan in advance for the day and get all the extra jobs done and out the way. Ensure all the horses are well worked in the days leading up to Christmas so they can afford to take it easy or even have a day off. Pre make extra haynets, bank up the beds, have the muck heap pushed back or trailer emptied ready to use. This way you can hopefully get done quickly and enjoy a long lunch and an early finish.
9. Read ‘Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm’
The book itself is, in fact, a collection of short stories but the main reason to buy this is for the title story ‘Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm’, which is a prequel to the fabulous book by Stella Gibbons that parodies the morbid doom-laden impression of country life in the 1940’s. It was also made into a film in 1995 with an impressive star-filled cast. The Christmas short story joins the wacky family during their Christmas Eve dinner where so much goes wrong and the whole situation is so dire you can’t help but finish it feeling amused and substantially better about your own situation. Buy it here
10. Stage a Christmas Day ‘photoshoot’
We have to finish with a good suggestion for silliness as that really is what getting into the festive spirit is all about. One that in fact I have already seen a good amount of spread all over my social media feed! Few can resist smiling at the ridiculousness of a horse dressed up for Christmas. The sky (or your horse’s drama queen levels) are the limit in possibilities are but we suggest…
- A pair of gloves on the ears make a fetching set of reindeer antlers
- Little is cuter than a horse in a Santa hat (extra points for baubles)
- An extra large Christmas wreath around the neck
- Any inventive use of tinsel, which notably can also be used to decorate the stable door for a framed headshot
Whether the pictures are for yourself or as an amusing Christmas message accompaniment for owners, simply taking the pictures themselves is sure to give you a good laugh.
When all is said and done the fact of it is, Christmas is just another day. Working with horses is, as we all know, not just a job it’s a lifestyle choice. Many of us do, whether we openly admit the fact or not, by far prefer the company of our equine and canine family to our human ones. Perhaps we’ve been looking at it all wrong and working Christmas day is simply a convenient excuse and the option we would all prefer! One things for sure there no need for Christmas at work to be a sad event, it is whatever you make of it.
Whatever you’re up to this year – Merry Christmas!
Stuck for last minute Christmas gift ideas?