Your GroomA Key Partnership in Horse Showing Success

Years ago I ran an advertisement in a show prize list thanking all of the folks who made our horse showing a success. As you might imagine, it takes many people and professionals to make it possible for a rider to win a blue ribbon. It's not a small list, by any means.

If you think about all of the checks you write in a month's time, the list grows very quickly. One check that is easy for me to write is for our groom. The groom is a key behind-the-scenes partner in a successful show career and has his own role to play in making sure horses are well cared for and kept ready to show.

Good grooms are worth their weight in gold at a horse show. They ensure the horses are fed, clean, lunged, and tacked up for the riders. They help out show moms by taking care of all of the "dirty" work of keeping stalls clean, making sure the horse has hay and water, and cleaning and organizing the tack. Some shows even have a contest for the grooms where they compete on how well turned out a horse is for showing. Grooms give the rider the luxury of concentrating on showing and riding and give show moms the ability to be spectators, parents, and supporters.

Working with your groom requires four key skills: organization, communication, delegation, and appreciation. Both show moms and riders need these traits to foster a successful relationship with their grooms. Working partnerships are important for the riders, but the moms need a slightly different set of skills to be effective in working with a groom. 1. Organization. Good strong organization before and during the show is important.

Show moms can organize their rider's tack, supplies, and equipment so that everything has a place. Bins for leg wraps, bags for dirty show pads, and grooming boxes for all of the cleaning supplies are important tools. Moms usually have a role in setting up the supplies, especially for younger riders, and have created a system for organizing everything that will make the groom's life much easier. 2. Communication. Communication is a must.

No groom is a mind reader, so communicating your expectations, your preferences and any tips for caring for a horse are vital. Make sure they know what time you show, when a horse must be ready, any shampooing or lunging instructions, and other details that are important to caring for your horse. Your trainer may take care of some of these tasks, but they may be busy out in the arena and not see what you see. Your rider needs to see you role model good communication skills.

Refrain from demeaning or patronizing behavior and instead use clean and effective communication that regularly incorporates a "please" and a "thank you". If you want your children to treat grooms with respect, then you must model appropriate behavior for them. 3. Delegation. Effective delegation is another skill, like permitting the groom do his job without constant interference, criticism, rolling of the eyes, etc. Just like in your workplace, effective delegation requires that you communicate your expectations, describe the work or the roles and responsibilities, and provide feedback with check-in periods.

Sometimes show moms forget to explain their expectations, provide a clear job description, or give feedback if things are not going well. To be an effective delegator, think in terms of roles and responsibilities and who should be taking care of what. 4. Appreciation. Appreciation is a skill that some of us show moms seem to be short on some days. I require my children to use "thank you" with their grooms several times a day.

We check with the grooms about food during the day and make sure they are included if we are getting food for ourselves or others. We provide a large cooler filled with drinks in the tack room at every show. Sharing the excitement over ribbons and wins with grooms can be important to them ? after all, they set up the horse. Lastly, a monetary reward, like a nice tip at the end of the show and at the end of the season can help you convey your appreciation. If you're a show mom who also serves as your child's groom, you deserve a medal and a special thank you from your trainer and rider.

I spent years being the groom for my daughter when we started horse showing. It was hard work but it saved us lots of money that we invested in more shows, and it forced my daughter to learn some important skills like hard work and responsibility. The ribbons that she won resulted from her hard work, and while she often yearned for a groom, I think these experiences taught her to be much more appreciative and respectful when we did hire grooms.

Kudos and hats off to all the grooms in this industry. Their behind-the-scenes work makes all of us look better. Copyright (c) 2007 Kathy Keeley.

Veteran show mom Kathy Keeley has six years of horse showing experience from locals to A Circuit to NCCA Varsity Equestrian Shows. Get your free horse show packing list when you subscribe to our newsletter at , the first online community created especially for horseshow mothers and daughters who want to learn how to successfully navigate the horseshow circuit and maintain a great mother-daughter relationship.

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