I’m very fortunate to have a job which enables me to do showing,” says Alison Hibbert, a finalist in Horse & Hound’s inaugural Groom of the Year competition, held in 1999.
For the past eight years, Alison has worked as a civilian groom for Greater Manchester Police, using her holiday allowance to campaign on the summer show circuit. She applied for the job after reading an advertisement in Horse & Hound.
“Working for the police is great. The hours don’t become ridiculous and I have the security of knowing that I have a fixed wage,” she says.
Fortunately, the peak of the summer showing season falls outside the football season, the busy time of year for Manchester’s police horses. The horses Alison cares for are used for crowd control at one of the UK’s biggest grounds, Manchester United Football Club.
“I take great pride in the turnout of the police horses,” she says. Despite the arduous work controlling football crowds, they rarely come back with any injuries.
“I know the horses very well, but I wouldn’t stand in front of them if they were coming towards me. They are 16.2hh and above and are very imposing.”
Alison has a background steeped in farming and horses. Her grandfather owned and showed Shires and Alison had ponies from when she was a child – one is still going strong at the age of 36.
She took up showing seriously when she acquired her first registered Welsh Cob, Eyarth Sara, and together they toured the county show circuit. Since then, she has won laurels around the country with Keiman Welsh Maid , who has now sadly died.
Alison has several secrets to success in the ring, but would rather keep them to herself, preferring to say: “Hard work and dedication is what pays off in the showing world. I come home from work and start all over again looking after my own horses.”
She will show five horses this summer, including a youngster out of Eyarth Sara. Owfen Rylock, now five years old, was shown in her first class in February and although she did not quite make the ribbons, acquitted herself well.
“It’s a real bonus to have bred a good horse from our own mare,” says Alison. “We are really proud of her.”
At the same time, Alison will be seen on the northern county circuit this season, showing natives ridden and in-hand. She has a Dales mare who won at the NCPA Winter Championships in Staffordshire.
“She was wild when we got her and I had my doubts that she would ever make it to the show ring, but she was so good and calm in the ring, we were delighted,” says Alison. Alison’s main ambition is to continue her success in the show ring.
“I want to carry on making a name for myself in the showing world and getting better known. Ultimately, I want to make it to thefinals at Olympia or HOYS – I’ve been close a couple of times but not quite made it yet,” she says.
DAY IN THE LIFE
6am: Feed and check horses at home
7am: Arrive at Leigh Police Station, nr Wigan, feed and muck out five police horses
8am: Prepare two horses for the first officers, who take them straight to their duties
9am: Groom and prepare other police horses ready for duty
10am: Chores around the yard, including tack-cleaning, mucking out, etc.
Morning/afternoon: Host visitors, including school parties, who come to the mounted police yard
Afternoon: Police officers return to the station with one set of horses, which are then groomed and set fair for the day. Same repeated later with the rest of horses.
Tack cleaned and polished every day. Horses groomed daily and trimmed regularly.Manes and tails washed frequently.
3.30pm: Finish work
4pm: Arrive home to groom, muck out, feed, water and exercise show horses.Depending on football matches, Alison may work a late shift between 12.30 and 9pm.
Name: Alison Hibbert
Occupation: Civilian groom for Greater Manchester Police; showing exhibitor
Qualifications: BHSAI, national certificate in management ofhorses (Myerscough College, Lancs)
Competition record: Reserve supreme at Scottish NPS Show 1998. Placings at Royal Welsh Show, champion at Anglesey Co Show 1995, all with Keiman Welsh Maid