A British Equestrian Federation working group has unveiled a series of possible solutions to the major problems associated with recruiting and retaining elite grooms in Britain.
Former elite groom Lucy Katan, who undertook the research that initially highlighted the problem, says: “One of the biggest problems is that there is no defined career structure for grooms. People need to know there is a way of progressing.”
Lucy has suggested a grading scheme based on nominations from selected grooms or riders. Days where skills can be observed are being considered although exams have been rejected as unworkable.
“It could be that a grade one groom is someone who has just set foot on a top-class international yard. This grade, could show that theyhave made that step,” says Lucy. “Higher grades could be awarded when experience and skills get stronger.”
Training days are another potential area of development. Lucy had spoken to a number of grooms who said that there were aspects of the job they had never experienced, such as transporting horses by air.
Training days would be a chance for grooms to socialise, achieve goals and perhaps gain advancement towards a higher grade. More experienced grooms could be responsible for lectures and demonstrations, which in turn would help them acquire a new skill.
The benefits of training days are potentially enormous, as grooms could learn correct and well-established methods and have something to look forward to.
In order to administer this system, Lucy believes that a forum for grooms should be set up where they could air their views, share expertise and contribute to the design of training days.
A career boost
Lucy believes grooming as a career must be better promoted by the media – enabling the people to become personalities in their own rights – and not just nameless faces.
Some shows do reward grooms. At the Royal International Horse Show, grooms of international show jumping horses compete for the BHS Horsemastership Trophy.The winner receives £200, awarded in the International Arena, and there are six £100 runner-up prizes.
Another idea is to have a Groom of the Year award, perhaps with a perpetual trophy presented at a high-profile event.
Boost for Hartpury student
James Robinson, a student at Hartpury College, has been selected for the British under-19 polocrosse team to play in a tournament in South Africa this summer (25-27 July).
James is a first-year student studying a National Diploma in stud management and has been playing polocrosse for almost seven years. He says: “Its been very much part of my life since Pony Club.”
Polocrosse is a combination of polo and lacrosse and is played on horseback on a rectangular pitch. Teams consist of six players, divided into two sections who playalternate chukkas of a maximum of 8min each. To score, the ball must be thrown from outside an 11yd semi-circle in front of the goal.
Become a member
Membership of NAGS is free to all bona fide grooms and students. Benefits include: Horse & Hound subscription at £1 per copy, £3 discount voucher on a sack of Blue Chip Dynamic, 10% discount on Splash Equestrian equipment and clothing, no P&P charges from Equestrian Vision mail order and eligibility for NAGS-only competitions and offers.
If you are interested in becoming a member, write to: NAGS, Room 2018, Kings Reach Tower, Stamford Street, London SE1 9LS (tel: 020 7261 6993), or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
And remember, the club is open to all students, not just those studying for an equine qualification.