THE head girl of a trekking centre and riding school in Birmingham has been hailed as Britain’s best groom by winning the prestigious Kuster BEF (British Equestrian Federation) Groom Award 2008.

The award recognises the outstanding contribution of grooms to the equestrian world.
Winner Laura Hale, 22, works at Hole Farm Trekking Centre in Bartley Green — both a Riding for the Disabled Association and Pony Club centre.

Olympic medallist Tina Cook, who helped pick the winners, said: “Laura’s passion for the children and her dedication to the welfare of the horses is incredible. Her commitment and drive is what clinched it.”

Ms Hale was nominated by her employer Carol Jones. She will be presented with her prize at Olympia, the London International Horse Show, on Sunday (21 December).

“I’m thrilled — I can’t believe I’ve won,” Laura told H&H.

The British Grooms Association’s Lucy Katan told H&H: “This year was exceptionally strong for nominations and I’m over the moon for Laura.It’s wonderful to see someone who is so passionate about what they do.”

Runner-up was Alice Walthew, 26, who works for Celia Plunkett in Banbury.

And third-placed Joanne Fulham, 20, helps rehabilitate horses for World Horse Welfare.

The nine finalists were judged by Tina Cook, Paralympic medallist Simon Laurens and British Horse Society chairman Patrick Print.

“All of the finalists were of an exceptional standard and are a credit to British equestrianism,” said Mr Print.

Fay Cort was named best newcomer in the industry for her work with John Whitaker.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (18 December, ’08)