NAF Five Star Groom of the Year award 2019

This year’s Horse & Hound Awards, run in partnership with NAF, promise to be as exciting as ever, with 11 awards being presented at our glamorous gala dinner hosted at Cheltenham racecourse on Wednesday 4 December.

The entire equestrian industry would grind to a halt without our wonderful grooms. Their dedication, skill, sheer effort and love of equines shows in the incredible care they provide for their charges day and night.

“NAF is delighted to be sponsoring the NAF Five Star Groom of the Year at the 2019 H&H Awards because grooms are a vital part of a winning team,” said NAF’s Melissa Newman. “Their dedication, long hours and hard work are second to none so what better way to say “thank you!” than with this five star accolade.”

Previous winners of this award include:

  • 2018: Jane Felton, groom to Jonty Evans
  • 2017: E-J Eldridge, yard manager at Stallions AI breeding station
  • 2016: Alan Davies, groom to Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin

The H&H judging panel, including at least one independent judge, chose the following shortlist of contenders from the nominees received. Public voting has now closed and the winner will be announced at the gala awards dinner at Cheltenham on Wednesday 4 December.

NAF Five Star Groom of the Year 2019 shortlist

Cormac Kenny, 25
Grooms for: Ben Maher

2019 highlight: “I’m just a small part of what Explosion W does but it was amazing to stand beside him at the LGCT final. He makes you feel that he has it all under control, all you can do is your best for him.”
I decided to become a groom when… “I originally came to Ben’s for work experience, aged 16. I went home and finished that year of school, then came back. I worked as Ben’s rider for a bit before becoming his groom, although I still ride the horses at home.”
Top grooming tip: “A healthy horse is a happy horse — so I never go anywhere without carrots for Explosion!”
A word from Ben: “Explosion pretty much has Cormac to himself but he deserves it. Cormac knows everything about him and rides him when I’m away.”

Rob Melvin, 36
Grooms for: Charis McComiskie-Gray

I decided to become a groom when… “I work for Royal Mail and when Charis joined the company we were put together for her basic training. She mentioned that she had horses and was looking for someone to help her out at a local show, and I offered to give her a hand, warning her that I knew absolutely nothing about horses. The rest is history.”
Top grooming tip: “It is my job to help the rider. I think on my feet and ensure that Charis and her Clydesdale Bogton Commander have whatever they need.”
A word from Charis… “Rob is one in a million. He comes on 500-mile round-trips with me, unpaid, and really does boost my morale. And all this with a smile.”

Amy Phillips, 27
Grooms for: Piggy French

2019 highlight: “Piggy has been on fire this season. Highlights included winning Badminton with Vanir Kamira, taking second at Burghley and competing at the Europeans in Luhmühlen. Winning Blenheim with Brookfield Inocent, a horse I really rate, was also a very special moment.”
I decided to become a groom when… “I worked in racing but moved to eventing as I wanted to spend more time with horses on the ground. I enjoy working with them at home and then watching them perform.”
Top grooming tip… “Organisation is vital, and a strong team who can help carry the load is also key.”
A word from Piggy…“Amy’s dedication is second to none. She has a passion for the sport and the horses, and without her my dreams wouldn’t have come true.”

Steph Sharples, 33
Grooms for: Gareth Hughes

2019 highlight: “The European Championships. It has been a long, hard road with Classic Briolinca — I’ve looked after her since she was three. It was so nice to have such a successful show with three personal bests, and for everyone to see what we have always seen in her.”
I decided to become a groom when: “A friend who had left a yard I was working at told me that Gareth had a job opening, 16 years ago.”
Top grooming tip: “Be organised and prepared for anything, and get to know what your rider does and doesn’t like. I groom for both Gareth and Rebecca Hughes and they are very different.”
A word from Gareth: “What makes Steph stand out is her absolute love for the horses. You know you have a great groom when you can go away and not worry.”