I want to be . . . a groom

  • Simon Fannon, who works as head groom for dressage rider Lisa McAlpine, talks about his job at the training yard in Surrey

    What made you decide to become a groom?

    I’ve ridden since a child and progressed through the Pony Club doing the usual mix of mounted games, dressage, jumping, and in school holidays I worked for the Kerry Packer and his polo Team, Ellerston.

    I enjoy being outdoors and realised that I didn’t want a job that was office-based. After passing my A’ Levels, I applied to do an HND in Horse Studies at Warwickshire College.

    Part of the course was a one-year industrial placement. I live near Godalming, where Lisa McAlpine is based so I approached her for a job. I spent a year working for Lisa before returning back to Warwickshire to finish my final year.

    Once I had finished my course, I had a change in circumstances and needed a job, which offered accommodation. I had kept in touch with Lisa and she offered me my old job back.

    How many days a week do you work and what is an average day?

    I work a six-day week and there are four grooms in total. We start at 7am, feed, hay and muck out four to six boxes a day depending on staff cover. Once the horses are done we have our own breakfast.

    The first lot of horses are exercised in the morning, which usually consists of schooling or roadwork, depending on what Lisa wants done. The horses are then skipped out, hayed and given a feed before we break for lunch at about 12.30pm.

    In the afternoon the second lot of horses are exercised. I also have to make sure that the youngsters who live out are checked every afternoon. The stabled horses are then groomed, skipped out, hayed up and fed.

    I have a tidy up making sure the late night feeds are done the yard, tack room are tidy and all the tack has been cleaned, finishing around 5.30pm. We take it in turns to do late night checks at about 9pm.

    What are the perks of your job?

    I have my own horse Archie, who I am allowed to do in work time. I have the opportunity to do plenty of riding, as well as receiving help and training with Archie.

    I get time off to compete and if Lisa has a space in the lorry, I normally get to take Archie as well.

    I live in a fully furnished flat on site rent-free, plus Archie, as well as receiving a wage.

    What is the worst bit of your job?

    The early morning starts and the weather.

    Want more information?

    There are various courses currently on offer although formal qualifications are not always required to become a groom. Simon’s yard specialises in dressage, so an interest in a particular area will often help you choose the type of yard you want to work for.

    Simon is permitted to keep his horse on Lisa’s yard, but many establishments don’t allow horses or pets.

    There are agencies that specialise in finding jobs for grooms, and magazines like Horse & Hound have a comprehensive situations vacant section.

    Click here to visit Horse and Hound Online’s classified marketplace which includes a range of equestrian jobs throughout the UK and around the world.

    For information on vocational courses

    Contact British Horse Society for details of training centres telephone (tel: 01926 707700) or visit www.bhs.org.uk

    Contact the Association of British Riding Schools (tel:01736 369440) or visit www.abrs.org

    Contact your local careers office for details of NVQ courses.

    For information on college-based courses

    Contact UCAS for details of entry to colleges (tel:01242 222444) or visit www.ucas.ac.uk

    For information on distance learning courses

    Equi Study is run in conjunction with Warwickshire College (tel:01926 651085) or visit www.equistudy.ac.uk

    The Open College of Equine Studies (TOCES) (tel: 01284 728867) or visit www.equinestudies.co.uk

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