Anne Marie Chivers, assistant head groom and winner of the Horse & Hound Groom of the Year competition, is responsible for the Royal Veterinary College Equine Hospital’s stable management.
As part of the Royal Veterinary College, the equine hospital is a vital training ground for veterinary surgeons of the future. One-hundred final year students pass through the hospital each year and Anne is responsible for teaching horse handling skills to a further 200 students each year.
Anne’s career path
Having ridden since she was four, Anne admits that she’s been obsessed with animals for as long as she can remember and never felt tempted to apply for the soft option of office life.
Instead, she began her equestrian career after leaving school at the age of 16 when she trained for her BHS exams at a local livery yard, looking after hunters and show jumpers. After two years, Anne decided to set up her own business, Handsome Horses, offering a mobile clipping, grooming and plaiting service throughout her area.
Then, in 1993, Anne spotted The Royal Veterinary College’s advertisement in Horse & Hound looking for a large animal technician and decided to apply, along with nearly 400 other hopefuls.
“Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” says Anne, “only that the job would involve looking after sick or injured horses. I also realised that, if I was honest, I was happier dealing with horses on the ground rather than in the saddle aboard explosive youngsters!”
From the moment Anne arrives for work at 8am, neatly turned out in her smart blue overalls, it’s all systems go. The horses are fed, thoroughly mucked out so that there’s not even a dropping in sight and the yard immaculately swept before the day’s business begins.
In sickness and in health
First to arrive is Alice, a hunter mare with a hock injury. Later, a vet will inject her with Technetrium ready for her bone scan.
Back in the yard, the phone buzzes to let the stable staff know that it’s time for a racehorse to attend his daily treadmill training session.
Having had surgery on his soft palate, the Thoroughbred needs to get used to exercising on the treadmill so that vet Mark Bowen can assess the success of the operation by using an endoscope while he is on the move.
Tallion, a five-year-old gelding, arrives as a day patient to have his teeth rasped.
Fear of previous dentists means sedation is required before the deed can be done, and, afterwards, Anne keeps a watchful eye to ensure that his recovery is complete before he is discharged.
The day ends after routine yardwork and feeding at 4.30pm, at which time Anne heads off to look after her mother’s horse, Peppermint Park.
“I love this job because no two days are ever the same,” she says. “The best bit is seeing horses getting better and the delight on their owners’ faces when they come to collect them.
“You won’t find many jobs working with horses which gives you so much satisfaction or as much experience of dealing with all kinds of injury.
“You get attached to new arrivals very quickly because it’s your job to help them settle in. And, because the horses are away from home and often also quite ill, they look to you for emotional support, which is immensely rewarding when you see them go home with a smile on their face.
“Now, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.”