What’s it like to groom for the stars?

  • Famous horses make their riders famous, with owners and trainers also basking in their reflected glory. But what of those unsung heroes who put in all the groundwork, do the back-breaking chores and dogsbody hours?

    It can be tiring and unglamorous work being a groom. But the best get to travel the world – and some of them even get to go to the Olympics.

    We ask some supergroomes whether it’s all as good as it sounds.

    Fiona Lawrence, groom to Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin

    After 20 years working in team chasing and hunting yards, Fiona decided to shift to dressage for the “quieter life”.

    “Little did I realise I’d soon have one of the most stressful, but rewarding, jobs in the country,” says Fiona, 42, whose 18 charges include Olympic medal hopefuls, Uthopia and Valegro.

    “I initially came to Carl’s to cover for a friend for six weeks and never left. When I moved up to head girl I had to learn very quickly how to make the place run to plan.

    “I love Carl to bits, he’s a phenomenal rider, and that’s why I’m still here four years on,” she adds. “I couldn’t ask for a better job.”

    Fiona recognises that she is at “the pinnacle” of her career. While she is organised and reliable – and gets “cross when others aren’t” – she says the weight of responsibility is diluted because each team member has a role in nurturing these international stars.

    Although Carl has a dedicated travelling groom, Fiona goes to many of the championships and is grooming for Charlotte at London 2012.

    “There isn’t much recognition at times and the pay isn’t the best, but the results are worth it and you know you’ve played a part,” says Fiona, listing last year’s gold and two silver medals at the European Championships as the “proudest moment” of her life so far.

    “Standing at the medal ceremony with Valegro was the ultimate,” she says. But who knows what this week will bring.

    Find out about other supergrooms including Mark Todd’s Charlie Gardiner and Guy Williams’ Natalie Tinworth in this week’s issue of H&H (3 August 2012)

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