Juggling kit, test times, plaits, nerves and horses can sometimes seem like mission impossible. But if there’s anyone who knows how to do it with ease, it’s a top rider’s groom.
How to make a busy show day run like clockwork
Stephanie Sharples, groom to Gareth Hughes
1. Be organised. Stephanie always has a good chat with Gareth before competitions, making sure she knows the plan.
2. Have a needle and thread at the ready. When the horses need plaiting, she always has the needle with the thread in it ready to go.
3. Check everything. Stephanie double and triple checks that she’s got everything and always gets the lorry ready the day before.
Claire Swain, groom to Laura Tomlinson
1. Don’t forget a notepad and pen. Claire finds them useful for test times, and noting down jobs like when to start plaiting.
2. Allow lots of time. Claire says it’s essential to allow enough time to do everything and to be prepared.
3. A polishing mitt can be really handy. Claire uses a polishing mitt on the horse’s coat and the rider’s boots — in that order!
Alan Davies, groom to Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin
1. Always pack spares. Alan takes spares of everything — you never know what might happen.
2. Keep calm. Most of the time Alan has to pack for two riders and two or three horses. He says it’s important for grooms to stay calm and be organised, so that the riders can concentrate on riding.
3. Take supplies to the ring with you. Quite often at international shows the arenas are miles from the stables, so he packs as much as he can into his bag — drinks for the rider, spare bandages and safety pins, a sweat scraper and he always has a towel for drying sweaty reins or wiping sweaty necks.
Sharon Mepham, groom to Francis Whittington
1. Be prepared. Sharon says it’s important to always be organised and to have piles of things, such as boots and studs, ready to go.
2. Remember to pack a clock. This is on her list of things she couldn’t live without at shows, along with her grooming bag with everything in it.
3. Don’t forget the bridles! She once left all the bridles and reins at home. Luckily they had one horse that Francis was riding for someone, so they were able to use its bridle for all the horses, with a lot of swapping around.
Claire Howard, groom to Daniel Moseley
1. Keep your cool —even when you’re in a rush and always have a towel handy, especially when the horses are competing in a big ring.
2. A big tack locker is useful — especially when staying away, so you don’t have to keep carrying stuff back to the lorry.
3. Remember the girth! Claire once forgot all the girths at a show, so they had to beg and borrow from fellow competitors.
It’s now a yard joke that just before they leave for a competition they say: “Are the girths in?”
Daniel Alderson, groom to Jeanette Brakewell
1. Have buckets of water at the ready — and waterproofs. Ready-filled buckets of water waiting in the shade will come in useful for simple things such as washing bits, boots and the horses. Daniel also strongly recommends always packing waterproofs as you can guarantee it will rain at some point.
2. Don’t forget the mascot. Jeanette’s dog Patsy is the team mascot and goes to all the competitions with them.
3. Don’t injure your rider! They were once ready to leave for a competition and as Daniel went to put the electric ramp up, Jeanette said “whoa” but he thought she’d said “go” so he pressed the button and as he did, she went to step on the ramp and it smacked her in the knee. He felt terrible and didn’t stop apologising — but Jeanette carried on reminding him for a few days how sore her knee was.