Head groom to Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, Alan Davies has guest edited this week’s issue of H&H, with features on how the grooms profession has changed, what goes into travelling horses by air, and his favourite memories from Valegro’s glittering career. But how well do you actually know the dressage supergroom? Here are nine things about Alan that you might not have known….
1. He began his career in hunt service, with the Puckeridge and Thurlow, aged 16.
“I wasn’t enjoying my A levels at all – all I wanted to do was work with horses,” he says. “I worked for some very strict head girls during my time in hunt service, and they instilled in me the importance of the aftercare of horses.”
2. He doesn’t come from a horsey family — growing up in Cambridgeshire, Alan’s parents owned a post office and general store.
“I didn’t start riding until I was 10 or 11, but I owned every sort of pet you can imagine – rabbits, cats, goldfish. I used to build banks for the rabbits in their hutches, the sort you do with a horse’s bed.”
3. He worked as a groom in various disciplines after leaving the hunting world, spending four years as a travelling groom in the USA, and going on to work for various showjumpers and eventers, before moving into the showing world to work with Tania Alexander, riding at Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International.
4. His move into dressage came quite by accident.
“I started having dressage lessons with Carl on my show horses during the winter,” explains Alan. “I first met Carl at the World Games in Stockholm in 1990, so we have know each other a long time.”
5. He taught a young Kate Middleton to ride — and attended the royal wedding of Kate and William in 2011.
“I had an ex-show horse who I taught Kate on. She used to come to my showing yard near Newbury in the evenings to ride, and was very good, and so lovely. We had great fun.
“I’d just started working for Carl and Charlotte when I received an invitation to their wedding, and made a flying trip back from a show at Saumur to attend. It was incredible — I sat just behind Boris Johnson, but in front of the Beckhams!”
6. Alan loves to show miniature Shetlands in his spare time, and owns three: Bubbles, Cassie and Serenade.
“I started showing Shetlands for an owner many years ago, and when I started working for Carl I bought one of my own to have a bit of a hobby. I don’t have time for a ridden horse of my own, or a dog as I’m away so much. But the Shetlands come cantering over to me in the evening, all their hair flying; everyone thinks I’m completely bonkers but I absolutely adore them.”
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7. After Valegro (Blueberry), the horse most dear to him is Uthopia.
“Blueberry and I have a massive bond, but Uti has always had a special place in my heart. He’s such a gentleman, with a beautiful character, and we have been through a lot with him. He’s never taken offence at Blueberry taking the celebrity status either — he’s just an absolute dreamboat.”
8. In another world, Alan might have become a hairdresser.
“A lot of people say I should have been a hairdresser because I’m pretty good with manes and tails, pulling and trimming. My plaits are pretty famous too, but they have to be good — they’ve been on the front cover of H&H enough times!”
9. His tipple of choice is always a gin and tonic. While he’s not fussy about the type of gin, when choosing chocolate it has to be Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.
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