Amy Akehurst may only work as a groom in her holidays, but she was the crowned the winner of the Peden Bloodstock horse care prize at this year’s Defender Burghley Horse Trials. This accolade goes to the groom of the best-cared-for horse, in recognition of their hard work and dedication.
Amy Akehurst was taking care of Tom Crisp’s Liberty And Glory, a 16-year-old mare known at home as Lori, who finished 14th.
“I kind of feel like I stole the prize from everyone else who does it full-time!” laughs Amy, who worked full-time for Tom, who sportingly pretended to swim in the Badminton Lake following his fall there this year, for six years before becoming a student vet nurse in 2020. “I use my holiday to groom for Tom and Lori – I did Burghley last year and Badminton this year. I go back for the mare and the Crisps are a lovely family.”
Amy, who also won the Badminton grooms’ prize in 2019, says she “knew nothing” about working as a competition groom at the highest level when she first started working for Tom.
“I groomed for him at my first international at Houghton in May 2016 and prior to going I Googled everything and made step-by-step notes, from how to put studs in, how to plait and how to do quarter marks,” she laughs. “That Houghton was one of Lori’s first international events and I’ve been her groom at every international she’s done since, so I know her well.”
Amy says Lori, who is a home-bred born on the USA’s Independence Day, hence her competition name, is “a handful”.
“She‘s buzzy to start with at shows, but she gets better as the week goes on and spends a lot of time sleeping. She definitely knows when she’s at a big event, she’s got her chill time and she’s got her spotlight time,” explains Amy of the mare, who is owned by Tom’s parents-in-law, Patricia and Robin Balfour, and his wife Sophie. “When I take her out hand-grazing, it’s more a case of her taking me – she knows where she wants to go and then she takes me back to the stable when she’s bored. She doesn’t like being tied up, she doesn’t like being told what to do, so everything one way or another has to be her idea.”
Unsurprisingly, as Lori is an intelligent mare, she now associates Amy with going to big events.
“I went into Tom’s yard before Burghley to pack the lorry and popped to see Lori. Tom and I got her out to see how she was looking and Tom rode her,” she explains. “Tom said ‘She’s going to be wild now that she’s seen you’. Later on she was absolutely buzzing and I apologised as her seeing me had made her excited!”
Amy, whose prize consisted of a bottle of Pol Roger champagne and £500, says that she struggles with nerves watching Tom and Lori tackle five-star cross-country courses.
“I never used to get so nervous and I used to just enjoy it. I cried during their entire Burghley round last year and this year my teeth were chattering and my arms were shaking. But Lori always goes above and beyond in her performances.”
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