We all know that grooms are the backbone of the sport, keeping the wheels turning and the horses in tip-top condition. Charlotte Attwell is one such devoted showjumping groom, who has been working for British championship rider Joe Stockdale for eight years after joining the yard on work experience.
In recent weeks she has been looking after Joe’s string of five-star showjumping horses at the prestigious Saut Hermes in Paris and The Dutch Masters in Amsterdam, after a spell competing and training at Kronenburg. Driving the truck across Europe, she says, is “much nicer than having to drive from the United Kingdom”.
“During long drives, I like to sing, but I’m not very good,” reveals Charlotte. “Also having a great selection of snacks helps!
“We are quite lucky as all our horses have become so used to travelling that they are incredibly well behaved. They all drink, have their haynets and are very calm.”
Among the horses she looks after is Joe’s top mare Equine America Cacharel, with whom Joe won team bronze at last year’s world championships.
“We love her and she has the best character,” says Charlotte. “She is totally spoilt and loves her treats.
“The second horse we have brought with us is Equine America Bingo Du Chateau. He is very cheeky and gets spoilt as well, but maybe that is my own fault! He is a real character and can be quite naughty in the warm-up, but is incredibly talented. We have also got a new horse with us this year called Ebanking, who is a nine-year-old stallion. Currently, he is looking on top form”
The Dutch Masters was Ebanking’s five-star debut and he has posted some eye-catching clears since stepping up, while Bingo finished in the ribbons in the Netherlands. Charlotte has an enviable job in that she also gets to attend some of the biggest showjumping competitions in the world.
“I have attended CHI Geneva, along with The Dutch Masters, and these majors are just a different level compared with other shows. You are just blown away when you arrive in the arena and see all of the facilities. Now, I need to get to CHIO Aachen and the CSIO Spruce Meadows Masters.”
‘My favourite aspect of being a showjumping groom is forming a bond with the horses’
Although Charlotte no longer rides due to lack of time – “I am quite happy being on the ground, looking after and spoiling the horses,” she says – her favourite aspect of the job is forming a bond with the horses.
“I spend a lot of time with Cash and Bingo as they come to most places with me,” she explains. “The bond that you form with them is incredible as you know these horses inside and out. It is really nice as the horses want to spend time with you and see you – it is a great feeling. I do not view this as a job, it’s a way of life and I love it.”
Are there any parts of the job she doesn’t like quite so much though? “Packing and unpacking the lorry,” she says. “It is so time consuming.”
According to Charlotte, the showjumping grooms are hugely supportive of each other on the international circuit.
“You definitely form a community as you are constantly travelling and attending shows with each other,” she reveals. “You always ask which shows your friends are attending or where they are travelling on to from a show. It is really nice that people try to keep track of one another. Our team only really started five-star competitions last year, but everyone is really nice and welcoming. It is a really nice atmosphere as everyone tends to go to dinners together as well, and we all share our advice with each other.
“You definitely have to be committed, as if you’re not, you will not advance. You have to want to win as well! Anyone can become a groom, as you learn on the job, but it is important to be dedicated and willing to learn. No one is perfect at the start; you definitely work your way up.
“It is really beneficial to spend time around other grooms, as you learn so much from them and everyone has their own methods. There is no right or wrong method – you have to find what suits you.”
Charlotte says that her proudest moment as a showjumping groom came in Herning, Denmark, last year when Joe represented Great Britain as part of the bronze medal-winning squad.
“You cannot get better than that,” says Charlotte. “I was so nervous during the whole week. I remember waiting in the back as we found out that the team had won a bronze medal and that was an incredible moment. It is really hard to explain my feelings in words from that moment. It was such a great team effort and one we are all very proud of.”
- With thanks to Rolex Grand Slam.
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