Groom David Honnet shares his travelling tips and reveals Scott Brash’s next superstar

  • Showjumping super groom David Honnet, 35, has been working for British Olympic showjumper Scott Brash for seven years. He joined the Scotsman from Irish showjumper Cameron Hanley. Scott Brash’s groom, David, travels all over the world looking after Scott’s horses and most recently was at CHIO Aachen, Germany, where Scott and Hello Jefferson helped Great Britain to a second-place finish in the Nations Cup.

    Speaking from Aachen, David explained the journey involved with three horses from Scott’s yard in Sussex.

    “I travelled with the horses on Sunday morning, we left the yard and took the ferry – in total it was a 10-hour trip,” says David. “The trip went well, but since Brexit, everything takes a bit longer with the paperwork and checks. I got here to Aachen pretty late, and the show vets were really helpful.

    “All the horses travelled well, they are all really used to it. Hello Jefferson has been everywhere in the world, so it was no problem for him. Hello Mango is also a very good traveller; she was in Spain for the beginning of the year, so she has done a few long trips. Hello Valentino is also a very good traveller.”

    David’s advice if you find yourself with a horse who doesn’t travel well, is to “break it down, don’t do long days”.

    “Only do small journeys, never more than 600 kilometres at a time if the horse is bad at travelling,” he explains. “If possible, I would travel through the night – it is always quicker and smoother. You usually do not experience as much traffic or get stuck on the roads, so if it suits your plan and the person driving is able to drive through the night, I would definitely recommend that.”

    Scott’s top horse Hello Jefferson is in “really good shape” according to David, while nine-year-old Hello Valentino is still gaining experience and baby of the pack, eight-year-old Hello Mango, is “going to be a superstar for sure!”

    “She had a very good beginning to the year in Spain, then we gave her a bit of a break to try to get an embryo from her, but it didn’t work, so she is back and feeling fresh and jumping well,” says David. “At only eight-years-old, she’s one for the future.”

    Scott Brash’s groom David Honnet: “Safety first is key”

    Facilities for grooms are improving all the time and Aachen, says David, is one of the best.

    “My main concern when I get to shows is always safety first, and here everything is very safe and comfortable for the horses,” he says. “I have been to Aachen a number of times and there are always little improvements and the attention to detail for the horses is incredible. This morning I noticed a new wash bay and it’s things like this that make the show great.

    “I have to say it’s the Sunday afternoon in Calgary and Aachen that have the most amazing feeling,” he says of some of the best shows in the world. “Then when you go clear, it is incredible – it is only an afternoon, but it feels like a week, there is so much emotion. It is really very special! Both Spruce Meadows and Aachen have two rounds and a jump-off, so those two grands prix feel really unique, there is so much emotion.

    “Geneva and ‘s-Hertogenbosch are also incredible grands prix. CHI Geneva is the last big event of the year, so you want to finish on a high. The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final adds to the prestige of the show.

    “The grooms are a small and close community. Obviously, you cannot like everyone, and you need a strong character to do this job as there are a lot of big characters, but once you’ve got your friends, everybody helps each other. Once you find people you trust, you can ask them if you are struggling or if you need advice, like ‘how should I do that’ or, ‘what should I do if I have this problem’. I have been doing this job for years, but I remember at the beginning of the year I went to ask for advice from another groom because I had a difficult horse I needed help with, and that is what is so great about this community.”

    David on being Scott’s groom: “We are both calm people”

    Scott is well known for being the only rider to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping and, although David wasn’t working for Scott at that time, he was watching on the sofa “hoping for him to win it”.

    “At the time I had no idea I was going to work for him one day,” says David. “In 2016, when he once again won the CP International, presented by Rolex, in Calgary, we were watching at home with his mother and we went crazy when he won. Scott and I are both calm people and there is rarely any tension. We have some very sharp horses, and so the cooler you stay the better it is for the horses, they don’t need you to put any stress on them.”

    Of the team behind Scott’s success, David says they all trust each other and that’s what makes them so strong.

    “Within the team, you need so much quality and skill – I have some, Scott has some, and then the people at home do as well,” he reveals. “Our team trusts each other and this probably is what makes the difference.”

    Another secret to their success? Treats!

    “It’s something that is common to all the groom and horses – we all give them treats when they come out of the ring, so that is something that I always have in the bag,” he says. “There is no lucky charm, they just need a treat when they come out.”

    With thanks to Rolex.

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