We continue our mini series with the four British dressage grooms out at the Tokyo Olympics, speaking to Steven Caley - groom to Lottie Fry and Everdale
This year has been something of a whirlwind for Tokyo Olympics groom Steven Caley, who works with British rider Lottie Fry. Having taken a year away from horses while living in the Netherlands to study Dutch and assess his career options, Steven returned to grooming in April 2021 – and found himself at the Tokyo Olympics just three months later.
“I went to Hartpury University, then worked part-time for Carl Hester, and then Sandra Biddlecombe and also Sara Gallop,” said Steven, 26, who is originally from the Isle of Man. “I had always wanted to try working on a yard in Europe, though, and so I messaged Carl asking if he knew of anything going. He messaged back pretty much instantly suggesting I went to the Netherlands and within a week I’d sold all my furniture and moved to Van Olst Horses.
“I was with the Van Olsts for roughly a year and a half and did a bit of everything including some riding – I was a bit of an all-rounder. But then I took about a year away from horses; my boyfriend and I have a flat about half an hour from the Van Olsts and I wanted to take some time to really learn the language – it’s a tricky one to learn. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do long-term and felt a little lost – horses is all I’ve ever done and I thought about giving something else a shot.
“But I fell back into horses again and went to work for Excellent Dressage Sales for a bit. Then, the Van Olsts offered me a job again in April this year. I had only groomed at shows like Premier Leagues in the UK, but suddenly I was with Lottie at Hagen CDI4* and Compiegne CDIO5* – and now, after just two big shows, we’re at the Olympics!”
Tokyo Olympics grooms: reunion time
He also reckons he and Lottie, also at her first Olympics, might be the youngest groom-rider combination in Tokyo – their combined age is just 51.
“It’s fun that Lottie is new to it as well,” he said. “It’s really cool to be here; it’s a whole new experience. You look around and all the riders are the best in the world.”
Lottie and the Lord Leatherdale stallion Everdale made a superb Olympic debut in Saturday’s grand prix, scoring a personal best of over 77% to rocket herself to the top of her group. For Steven, watching her ride down the centre line was always going to be a hugely emotional experience.
“I’m really happy for them, whatever happens. It’s a real team effort and such an amazing opportunity. It’s so cool they’ve made it this far, and it’s great for Everdale as a breeding stallion to come here too,” he said.
“Lottie is cool as a cucumber – I don’t know how she does it,” he added. “She’s definitely got an old head on young shoulders – she’s like a seasoned pro already.”
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