Meet Tom McEwen’s groom Adam Short: ‘People think we’re pony patters, but we’re athlete managers’

  • Groom Adam Short, who works for Tom McEwen, says turning horses out isn’t actually his forté.

    This might seem like a strange confession – coming from a top groom who has the care of a leading five-star horse at this week’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials – but he goes on to explain that he sees grooming as far more than doing good plaits.

    Adam says: “People always see grooms as just like making horses look pretty, but I describe a groom as being an athlete manager. You’re managing the feed, veterinary work, physios, farriers. It’s not all about just making the horses look nice, it’s about having them feeling well.

    “I think people mistake a groom as being just a pony patter. There’s a lot of organisation and a lot of hard work that goes into it.

    “We have so many horses [at Tom’s yard] that it’s a challenge and that’s what motivates me – getting it all in order.”

    Tom McEwen’s groom Adam Short turns out CHF Cooliser for the trot-up

    Tom McEwen and CHF Cooliser at the trot-up at Burghley. Credit: Peter Nixon

    Adam says the key to being a successful groom at a big event is being organised, being relaxed – “if you’re all stressed and worried about it, then I think it does pass over to the horses” – and knowing what works for your horse and rider.

    As an example of how well Adam knows his charge this week, Vicky Bates and David Myers’ CHF Cooliser (known as Eliza), he explains: “She’s often struggled to keep lots of weight on, but this year, we’ve tried so hard and she’s coming here looking not fat, but bigger than she would have in the past. That suits her really well because when she comes here and it’s all a bit exciting, she’ll lose it quite quickly.”

    Adam says that Eliza is not a typical chestnut mare and is easy to look after.

    He says: “She’s a really fun mare and so friendly. As soon as you walk to the stable, she gives you a little whinny, every day. She’s little and she wouldn’t be the most talented horse in the world, but she’s a lion and a real fighter, so Burghley should suit her to a T.”

    Groom Adam Short on working for Tom McEwen

    The groom says that Tom is easy to work for because he’s very organised. At home, the team have a plan for the week well in advance and at events, he will WhatsApp Adam each evening saying what time he wants to ride and so on the next day.

    Eliza will have a couple of sessions of work before her dressage test at 3.29pm today.

    “She’s very fit and she would be a bit sprightly when it comes to the big crowds, so she’ll have maybe a couple of sessions and then a lot of time in between to relax as well,” says Adam. “Little and often is good for her.”

    Tom also likes the horses to have as much time out grazing as possible at events, to mimic the fact they are turned out a lot at home.

    It’s been a very busy few weeks for all of Tom McEwen’s team. Francesca Gorni – who shares most of the travelling to events with Adam – went with the rider to Blair Castle Horse Trials last week. She arrived home at 5.30am on Monday.

    “And then I had literally to pull everything out of the lorry, chuck some new horses on and we left for Wellington at 6.20am,” says Adam.

    After a successful day at Wellington on Monday, Adam travelled to Burghley on Tuesday alone with Eliza and Toledo De Kerser, while Tom was having dressage lessons at home. Toledo, Tom’s ride at the World Eventing Championships, practised his dressage test alongside the rest of the squad in the main arena at Burghley yesterday afternoon. Toledo will travel home today.

    “Because if he’s here on Saturday, and he doesn’t run, he’ll be very angry. He loves his job and he certainly knows where he is, so I think he’s going to be quite peeved,” says Adam, adding that Tom’s fiancée Harriet plays an important part at big events and will help with tasks such as washing off on cross-country day.

    Adam Short says he loves being a groom for Tom McEwen – particularly going to big events, where he comes into his own – and while he’s not usually nervous or an emotional person, he does have a little moment when the horses come over the finish line at a major fixture.

    He believes in making the most of the opportunity to work at events such as Burghley and enjoys the camaraderie of being alongside other grooms. Zara Tindall, Pippa Funnell, William Fox-Pitt, Piggy March, Kitty King and Sarah Bullimore are all stabled near Tom this time.

    “I always take my job very seriously, but I don’t take myself very seriously,” he says with his trademark smile. “You can have a laugh and and have a good time and there are great vibes at the stables.”

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