The top eventing groom, Jackie Potts, is an integral part to the success of team Fox-Pitt. She has won two groom of the year awards and at last week's (6-7 March 2017) British Horse Society's coaching convention, she shared some top tips on how to best manage horses, plus some fascinating facts about herself
1. Jackie has worked for William Fox-Pitt for 25 years.
2. She has been to four Olympic Games and four Olympic test events, plus countless three-day events around the world.
3. Jackie started riding at the age of 10 at a riding school when her friend asked if Jackie would go with her to keep her company.
4. She had an office job until the age of 25 where she was described as “disruptive”.
5. Before working for William, Jackie spent six months training with Chris Bartle, followed by four months with Chris Hewlett at Haddon Stud, followed by 18 months working for Di Lampard.
6. Jackie got a job working for William after she replied to an advert in Horse & Hound magazine, where he was looking for a groom to cover another member of staff for a week. Jackie never left…
7. She likes to run the yard as a team, stating that: “A working pupil is just as important as the rider. I like to make everyone feel important as this helps to get them behind you when the going gets tough. If I ever need to give some constructive criticism to an employee, I always make sure that I say something positive about their work first.”
8. She says that ‘thank you’ might “only be two words, but they are two very important words and they should be offered as much as possible to fellow staff”. Jackie recently took a photo of a stable that a fellow Fox-Pitt employee had mucked out perfectly, to save as an example to any future grooms. “The girl was thrilled that I thought she had done such a good job,” says Jackie.
9. When the farrier is on the yard, horses always get trotted up before and after he shoes them.
10. The equine physio visits the yard every two weeks.
11. Jackie believes in packing everything, including the kitchen sink, when it comes to travelling to events. “I remember Yogi [Breisner] telling me that it took six men to carry our trunk at one event,” she laughs.
12. While travelling horses, Jackie stresses that good ventilation is key and that they always stop to get the horses off the horsebox every six to seven hours. At these stopping points, the horsebox will also be skipped out, including any patches where horses have staled, to remove any ammonia.
13. If Jackie comes across a horse who doesn’t like to drink very much or is perhaps put off by water in a different location, she will take containers of water from the yard at home, to try and encourage them to drink.
14. Jackie says that: “Flying horses has come a long way in recent years. I remember when Tamarillo had to be flown to Jerez in 2002, and he had to walk up a gangplank onto the plane and have the partitions built around him. Thankfully, all he cared about was food!”
15. Jackie’s favourite part of her job is when it is busy on the yard at home and the farrier, physio and vet might be there all at the same time, but the yard continues to run like clockwork.
16. William and his team are big believers in turning horses out as much as possible.
17. Jackie says that her favourite event is Badminton. “It was the first ever three-day event I groomed at — there’s nothing quite like being thrown in at the deep end! It was bliss. The London Olympics were also fabulous — it was very much a ‘yes’ event in that if you wanted to walk your horse over there, for example, officials would be happy for you to do so.”
18. Jackie doesn’t have one particular favourite horse. “I have six-10 ‘favourites’,” says Jackie. “Stunning [who was fourth at Rolex Kentucky four-star in 2002 and won several three-stars] holds a special place in my heart as I hunted him with the Portman when he retired from eventing. I also had a very special relationship with Chilli Morning.”
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19. Jackie says that she used to ride a lot while working for William, “but I’ve got old and wobbly and fell off a lot in the end,” she laughs. “I like working from the ground the whole time now — I can see horses come in and out and analyse them better. It’s like being the captain of a ship.”
20. Jackie lives on site at William’s yard.
21. She has one dog, called Tatts, who was a gift from William while they were at Tattersalls three-day event in Ireland one year.
22. One of Jackie’s favourite memories is when she was galloping Badminton winner Tamarillo at about 6pm as the sun was setting one evening. “I thought to myself, ‘wow, I’m getting paid for this!” says Jackie.