Meet Yasmin Ingham’s groom Alison Bell: ‘I never thought I would be in this position’

  • Yasmin Ingham’s groom Alison Bell is relishing her first experience of grooming as part of a senior championship squad at the eventing World Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy.

    She is responsible for looking after the impressive 11-year-old gelding Banzai du Loir, who is owned by Janette Chinn and Sue Davies.

    “It’s definitely different and I didn’t really know what to expect, but we’ve taken it in our stride and we’re really enjoying it so far,“ says Alison, who started working for Yasmin, who is based at the Janette and Sue’s super-smart yard in Cheshire, in January 2019. “I originally applied for a job working for Sue and Janette and took on the role of live-in groom, then it escalated into being Yaz’s travelling groom.”

    Alison doesn’t come from a horsey background, in fact, far from it.

    “I grew up in Belfast. My parents are from Belfast city and grew up through the troubles,” she explains. “But then my grandfather took me horse riding and that was it – I went to an agricultural university and went on to groom for Joseph Murphy in Ireland before coming to the UK.”

    On what it is like being groom for Yasmin, Alison says it is “completely different”.

    “When you find someone that you really enjoy working alongside, it’s a completely different experience to just being a ‘normal groom’. We are such a close-knit team and it’s kind of like a little family.

    “Yaz is not stressy at competitions – she’s very normal, as she is at home, and she just gets on with her job.”

    Alison’s formula to being a good groom is pretty straightforward.

    “You definitely have to want to do it. I never thought I would be in this position when I first started grooming, but the love for what you do just grows and grows,” she explains. “As I said before, when you find someone you really enjoy working with, you’ll just do anything for them, whether that’s for the horses or the team, because everyone deserves it. You put your heart and soul into it and you hope to get a good result and at the end of the day, if you don’t get a good result, you just carry on to the next competition.”

    Yasmin Ingham’s groom Alison Bell on Banzai du Loir at the World Championships

    Alison Bell, groom to Yasmin Ingham

    Alison says that Banzai is “in his element” at the World Eventing Championships this week.

    “He absolutely loves it. He’s had his five-star treatment travelling here and now he’s just living the dream in the sun,“ she laughs.

    Alison reveals that Banzai has a penchant for digging and rolling.

    “He‘s been rolling everywhere, digging holes and it’s just been chaos trying to keep him clean. More and more mud patches appear every time I bring him out for a hand-graze!

    “We call him ‘Hippo’ at home – he spends about 10 minutes a time just on the floor, paddling around like a hippo – he wallows in any filthy patch he can possibly find all year round. Winter is the worst experience – I think he loves to get dirty so that you’re forced to brush him because then he’ll fall asleep and he’s got all the attention with all eyes on him.”

    Banzai du Loir and his first Kentucky experience

    In April 2022, Yasmin and Alison had their first experience of flying a horse when taking Banzai to his first five-star at Kentucky. It was a very successful trip, with Banzai and Yasmin finishing second to Michael Jung.

    “It was a bit of a whirlwind trip – it was really exciting,“ explains Alison. “We flew out before the horses from Heathrow to Philadelphia and then down to Louisville. The horses flew from Stansted to just outside Louisville, and then they travelled down and we met them at the quarantine centre at the Kentucky racetrack, which was an experience in itself. We were in quarantine with them for four or five days and then we travelled down to the event itself. That was the start of a very good week.”

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