Julie Barker, groom to the Burton Hunt, Lincolnshire has been voted groom of the year 2005. Judges Carl Hester and Chris Saunders both chose Barker out of the seven finalists for the Kuster BEF Groom Award.

Record nominations for the Groom Award were received by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) this year, and the standard of entries was exceptionally high, the organisation said. Judging took place yesterday at the Grange Bracknell Hotel and Barker will be presented with her award in London on 14 January at the British Horse Foundation Awards Dinner.

Nick Skelton’s groom of 20 years Mark Beever was awarded second place.  “Mark is utterly professional, is on call 24/7, and looks after my horses with total dedication,” says Skelton who yesterday won the Dubai Classic. Third was driving groom Eilidh Munro, who travelled from Fife in Scotland to make the final. Sussex based Judith Harrison finished in fourth position.

Barker is stunned to have won the prize although according to her employer John Lockwood MFH, it is thoroughly deserved. “We at the Burton Hunt are delighted that Julie has won the Kuster BEF Groom Award,” he said, “Julie brings a dedication to the job that is second to none.” Barker has been in her job for 16 years and has also raised £12,500 for the Countryside Alliance and the Hunt Servant’s Benefit Society: “Julie is the X Factor at the Burton Hunt and we are so fortunate to have her as part of our team.”

“To be nominated for this award was special and I feel honoured to have won. I strongly recommend all employers to put their staff forward in 2006 as this has been the best pat on the back ever!” says Barker, whose prize includes a holiday in America.

Picture of finalists, showing left to right:  Chris Saunders (Judge), Clive Milkins (Dressage), Mark Beever (Showjumping), Eilidh Munro (Driving), Judith Harrison (Livery Yard), Vicky Sutton (Eventing), Frank Kuster, Susie Dennis (Rescue), Julie Barker (Hunting), Carl Hester (Judge).


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