FEI president Ingmar de Vos signed the agreement with IGA founder Lucy Katan at the FEI sports forum on 26 April.
Ms Katan, who founded both the British Grooms Association and the Equestrian Employers Association in the UK, established the non-profit IGA to “achieve greater representation and career recognition for grooms, as well as to improve their working conditions, especially at equestrian events where long hours are the norm”.
Its support will include guidance on employment laws, recruitment, support for freelancers and a “strong emotional support system”. But it will also be a stakeholder group consulted by the FEI on relevant issues, and a way for grooms’ voices to be heard.
“This is the moment in time that finally gives the international grooms a formal voice within the FEI and at competitions,” said Ms Katan, a former international groom.
“The goal is for the IGA to become the voice of international grooms, while recognising all the work goes into keeping the equine athletes of our sport happy, healthy and performing at their best.
“While we want organising committees to raise their commitment to improving working conditions, we hope that grooms will provide feedback on their work experiences through a ‘grooms’ report’, so that improvements can be made to their working conditions at events. This is a real opportunity for grooms to constructively and collaboratively be heard and play a key role in their profession and this industry.”
Any groom who works for a rider or driver who competes in FEI competition can join, and there is a discount for BGA members.
“Today’s signing of the MOU is the culmination of many years of discussion and planning, and marks the start of a new era for international grooms,” said Mr de Vos.
“This is a journey which began in 2017 with the first meeting of the FEI grooms working group, and started to take shape at last year’s sports forum when the community provided its full support for the creation of the IGA. What we see today is the result of a great deal of hard work and persistence and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the grooms working group and Lucy Katan for her vision and leadership in creating this important organisation.
“The IGA has laid the foundations for the grooms’ community to grow, evolve and have a strong voice in the long-term development of equestrian sport and I count on grooms, as well as national federations, athletes, organisers, officials and owners to make this a success.”
Each FEI discipline will also have four to six representatives working in the industry to promote the status of international grooms, and mentor new grooms.
IGA founding member Alan Davies, who is also on the board of directors, told H&H that following on from all the BGA’s work supporting UK staff, “we needed a voice at the big shows”.
“At international events, there’s always a rider representative, who goes to all the meetings, and at championships there’s a chef d’equipe, but there was no one to represent grooms, and we need a voice,” he said. “I feel the grooms have the most important job at these big shows; if the horse isn’t happy, sound and well, there will be no competition.
“If we’re at a show and feel stabling or welfare standards aren’t good enough, we need a way of getting together standing up and being heard, and this is an amazing opportunity for that.”
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