Former elite groom, Lucy Katan, has been appointed as the British Equestrian Federation’s new “volunteer representative for grooms”. Lucy has been at the forefront of raising awareness of the issues currently facing professional grooms, including the problems associated with recruiting and retaining the best individuals.
Working together with Lantra, the land-based sector skills council, the BEF’s “elite grooms working group” hopes to develop a new national occupational standard (NOS) for elite grooms. Currently three NOS levels exist, but the highest of these is generally considered too basic for a groom working at the top of the industry.
Antonia Pearton of the BEF explains: “We are initially targeting elite professional grooms, such as those who are looking after Olympic long-listed horses. We hope our efforts will then cascade down through the industry to reach grooms at all levels.”
Lucy Katan stresses that there are three major issues, which need to be addressed urgently. They are:
- To address the question of training and grading of grooms
- To raise the profile of grooms
- To ensure proper recognition of the role that grooms play
The first problem will be partially addressed through the introduction of NOS level 4. Lucy explains: “At our meeting next week we will be laying out some of the basic requirements expected of a groom at [NOS] level 4. We don’t envisage that this will incorporate an exam as the last thing we want to do is to take people away from their work.”
Lucy has the support of leading riders from various disciplines including Richard Davison (dressage), Leslie Law (eventing) and Tim Stockdale (show jumping).
“For the scheme to be a success, it must have the support of the grooms and the riders,” Lucy explains. “This is a very exciting first step in establishing a career structure for grooms, and in particular elite professional grooms.”
Raising the profile of grooms, and increasing awareness of the support that they provide for competitive riders today, is one of the bigget challenges facing Lucy in her new role. She will co-ordinate television and magazine interviews with grooms at some of the UK’s major shows, and maintains that it is an essential aspect of developing the grooming industry.
“If younger people read about what grooms do, and the life they lead, then they can consider it as a serious career option,” she says.
Recognition of grooms is slowly growing. Increasing numbers of major shows have prizes for the grooms of winning horses. At Badminton, for instance, every groom whose horse completes the event stands to win a cheque. Lucy is adamant though, that these prizes should be awarded in the arena.
“Very few of the equestrian world’s leading figures would be where they are now without their grooms. Inevitably, the stress of competition may result in grooms getting treated badly in the heat of the moment, which is why it is particularly important that they should be publicly rewarded when their charges achieve.
“If grooms receive appreciation for what they do, they will do a better job and stay in the industry longer” she concludes.