‘Let’s be proud to call our grooms what they are’ and change industry instead, says campaigner

  • Grooms are proud of their job, and its title, and focus should be on making the industry better, according to a campaigner.

    Lucy Katan, who set up both the British Grooms Association and the Equestrian Employers Association, as well as the International Grooms Association, says changing the job title “groom” is “not the right tactic for seeking an improvement in the recognition, respect, recruitment and retention issues in our industry”.

    In a recent column for H&H, Graham Fletcher asked for ideas for a new job title, speaking of his appreciation for and the importance of grooms, but questioning whether changing the name of their job would, among other things, sell the profession better, especially to non-horsey parents of potential staff.

    But Lucy told H&H: “This week I was in the stables at the Royal Windsor Horse Show and I discussed this article with many of the national and international grooms working there. They were all immensely proud of the role that perform and had no issue at all about their job title, in fact quite the opposite – they were proud of it.

    “Their concerns were about their employment terms, being paid legally, suitable facilities or food provided on the shows, and still an absence of genuine respect from some riders for the importance of their position and career choice.”

    Lucy added that the parade at Windsor, in honour of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, was “beautiful”.

    “The way the audience cheered The Queen’s head groom,” she said. “He’s a groom, and I didn’t see much lack of respect. In my view, it’s not the name that’s an issue, it’s everything else.”

    She added that she is all for differing job titles such as head groom or lead groom to differentiate between roles, but added: “Grooming is the care of a horse.

    “I don’t think we should be focusing on that, but on the fact that every survey we do shows how many people aren’t being paid the national minimum wage, or that nearly half don’t have the most basic employment right of a contract. Or what about the shows where grooms have to walk half a mile to get a cup of tea, or the groom who works all hours and doesn’t get holiday?

    “My sole aim is to make our industry a place of good employment.

    “Pay staff correctly, employ them legally, treat them respectfully, allow them time to rest and recuperate and have their own social life and give them opportunities to further their own skills ….. let’s focus on getting these bits right before changing a job title.

    “Let’s be proud to call our grooms what they are.”

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