A new mental health charity has been launched offering online counselling and emergency accommodation to grooms.
Stable-mind community interest company (CIC)has been set up by former international grooms Warren Stevens, who is based in the UK, and Jodie Stutt, based in Canada. It has been inspired by recent losses, including the suicide of Belinda Nash, a well-known figure on the circuit.
Groom-turned-dressage trainer Lucy Warbrick, who is an ambassador for the not-for-profit, said that after Belinda’s death, Warren was motivated to do something about the poor mental health affecting the industry.
“Mental health is a taboo subject and the equine industry often promotes the attitude of ‘just put your boots on and crack on with it’,” Lucy said.
“There are a lot of people drinking heavily as a way of coping with the workload and unsociable hours and although a lot of grooms do it out of love for the job, it takes its toll.
“There’s also a lot of abuse and bullying in the workplace and people working for below minimum wage. It can be very isolating and often these people are in a different country to their family.
“If they can’t hack it, they leave the industry but they leave with a mental health problem or a drinking problem.”
While the charity is in its infancy, and needs more funding before launching all its services, it has already been approached by grooms in need.
“At the moment, we’re not turning anyone away, we’re trying to find what resources there are to help them locally,” Lucy said.
“We’re planning an online auction next month and after that we’re hoping to have the funds in place to set up access to counsellors and psychotherapists, which will be free and available via Skype, phone or email.”
She added that at the moment there are two UK therapists on board and in the long run, the CIC — a charity run as a not-for-profit company — hopes to offer more language options for international grooms.
Emergency accommodation is also in place at locations in both the UK and US.
“Grooms live where they work and if you lose your job — whether it’s your choice or not — you’re out of a home,” Lucy said.
“It happened to me in St Tropez and I was able to ring my mum and get a flight home but not everyone is that lucky.”
Stable-mind also hopes to have welfare offices at big shows which can provide food and drink to working grooms who struggle to afford on-site prices.
“At some of the big shows across Europe there are workers from poorer countries who are being paid peanuts and are in a position where they have to steal food,” she said.
“Shows like the Global Champions Tour are well-governed and policed, but they’re not all like that and not everyone gets a meal ticket.”
Details of the fundraising online auction will be published later this summer on the Stable-mind Facebook page and will feature both UK and US lots.
More than 98% of respondents felt the equestrian industry needs to do more to support grooms’ mental health and wellbeing
Good preparation is the key to feeling positive when competing, while brain power can be improved by attention to nutritional
If you want to keep up with the latest from the equestrian world without leaving home, grab a H&H subscription
“We’re aiming to raise £10,000 to 15,000, which will hopefully be enough funding to launch and also raise awareness — we’d like to be up-and-running by September,” Lucy added.
Anyone who wants to donate a lot to the auction can email firstname.lastname@example.org
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.