Organisers praised as grooms put to the forefront at World Championships

  • Grooms were at the forefront of the FEI World Championships in Herning (6–14 August), as “important strides” were made.

    The Herning organising committee has been praised for “setting a new standard” for grooms, with highlights including a dedicated lounge at the stable area, an exclusive restaurant with “grab-and-go” options, recognition of grooms on screens during the competition, and grooms taking part in prize-giving ceremonies for the first time.

    Herning was Charlotte Dujardin’s groom Alan Davies’ 20th major championship and he said the organising committee “tried so hard”.

    “They stabled all the teams together, which is always really good at a championship. A WhatsApp group was created and the stable manager put any information we needed and there were at least three or four messages a day keeping us updated,” he told H&H.

    “The restaurant was one of the best I’ve ever seen, this is my 12th championship in a row and the food was tip-top. They did fantastic buffets and supplied eco-friendly boxes so you could take food away, and there was always fresh fruit and salad available.”

    Alan added that the recognition on the televised screen – each groom was pictured along with each horse and rider – “meant a lot”, and said the event was a “massive improvement” on previous ones he had been to.

    “It’s all going in the right direction. If we can really get the International Grooms Association [IGA] off the ground [news, 5 May] and get people to listen, and if there can be more communication between the organisers, the FEI and grooms, then we can keep [the standard] up to a level, which it is getting to,” he said.

    “Herning did a really good job and the level of care for grooms is getting better, but it’s going to be keeping those standards up that’s difficult. The cost of living is creeping up, so it’s not going to be easy.”

    The IGA, which launched at the end of April, met the Herning organising committee before the championships, and IGA executive director Lucy Katan told H&H she was “delighted” with their “forward-thinking approach”.

    “Historically, many shows plan everything and then say, ‘and the grooms’, as kind of an afterthought, but that was not the case here. The organising committee really put the grooms at the forefront of their planning and it created such a different atmosphere of positivity,” she said.

    Although the majority of feedback was very positive, some issues around accommodation were highlighted when some grooms had to share caravans with grooms from other nations.

    The championships’ sport chief executive Jens Trabjerg confirmed to H&H the committee was “let down at the last minute” with the accommodation, but this was “solved” on 3 August. He added that the committee was “very pleased and proud of the many positive comments” they received.

    Alan, who opted to stay in a horsebox with Gareth Hughes’ groom Steph Sharples, said the accommodation was a “bit of a problem” but the committee tried to resolve the issue.

    “I feel for them that it went wrong on that level because everything else they were trying so hard to do right for us,” he said.

    Lucy said the IGA “firmly believes” grooms should only be sharing with their own national federations, and will be highlighting this to the FEI. She would also like to see “minimum standards” set for grooms at FEI events.

    An FEI spokesman told H&H “important strides” were made at Herning.

    “The organising committee was extremely proactive and dedicated to setting a new standard for grooms, which at many levels they achieved. While we fully acknowledge there were some challenges – such as the accommodation – these were resolved in the best possible way given the situation,” he said.

    “It was a big team effort with the organising committee, IGA and FEI working together in the build-up and throughout the championship to fulfil a shared vision whereby grooms got the recognition they fully deserved.”

    The spokesman added there will be a “thorough debrief” with stakeholders, and the FEI will continue to liaise with the IGA on all matters regarding grooms.

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