Brian Walker: There’s a shortage of good grooms *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Good grooms who are willing to work and who really care about horses have become like unicorns. What has caused this worldwide shortage of grooms, across the disciplines?

    One factor is that competitions have popped up all over the world so one week horses need to be in Hong Kong, the next they need to be in Calgary. It’s impossible for one groom to be in all these places, so with the demanding show schedule of some top riders, there has been an ever-increasing demand for freelance grooms to help accommodate their horses’ needs as they follow the tours.

    They get paid a hefty daily rate, travel to many chic destinations, then don’t need to work a good part of the year so take some downtime. They have half the amount of work but get paid the same. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

    We also have a growing number of wealthy amateurs in showjumping who offer high-paid grooming positions but less work than most professional working stables. Experienced grooms who have paid their dues certainly deserve to get paid well, having put a lot of sweat and hours into the job, but not all grooms deserve these high-end jobs.

    The younger generation of grooms seem to think they deserve these high-paying jobs without putting in the time. Unfortunately, these particular jobs have raised the base salary in normal working stables. There are unqualified grooms wanting to work for above their pay grade, but employers don’t want to pay for a service they don’t get.

    Escalating problem

    Times are changing and the economics of many countries are improving, giving opportunities in new industries to many people. Life as a groom can be exciting because of the opportunity to travel, but it is tough physical labour. Younger generations with better opportunities simply take different paths rather than groom horses.

    Over the years, small family breeding operations have fallen by the wayside because costs have increased above their means. These types of places throughout the world were full of kids who were born and raised around horses — they were true horse people. These families were a great source of grooms, but we are losing that.

    With economies improving, there are also more people who can afford horses. This then adds to a higher demand for grooms and therefore the problem escalates.

    Teach the fundamentals

    Our sport has been so commercialised that we haven’t spent enough time teaching the younger generations enough about proper horsemanship. Many grooms once rode as kids, but perhaps weren’t talented enough as riders, so the one way for them to stay with horses was to become a groom.

    Trainers simply don’t take the time to teach the fundamentals of proper horsecare any more, they only teach riding. I see it over and over again with young grooms who can ride pretty well, but have no idea how to make a horse look good because they were never taught.

    What we need urgently is qualified grooms who are willing to put in the necessary hours to make the money they deserve.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 24 May 2018