Despite the cancellation of the 2020 FEI Sports Forum, where the topic was due to be discussed, progress is being made for greater recognition for grooms working in international sport. H&H speaks to FEI president Ingmar de Vos about the plans, and seeks reaction from top British groom Alan Davies and Lucy Katan of the British Grooms Association...
Registration of international grooms is on the cards as the FEI reveals plans to better recognise and support the sport’s workforce.
The topic was to be part of a discussion on grooms at the cancelled 2020 FEI Sports Forum and would mean grooms’ holding FEI registrations, as do vets.
An independent international grooms’ association, recognition of grooms as a stakeholder group at national level, groom representatives at major events and rights and responsibilities of grooms were also on the agenda.
FEI president Ingmar de Vos said grooms are “essential” to the wellbeing of the sport and horses, and their wellbeing and safety is very important to the FEI.
“Their role and status has, in my view, never been addressed properly and they have never been represented officially in the decision-making structures at international level,” he told H&H.
“Without registration or an educational framework, it’s virtually impossible to provide the support they need.
“The FEI has a duty to drive change to ensure grooms have the support they need from having a clear role and status at events to employment conditions, education and having a voice in the decision-making process.
“This is also about raising awareness and creating a shift in perception and a collective responsibility, to drive positive change for our sport.”
The FEI has a grooms’ working group, founded in 2017, which had been working towards this. The 2020 sports forum was “about setting the wheels in motion”.
“It was about better understanding of needs and rights of grooms, and the needs of the industry with regards to grooms, especially when it comes to safety and welfare of horses and the integrity of competition, the scope and why we should initiate change,” Mr de Vos said. He added that FEI registration for grooms is something the working group is “convinced is necessary”.
“Through registration, you not only identify grooms but also communicate with them, and of course this is two-way, so they can also communicate with us.
“We can positively impact horse welfare through certification and education to ensure grooms are qualified to work in the stables at events, just as we do with vets.
“It is win-win. We can provide security and a framework for grooms, which also provides added value and security for our horses and events.”
Top international groom Alan Davies told H&H progress in this area is “fantastic” .
“It can only happen with everybody working together like this. I’m very excited; it’s going to take time and it won’t be easy,” he said, adding it will “benefit everybody”, including horses.
“Ingmar is so supportive of the grooms; we need to make it that grooms are not frightened of the FEI. Grooms are such a massive part of the industry and we need to encourage people to come into the industry as career grooms, not just a transitory job.”
He added this will also help in terms of education; of grooms, but also grooms educating the FEI on the workforce’s needs, which will have positive effects on horses, shows and riders.
The British Grooms Association (BGA), whose chief executive Lucy Katan was due to speak at the forum, and Show Grooms International conducted a survey to find out the most important issues to international grooms.
Of 780 people who completed the survey, an “overwhelming majority”, 89%, said there is a need for a FEI-recognised groom representative at events, and 79% felt their voices were not heard.
“This is concerning,” states the survey report. “Clearly there is a need for greater opportunities for these grooms to speak up, and be listened to.”
Mr de Vos added the FEI “is keen to support a representative body”, which must be independent, but the FEI is “more than willing”, to help set up.
Ms Katan said communication “remains positive”.
“I commend the FEI, and Ingmar particularly, for putting grooms on the agenda,” she said.
“When the working group met in March, I was proud to be able to show how the BGA is the world leader in grooms’ representation, support, education and mental health wellbeing advocacy.
“The international groom community clearly desires its own formal organisation and I look forward to working with the FEI to deliver this essential independent body.”
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