Carl Hester: ‘It’s time our industry stepped up to offer tangible rewards for grooms’


  • Nominations are now closed for the 20th Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards, which “celebrate and recognise the remarkable dedication and commitment of those working at the grassroots of horseracing. These hard-working employees provide the best possible care to our horses and people”.

    Generous Godolphin sponsorship provides £128,500 in prize money for the six categories.

    Results are in February next year and it got me wondering. It’s lovely to have a medal, trophy or mantelpiece decoration – and we’re very proud our own Lucy Scudamore was voted Groom of the Year at the recent Horse & Hound Awards. However, isn’t it time the horse sport industry stepped up to provide a similar tangible reward?

    These diligent staff members devote so much love, knowledge and detail to caring for our horses and making it happen for all of our riders and owners.

    Looking back at Riesenbeck and ahead to Paris

    Looking back over this year, the highlight was obviously our team gold in Riesenbeck. With three scores over 80% in the grand prix special, this bodes well for next year’s Paris Olympics where the special will determine the team medals. Some horses and even riders are more suited to the special than the grand prix, so it’s exciting we have these types of horses for next year.

    A highlight, too, were the simply wonderful facilities at Riesenbeck. It can be very difficult to get horses to relax at shows compared to home, due to the atmosphere and different surroundings. Riesenbeck, however, was a triumph for horses’ wellbeing at a championship. There was plenty of grazing, large, airy stables and excellent surfaces maintained by the Martin Collins team. And the stewarding was methodical, down to earth and conducted by stewards you felt were horsemen and women themselves. Let’s hope this is the future, as Riesenbeck has set a high standard.

    An enchanting experience

    Talking of gold medallists, I am always in awe of what Valegro can do for others. His appearance at the British Dressage National Convention was simply magical. I can’t imagine in my lifetime that there will ever be another horse who is so adored and who adores his public back in equal measure.

    Also, the content at the convention was wonderful and seemed to cater for most levels – bravo to all of the presenters!

    I have just returned from the London International at the ExCeL, slightly the worse for wear from lovely celebrations after Imhotep and Charlotte’s win, and it’s safe to say this iconic show has settled into its new home, although nothing could quite replace Olympia’s magical atmosphere and stately surroundings.

    A change of venue can take years to feel comfortable for riders, spectators and organisers, but Simon Brooks-Ward and his team delivered another enchanting experience for dressage lovers, and Richard Davison as consultant pulls the whole thing together with aplomb.

    Another well done to the show and grooms’ liaison Jenny Ellis for the “grab and go” food in the grooms’ lounge, in addition to the meal vouchers provided. Fuel on the go for busy days is something the International Grooms Association would like to see as normal at all shows.

    Seeing Anne and Gertjan van Olst awarded British Equestrian Medals of Honour was lovely. As they live in the Netherlands, it would be very easy to forget the huge amount they contribute to dressage in Britain. That’s not only producing Lottie Fry and the great horses she rides for them, but the influence of their exceptionally successful breeding programme, which brings us back to Valegro.

    I am looking forward to our traditional Boxing Day ride where I hack him around the local villages. It reminds me every year of why we love horses. I will be mulling over this year’s adventures and next year’s journey ahead in a very relaxed way, so on that note, I wish you all, and your horses, a very merry Christmas.

    ● How can the horse industry do more to support and reward grooms? Write to us at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your thoughts published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 14 December, 2023

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