It’s been a while…

Well I of course got busy with the spring horse shows for two weeks, then spent one week recovering, and now looked at the calendar and see that it all starts again next week!

One thing that I was thinking about though, as I was talking to another girl that works for a big name farm, is that us white girls are possibly taken advantage of just as much if not more than the other grooms. I’ve been in a situation where I became the nanny/part-time babysitter, just like this girl. You come into these jobs because you love horses, but the employers, whether its a big name trainer or a small private family that we groom for, they ask us to take on extra work that we never thought would be a part of the job.

We end up justifying it with things like, “oh, but they pay for my meals.” Or I’ve heard, “They just help me out so much that I can’t say no.” But I am beginning to think that maybe we should start saying no to ridiculous things like that. Speaking for myself, when I am at a show, I like to be able to finish the day and chose whether I relax in the hotel room taking a nap, go to dinner with whoever I choose, and basically have some time “off the clock.”

I thought I was the only girl that had been left at the hotel for the night watching the kids. Talking to this girl over at the show, she has had the same problem. I guess what bothers me the most about all of it is this- its a lack of respect for your personal life. It’s not that horse shows don’t give you time to have a personal life- its that you can rarely make plans that you can stick to. The most irritating instance that I can remember was when the girl that I groomed for asked when I was going back to the hotel. I said something like not soon enough since I have quite a bit of work to do. She replied with informing me that she would be coming back to the hotel with me (we shared a room- god only knows why. Yes, I had to wake her up some mornings before i left for the show) since her mom decided to go have a drink and have dinner with others. Like thanks for asking…. I’m not exhausted at aaaallllllll. And I don’t want to have a beer.

And if you should ever say no to their requests, get a little grumpy, or even go so far as to quit your job because you are not interested in being a nanny, only a groom, they will act like you are an ungrateful little girl that knows nothing and how dare you- don’t you know how lucky you are???

If you are an employer reading this, I am not trying to offend anyone. I am just trying to make the point that some of us female grooms do this for our love of horses, not for doubling as a baby sitter. We don’t mind watching your kid occasionally, and some extra money is a good payment for that. Not beer, not dinner, not anything else. Money- kind of like overtime pay. It’s exactly what you would have to do with a sitter… We are not going to be free or cheap labor. We have personal lives that we try to maintain in our spare time, so a little respect is all that we ask.

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Things I have learned being a groom…

Being a groom, and picking up odd jobs here and there (thoroughbred exercise rider to body clipper), I have learned many things. The biggest… work ethic. As any worker (working student, groom, barn manager, trainer) it is important to listen to others that you work with and be open to advice and knowledge that they might have to offer. Here are some random, practical tips and advice that I have learned:

  1. “When you get on a horse, especially for the first time in front of a new boss, you make sure your stirrups are the right length, your heels are pushed as far down as possible, and your saddle is tight. Nothing makes you look more like you don’t know anything, than if you get on and are unsafe.”- Santiago, an thoroughbred exercise rider from the Training Center that taught me how to break gallop young thoroughbreds
  2. “It is always your responsibility to check your equipment everytime you get on. Make sure it is correct, its adjusted correctly, and that it wont break when you ride. You don’t want to learn this the hard way.”- Another lesson from Santiago
  3. A green spot remover without paying for Cowboy Magic- rubbing alcohol, a towel, and lots of elbow grease! Also for tougher spots, you can mix some whitening shampoo, like QuickSilver, into a spray bottle with the alcohol. I also like to add some water. Great for grays! (I like it more than cowboy magic)
  4. Need to open a bale of hay but don’t have scissors or a knife? if you have some of the extra string laying around, string it through one string on the bale, put your foot on the bale and pull up and back forth until the string on the bale breaks. (works with the orange or blue plastic-y string).
  5. Having a bottle of Show Sheen around is useful for spraying in the tail everyday before you comb through it. No one wants a thin tail, right?
  6. A hot, wet towel is great for rubbing all over your horse. Doing it daily as part of your grooming routine will help your horse get a lovely shine!
  7. Fact… A grey horse is much easier to keep clean, or at least dries faster if he is body clipped. (I hate body clipping…)
  8. Legs that tend to get fungus get clipped. This lets air get to them and makes them easier to clean daily and dry. (Try to not clip them if they already have fungus. If you do, be careful… it can be painful to the horse)
  9. Take pride in your work on a daily basis. Take time to groom the horse everyday and it will show in the coat.
  10. When you go to the ring, have someone (or it may be you if you are the groom) bring a brush, a towel (maybe wet it if there’s no water at the ring), a comb, hoof pick and hoof oil. In the 30 seconds to 1 minute that you have when the horse exits the warm up ring and goes in the ring, comb the tail, brush off dirt from the legs, wipe the mouth (maybe bring some baby oil up, if its not applied in the barn) and then clean and paint hooves one last time. Your job is to make the horse look fantastic when it goes in that ring!
  11. Learn how to feel when a jump pole is level when the trainer is adjusting one side and you are on the other side. It will save you both time of counting how many holes up or down.

These are just a few things that I have learned to do from the guys that I have worked with. I will post more as I think of them!

My first post!

Well, I figured I would start a blog. For rants, raves and any other updates. I decided it should be called thehorseshowlife, since my life does revolve around the horses that I work with and helping out at the horse shows. It is a wonderful industry to be involved in… with the right people of course. It can also be ugly and tough. I had one former employer tell me that sometimes you have to pull out your “alligator skin.” Both the good and bad aspects of the horse show grooms life, from an American young-woman’s perspective, will be shared through this blog. That’s not to say that I won’t bring up other things going on. 

I hope to share my experiences, where I have failed, what I have learned, to hopefully help other people that may want to join in this type of work. Maybe you will just want to be an outside observer to my horsey life, whether you are involved with horses or not. Enjoy!