Guest writer Joscelyn Lilly is an A Circuit groom, so she brings to us the perspective of what its like being a groom for a bunch of A Circuit riders. In this post, she gives us a walk-through of a “day in the life” and also gives us some tips on how to get to where she is if that is your goal.
I got my first groom job through a friend last year who was working with the stable I groom for now. The stable needed extra help on the weekends, and I happened to be the perfect fit for the job. During the first few days on the job, I had to learn a lot about the barn, horses, and owners. There were over 20 horses and clients whose names and faces I had to learn.
In addition to that, I had to learn what tack went with which horse, where the stalls were at the show, and the daily barn chores.
A year later, I know the barn like the back of my hand.
A typical work day starts off with being up a little bit before 6 am so that I can be in Wellington for 7 am. I live 30 minutes away, but I sometimes stay the night with one of the other grooms. Once I get to the barn, I immediately get started with the morning barn chores after dropping grain.
Chores start with turning out the horses. Each horse wears bell boots, fly masks, turnout boots, and blankets, if it’s cold out. After turning out the horses, it is time to muck stalls and dump and re-fill the water buckets. There are a total of 14 stalls, which do not include the 6 up at the show, and 28 water buckets. This work is usually divided between 3 or 4 grooms.
Once stalls are done getting picked, each horse gets hay. The barn is swept until it is spotless. This entire process takes about an hour and a half depending on how many grooms are working that day.
After morning barn chores are done, there is so much more to be done. Turnout gets switched; grain gets made for the night and the next morning (there are a total of 40 buckets of grain each with different supplements); and horses get clipped and exercised.
In addition to these tasks, there are also clients coming to ride. Sometimes certain grooms do ride the horses for the clients, but this depends on their riding capabilities. While the clients get ready to ride, I groom and tack up the horse and lead it to the mounting block where the rider is waiting. Once the rider is done, I take the horse from them and give them their next horse, if there is one.
Typically, once the horse is done, I untack it and give it a bath or groom it. Usually by this point in the day, I am requested up at the show, so I ride a horse that needs to go up to the show grounds or I borrow one of the golf carts to get there. When I am up at the show, I get assigned to bring a rider’s horse up to the ring.
While at the ring, I help the trainer set jumps and make sure both the horse and rider look perfect before their rounds. There is usually a gap of time between their jumping classes and the flat classes. Trust me when I say that Showgrounds Live becomes your best friend as a groom.
Once I’m done with that rider’s classes for the day, I will either ride that horse back to the main barn or will go and groom for another client. If I am sent back to the main barn, I ride the bridle path all the way back. Once I get back, I help with afternoon barn chores which are similar to morning chores: muck stalls, clean water buckets, drop hay, and sweep. When those chores are done, we tie up any loose ends such as bringing tack, grain, blankets, etc., up to the show. We also label stalls for the morning braiders, and we may also drop grain depending on the time.
The work day can end anywhere from 4 – 6 pm. By that point, I am exhausted.
Grooming is very fun, and it’s always an interesting job, but it is definitely not for everyone. It is not a full-time job for me. I am also a full-time student during the week. However, despite all my commitments, I love and care for these horses like they are my very own.
If you are interested in becoming a groom, I would first recommend just trying it out at your own barn. See how comfortable you are with taking care of lots of different horses. Test your knowledge. After that, reach out to barns see if they are looking for grooms.
My least favorite part about being a groom is waking up before 6 am on weekends instead of getting to sleep in. However, my favorite part is that I have learned and experienced so many different things that it makes the long hours worthwhile. I have also made tons of connections and friends through my job.