Endurance Riding, Part 6, Section 3

Grooms

By Kristene Smuts

I know what I said in my opening statement in Part 1, but this is a different kind of groom. This groom isn't paid - or shouldn't be - for it well could be a family member, a good friend or more frequently, your SO.

And I'll repeat what I said in Part 1 at the end as well - to gain experience and to get the hang of all this, groom a few times for another rider. It'll provide you with invaluable experience for when you finally ride, like how to cool a horse down properly; how to take the pulse and respiration rates; how to listen for gut sounds; how to vet; the general routine when at an event. More importantly, it'll also teach you what a groom goes through on the receiving end of a rider's poor manners!

When you've successfully conned your nearest and dearest into helping you by convincing them that it's FUN to get dirty and wet and to carry heavy water buckets, you as the rider have to look after him like he's made of gold. Don't be rude to him because you're tired and tense - he's there to help you and if you persist in being rude, he may well decide to leave you to your own devices! And besides, it may take you far too long afterwards to win him over again.

In essence, the job of the groom is to look after the horse and rider, but it's not as simple as it sounds. Ideally the groom should arrive at the venue at the same time as the rider and horse so that the duties are split from the word go. Each team has different ways of working, so figure it out between yourselves. My hubby now grooms for me and although he's done it only a few times, we've sorted out a routine already. On arrival I'll deal with the horse, like stabling, watering, hay nets, etc. and he'll start with setting up camp. But the major part of grooming is preparing the rider and horse for departure and for when they come back. In some cases the groom checks and feeds the horse at midnight - that in itself deserves financial remuneration!

The groom must ensure that the rider eats and drinks well and that his waist bag contains all the necessary goodies. On departure, the groom should make sure the horse is tacked up properly and that the rider has all his bits and pieces, like gloves, sponge, waist bag, hard hat. Once they've departed, the buckets with drinking- and grooming water should be made ready, together with halter and lead rope, sponges, scrapers, liniment, full hay net, soupy mixture of food and whatever else the horse may require - experience will tell. Besides the grooming requirements for the horse, refreshments for the rider should be made ready as well. The vet card should be kept in easy access.

The groom should discuss the estimated arrival time with the rider, but he must be ready about 20 mins before that time, just in case the going was good and the rider made better time than estimated. He should hang around the arrival point to collect the time card - actually two cards, perforated - which will be printed almost as soon as the rider crosses the line. The card will indicate the rider's number, departure-, arrival- and vet times as well as his speed. The rider must take this card together with the vet card when vetting at the time specified - 20 minutes after arrival. The vet will separate the two cards, write the pulse on the one and hand it back to the rider, and he'll keep the vet- and other half of the time card.

If your grooming spot is too far away for the groom to wait for the card - cooling the horse down is more important than the card as you already know that you have 20 mins to get to the vet - ask somebody else to collect it or collect it on your way to the vet, but make sure your timing is right, as late vetting carries a penalty!

From the rider's point of view, as soon as you cross the line, go straight to your grooming area and start to untack and cool your horse down - it's not the responsibility of your groom only! Refrain from shouting at him because he forgot something - the most important things would be there anyway, like the water and other stuff for the horse. Remember, your horse takes priority in all this and you come a very distant second. Besides, you should have checked that everything was there before you left, anyway.

If the rider is doing one leg only, you can both relax and busy yourselves with whatever, but remember the after ride care of the horse. Should the rider be doing more than one leg, the whole routine starts all over again - seeing the rider off, getting the grooming stuff ready, etc.

In Article 7 - Choosing a Horse Box; Common Mistakes Made

References : Nancy S Loving; Lew Hollander

Part 7, Section 1

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