A Typical Show Day for A Professional Groom!
I am often asked - what’s it like to be a Pro Groom? AT A SHOW? Oh boy, it’s a lot like being at home, but pumped up with more to do and less time to do it but also more waiting around. Make sense? Guess not, so here’s the play by play of a typical day at the dressage show for me.
-The set up day is a whirlwind. More likely than not, the morning of set up day at the show is business as usual. Riding, turnouts, then tack cleaning and last minute packing. Then the rig arrives (or you pull it up to the barn) to load supplies, hay, trunks, tack, feed, kitchen sink. Horses are wrapped with shipping boots or standing wraps and loaded. There would usually be one Groom for every three horses, sometimes four.
For shows around the corner in your town, it’s easy to go the night before and get ready at the show grounds. Set up can take a few hours as you need to inspect all of the stalls, remove nails, staples, run the magnets, bed the stall, hang and fill water buckets. Then set up the tack/grooming stall and the feed/storage stall. Same deal - inspect, de-metal the stall, move in your trunks, hay, etc. and situate the locks. Hang banners of sponsors, set up the tent, move and install the mulch, hook up electricity, get the fridge and freezer running and just generally get organized. For out of town shows, your time to get this done is limited, as you and the horses are arriving relatively close in time. So prep the stalls and then move on when they arrive. If you are in the rig with them, they have to chill when you get the stalls ready. This is when smart planning and clever trailer packing comes into play - have the tools to set up the stall handy as you open the trailer tack door.
-Arrive to the barn about 5 or 5:30. In the morning. Toss hay, fortified feeds, unwrap legs if needed, remove poultice, clean stalls, change water. This is pretty reminiscent of home life. But, you usually have further to go to dump your wheelbarrow, which is sometimes smaller than the one you use at home. Start your pedometers, your dogs are gonna be barking by the end of the day! Same for fetching water - and it’s a real drag if you forget your extra long hose and you are carting buckets to and fro.
-By now the show is starting to come to life. Go to the office to check the day sheets, often these are updated overnight. Double and triple check ride times. Use these to plan your day. Just like home, the horses get out multiple times a day for riding, hand walking, horse showers, hand grazing. The ride times dictate when your horse needs to be ready for warm up, which tells you when to start grooming, braiding and tacking up. Then you can figure in tack cleaning, hand walks, icing horse legs, bathroom breaks for you, etc. Also factor in the time you will be ringside with your bucket of magic tricks so your horse and rider are looking sharp as they go from warm up to show ring. You will likely be video taping some or all of this, so when your rider is on, don’t bank on that time to get chores done.
-Find time for to eat. I don’t care if a horse has a wavy mane from his braids, I need to refuel and stay hydrated to make it through the day. Horses don’t always come first. GASP!! Did I just say that? It’s not okay to work a 12+ hour day without breaks. So I took breaks and ate and had water!
-So now it’s about noon and the day has been mapped out. Some of the horses have shown, others are yet to go. There is also the tweaked shoe to deal with, the last minute schedule change, the missing polo wrap, the emergency trip to the tack store on vendor row, the green slobber everywhere. Lots of TPR all the time.
-Then there’s the “keep it all tidy” to deal with. The barn aisle is to be raked, there’s no tack to be left in the sun for fading and thieves, the stall doors are to remain slobber and booger free. Keep the barn dogs out of the pretzels, help your neighbor across the barn aisle, maintain a happy face.
-So just when you think you can go home, you need to do all of the barn chores and feeding and mucking again. Then it’s time for a quick bite for you, and by now it’s eight or nine at night and it’s blankets on, night check, an another mucking out. I usually made it to the hotel by 10, just in time to wake up at 4:30 for another day. It’s a long day at the shows - but fun! You will meet a lot of people and see some amazing riders.
-The last day is just the same as every other day - except you also get to take it all down, pack it up, and head home. Once home, the horses get cared for and you are unpacking. Some of the unpacking and organizing can wait, but it still needs to get off the rig if you hired a transport company. And, you don’t want to leave the tack out or grungy. So there’s that to clean.
At some point it becomes a blur and you make it home into your own comfy bed. Then it’s up super early the next day to start work again! I always liked to come to work after the horses have been at a show, I want to check how they are feeling and see if they need anything. My day off would wait!
How is a typical show day for you?