On Grooming Now - Years later, I'm back in the cross ties. Wiser and creakier, but back. Here's what I think I know.
Years ago, when Pro Equine Grooms wasn’t even an idea, I groomed full and part time. The days were long, I was younger, I had stars in my eyes. (I still have the stars.) I was also getting burned out from the long days and weekends, had an injury here and there, and longed to find a way to give back to the industry that has taught me so much about horses.
So I started proequinegrooms.com. This allowed me to share what I learn about horses and caring for them (virtual grooming?), and it took me back to the office. While I still pack in hours at the barn caring for my own horses, I have a flexible schedule and I get to do fun things like travel to FL for WEF and Equine Affaire to do some public speaking (YIKES stage fright).
Every now and again, I have the wonderful opportunity to get back to grooming. There’s always a time at the barn where extra hands are needed - shows, a nasty cold going around, someone is on vacation. So that’s what I have been doing a few days over the last couple of weeks! I jumped right back into the deep end and have been grooming at a lovely professional barn in Virginia. This is what I have learned/been reminded of/want to share:
It's a LONG walk along the hills of VA back and forth to the paddocks. #bootyburn
-Exercise away from the barn can only help you at the barn. Grooming is HARD WORK, muscles ache. I found I need more weight training and more hiking up and down hills. I’m great on the cardio front but when you groom several horses a day your body can revolt. More on this subject here!
-Great sleep is a wonderful way to be sure you can function before a day of grooming. In my years of grooming sleep was compromised sometimes, especially at shows. The days are too long. Now I make sure to get a great dinner and an early bed time.
-You need to stand up for your personal needs. Yes, there’s that oh-so-clever phrase about horses first, the rest later. Well, that’s largely BS. If you need to pee, eat, or take a break, chances are no horse is going to die because of that. I’ve been in a lot of barns from the very sketchy to the very Olympic-y and not once has anyone said I could not go to the bathroom. This is largely in our own heads, and it needs to stop. Just pee, eat, and take the darn break.
-Invest in some quality shoes. Spring for the extra supportive insoles. Make sure they are waterproof. Do what you can to prevent those dogs from barking at the end of the day. Bring the extra socks and have a pair of rubber boots for the wash rack or supper muddy walks to the paddock.
-Enjoy the process. As often as you can, take a moment, or several, to stop, breathe, and savor. You get to spend time with horses!! You might lose the stall speed cleaning championships for the day, but putting down the fork for a sec to appreciate your horse is worth it.
-Raid your horse care knowledge and tools and use it on yourself after a particularly hard day. Time for ice packs, epsom salt soaks, and a nice fuzzy blanket.
-Keep your eyes open and your mind clear! Those young whipper snappers that I work with in the barn are super savvy, have lots of ideas, and love to talk about past experiences and what has worked for other horses. There’s rarely one right way to do things, and you just may learn something new or teach someone something.
The WhipperSnappers showing me how it's done.
-Channel your inner early morning person. The lovely commute for me to this particular slice of barn heaven is over an hour, but I get to avoid all traffic, see the country by moon light and early dawn, and start my day off right. Since I’m rarely without a camera, it’s also a great way for me to get some shots in the best light possible. Use your morning time at the barn to set the tone for the day! And maybe also guzzle a bunch of caffeine. Just in case.
Have you ever left a job, to later come back to it and have a whole new appreciation?