Meet Pro Groom and Pro Body Clipper Amanda Geerlinks!
So we all know that Grooms love horses, we love long hours, we love horses some more. Some Grooms decide that they also love starting their own business and working for themselves - AKA the “freelance” Groom. But let’s call a spade a spade. A freelance Groom is really a Business Owner - complete will all of the benefits of owning a business. Like doing lots of technical forms and insurance stuff and marketing and bookkeeping and travel and buying supplies and also having tons of fun.
Photo courtesy of Tara James of TJ Photography
PEG: How did you decide to become a Pro Groom? Did you always work for yourself? What made you decide to work for yourself?
AG: I worked for several different trainers here in Ontario and learned most of what I know from other Grooms and trainers. During university I needed some extra cash so I decided to buy my own set of clippers and told my horse friends on Facebook that I would body clip their horses for them. For the next couple years I worked full-time office jobs but still did clipping/grooming on the side. When I found myself without an office job in May 2015, the obvious thing to do was ramp up my grooming advertising! I had more availability and quickly found myself with more than enough work.
PEG: Do you have a particular discipline that you work within?
AG: I work mostly for hunter/jumper barns, owners.
PEG: Do you have a specialty - clipping? What made you focus on that specialty?
AG: Yup, clipping is my specialty! One of the main reasons I started was to pay for my own riding, and it paid better than any barn job I was working so it made sense. I love the satisfaction of clipping. As well, I like that I can make my own hours, and it is rewarding to step back and see a horse look so snazzy and ready for the ring!
It took me a long time though to get good, and confident in my work. I can remember clipping and getting anxious as I knew I would have to clip the hard areas soon (stifle, elbow, face, mane line). It took years of practice to come to the point where I’m not as worried anymore. My friend reminded me the other day that I used to say that I would never want to clip more than 1, maybe 2 horses in one day. Now I do 5 some days! It gets easier the more you do it, and as you figure out little tricks you get more confident and the hard areas become easier.
PEG: What do you think can be improved about the horse industry as a whole and specifically about how Grooms are treated?
AG: I think Grooms could still be paid more. When you compare how much people pay in show entry fees to what they pay for the person taking care of their horse, it makes you shake your head a bit.
Photo courtesy of AN Equestrian
PEG: What advice would you give someone who wants to groom for a top rider?
AG: Do it! Go, learn tons, work with fancy horses, eat all the horse show food, meet awesome people. My practical tips would be sit down with the rider and make sure you understand what the job entails, who's going to pay for things, how you'll be reimbursed, if there is insurance, and any and everything else you can think of :)
PEG: What advice would you give someone who wants to groom as a freelancer?
AG: Do it! Grooms are hard to come by, well good ones anyway. So many barns I go to when clipping ask me if I know anyone looking for a job as they need more Grooms. Freelancing is a great way to fill in the gap for a couple weeks.
If you want to freelance as a Groom/clipper, I would say make connections! You can easily get one of clip jobs for a horse owner who has one horse, but it's even better when you get a barn owner who wants you to clip 15 horses regularly. Those come through time, connections, and being reliable in your work. Be professional!
PEG: What advice would you give someone who is in a grooming job and not being treated well, illegal pay, etc?
AG: Leave! No, seriously. There are so many better grooming jobs out there. Yes, it's hard to leave the horses we're attached to, but in my opinion it's not worth sacrificing yourself when a barn down the road would love to have you and there will be cute horses there too that will steal your heart.
PEG: Best grooming tip ever:
AG: Give your horse a super bubble bath before it gets body clipped! This will make a world of a difference in how the clip turns out in the end. You’ll keep your horse and the groom happy as the job will be easier to do. And in the end you get a horse with no clip lines, possibly dapples, and shiny!
PEG: Best grooming tip about clipping:
AG: To clip the elbows, pick up the horses foot, then stretch it forward and use your leg for the horse to rest it on. Then you can control the leg as you clip the elbow. It's more reliable than having to find someone to hold the horse, and makes it WAY easier to clip the elbow. Scroll down for an awesome video about this!
PEG: What advice would you give the new horse owner about grooming?
AG: Elbow grease! Don't use all the products, just a good curry comb and set of brushes.
PEG: How do you explain the need to clip to those that believe it is so un-natural and OMG you are messing with nature?
AG: You know when you go for a walk in the fall time and you have some layers on to keep you warm, but then halfway through you start getting sweaty and so you shed a layer? Unfortunately your horse can't do that! They can't take a layer of hair off halfway through your ride. Yes, they can self-regulate their temperature quite well, but then we put them in heated, or insulated indoor arenas. Oh, but then we also chuck them outside for turnout in ridiculous cold temperatures.
Ok, so back to the analogy of a fall walk. The wind picks up a bit or you slow down, so you put another layer back on. You feel warm, but within an hour you realize you have a chill. You get back to your house and realize the only way to get rid of the chill is to have a hot shower.
Now, imagine that is your horse. He has a thick hairy coat. You ride him, he gets hot halfway through and starts sweating. After you finish riding him he is quite sweaty so you do your best to towel him dry (maybe even blow dry!) but is he warm again?
Body clipping prevents your horse from sweating up as much in the first place, and then makes it easier to get him dry and warm because his hair is shorter.
PEG: Most embarrassing moment?
AG: Too many, I'm a walking embarrassment. First one that comes to mind is I went to pick up a horses foot while grooming and my shorts split. Yup, butt cheeks coming out. In front of a bunch of clients, while standing in the aisle at WEF. No extra pants with me either, so sweater around the waste it was!
PEG: Biggest accomplishment?
AG: Starting my own grooming business and seeing it become successful!
PEG: Barn pet peeve?
AG: People leaving halters on the horse in the stall. Aisles that aren't swept. Leading a horse without a lead rope.
PEG: What is on your plate besides horses?
AG: Besides grooming, I also ride part-time for a Hanoverian breeding farm. As well, I am starting another business, doing website design and development. My dream is to develop websites for barns and equestrian related businesses. I went to school for marketing and would love to combine my love for horses with my degree in marketing! I also help small businesses with their social media marketing. Check me out on the interwebs! www.amandageerlinks.com
PEG: What is your typical day like? How many days off a week? (hahaha!!)
AG: There is no typical day. Lol. My schedule is all over.
My typical week though:
•Clip 3 - 5 horses
•Drive 1000 km's
•Ride 3 - 5 horses, 3x
•Work on websites in any hours in between
Days off? I try to take Sunday off at a minimum.
What questions do you have for Amanda?