Watch this interview with Imogen Mercer – super groom to Olympic eventer Sam Griffiths – to find out what life is really like as an international groom, and why it’s such an important job.
Want to become a groom?
Imo also offers invaluable advice on how to become an international groom.
“Experience on yards is the only way forward,” Imo told H&C. “When I was at school I kept my horse with Harry Meade and every holiday I was there – day in day out – and I never got paid a penny. Then I went to work for Sam as a working pupil.”
If Imo has inspired you to become a groom (we’re tempted, but think we may be a bit old in the tooth for a career change..), a great place to start is with the British Grooms Association (BGA).
“Being a groom teaches you a wide range of transferrable skills and is a really fun and rewarding career,” said Liz Daniels, BGA’s communications director.
Here is Liz’s advice on how to kick-start your career.
How important is experience?
Work experience is one of the most valuable things when starting out as a groom. It can help develop your practical and interpersonal skills and give you more confidence. You will leave with new skills, which you can put on your CV, and references that could help you get your dream job.
Your local riding school is a great place to start, or you could volunteer at your local RDA (Riding for the Disabled) group.
If you already have competition experience it is worth approaching local yards to see if they have anything available. A well-written email is usually the best way to contact busy people, with a concise summary of yourself, your level of experience and what you would like to do.
What key skills do I need?
You need to have a passion for the horses in your care, a great attention to detail, dedication, a great work ethic, a willingness to learn and a smile on your face. Having great communication skills also goes along way.
Competition grooms need to be exceptionally organised, work well under pressure and possess stamina!
How good a rider do I have to be?
Some jobs don’t require any riding, so if this isn’t your strong point be honest about it. If you want to develop your riding skills choose a job that offers relevant training.
Some talented riders use grooming as a stepping stone to get their own sponsors, owners and string of top horses, but be realistic about what you want.
Harry Meade recently said his head girl, Jess Errington, is far too valuable to be riding, which shows you can be at the top of your game and not ride.
How important are qualifications?
Qualifications are important – they provide the theory, which can back up your practical skills – but they aren’t essential. It depends what kind of grooming role you would like to do.
There are many ways of gaining qualifications, such as through an apprenticeship (eg a recognised provider, such as Haddon Training where you learn on the job), colleges, universities and BHS/ABRS exams. The racing industry has an excellent training system – visit Careers in Racing for more information.
Most employers are looking for experience and someone with a willingness to learn, rather than qualifications. The BGA Equine Skills CV and CPD (Continuing Professional Development) courses are an excellent way of demonstrating this on your CV.
What kind of training will I get on the job?
Some jobs include work-based training programmes, where you gain nationally recognised qualifications, based on real experience, skills and knowledge. Qualifications gained in this way are valuable to employers.
Any training should be set out in your employment contract (Statement of Terms), so be clear about which direction you would like your career to progress.
You will always be learning new skills and there is also lots of online CPD, which is completely free, and allows you to develop your skills further.
Do I need to arrange my own insurance?
Yes, absolutely. The BGA recommends all grooms – even if you work for free – have personal accident insurance. We have specially designed a number of different policies with KBIS to cater for all.
For more great interviews and advice don’t miss Rudall’s Round-Up: Eventing Forum which is now available on Catch-Up via H&C Play.