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I found myself in the desert last week for a horse show. To get there I had to drive from Ocala to Lexington, Kentucky with Katy Long (who grooms for Jon Holling) to meet the Tex Sutton plane with Emma Ford (who runs Phillip Dutton’s life), and one of my favorite Canadians, Jessie Phoenix, who was coming in from Allentown, Pennsylvania with Shannon Kinsley (who runs Lauren Kieffer’s barn) … Air Horse One — no frequent flyer miles getting collected on this flight!
My job was working for PRO; making sure the flights were organized and helping PRO members with whatever odds and ends I could to make sure their trip to Galway Downs was successful. Basically, I played cruise director … We had a pretty quiet week compared to what most of us are used to. Only one or two horses and all day to get them done!
When I groomed full time and ran the barn, I loved these trips — it gave me time to be one-on-one with the horses and give them all the time in the world. I loved and still love “my horses” … each had their own unique personality. They may not all be famous, but they were all very important to me.
I watched my friends all weekend, a bit envious of how much they cared for “their horses.” The pride they had in them when they were so good, the nerves while they were on course, the elation when they came home successfully and the sighs when it didn’t go as planned, but they were still home safe … an emotional rollercoaster. Now that I freelance, I don’t get that connection.
Grooms are way more invested than people give them credit for. We give our heart and souls to these horses. We love them like they are our children, we want them to be safe and sound. Being successful is a bonus.
This team of grooms out there are some of the best in the world. They are like family — no one can understand why we do this better then they do. We all sadly have had horses die on us, and people send condolences to the riders and the owners — but no one will miss that horse like the groom does. We know their winny versus a nicker, their fear versus stubbornness. We know what it’s like to touch their ears, and the way their breath feels when we snuggle their muzzle. And when that is gone — there is a hole in your heart.
On Sunday, I happily sighed as I saw Shannon — so proud of “Scarlett” even though she had one rail down. The mare has had an unbelievable year, finishing second and third in two CCI3* and helping the Pan American Games team secure a gold medal, and she is only 8. I smiled for my friend Emma as “Jack” cleared the last show jump to win the CCI3*. She was so nervous; she couldn’t watch from the in-gate …
Maybe these women have souls stronger than mine — we all have the fear … maybe I just cared too much?