Earlier this year, the Equine Management Training Center (EMTC) announced the creation of a certification program for professional grooms in the U.S. The first session of the Professional Groom Certificate Program wrapped up in September with two newly minted graduates, Claudia Sadler and Rachel Petty, who are now happily employed in their chosen careers.
The EMTC aims to raise the standard of grooms and facility managers by providing a structured curriculum that covers all aspects of farm and stable management and care specific to competition horses. The eight-week program consists of six weeks of classroom and hands-on practical instruction followed by a two-week internship after which graduates are guaranteed job placement.
With the quality and comprehensiveness of the instruction, it’s unsurprising that top-level riders, trainers and programs are lining up to hire EMTC graduates.
Sam Burton Henley, EMTC program administrator, has imparted wisdom upon the next generation of riders and grooms for more than 10 years as she has worked as a trainer and facility manager at Suzanne Lacy’s Sandy River Equestrian Center (SREC), where EMTC is based.
Prior to working at the Axton, Virginia facility, Sam was the competition manager and head groom for the O’Connor Event Team, so it’s not surprising that the real-world experience and knowledge she, Suzanne and other instructors share with the students produces highly competent and qualified individuals.
Having now graduated the first participants, Sam is reflecting on the first session and looking ahead to the future sessions. “The condensed format, which consisted of six weeks at our farm followed by a two-week internship, was very intense but doable,” Sam said. “We realized that we needed more time than originally allowed for some of the topics, so we adjusted the schedules accordingly.”
Claudia and Rachel had class five days a week, homework and testing on the sixth day, and one day off. “This seemed like an excellent schedule, as we could make sure they were absorbing everything as we went. Both of our graduates seemed very happy with the program and absolutely blew us away with how quickly they picked everything up. We are very hopeful for the continued development and success of this program,” Sam said.
“The highlight for our first session was putting the girls with riders at the American Eventing Championships. Claudia Sadler worked with Lauren Kieffer, Rachel Petty worked with Jennie Brannigan, and they both worked with Ryan Wood. All of the riders were extremely complimentary of both girls.”
While EMTC’s Professional Groom Certificate Program has just graduated the first two official participants, SREC has long been training top grooms. Several students who came through SREC first as lesson program participants, then as working students and later as staff, have benefitted from Sam’s wealth of experience and knowledge as they later progressed to head groom or facility manager positions of their own in premier programs around the country.
Courtney Carson came through SREC while attending nearby Hollins College and stayed on to work at the facility after graduating. After gaining valuable experience at EMTC, Courtney moved on to groom for Doug Payne. “Thanks to the great foundation and training Courtney received at SREC she was able to step right into the program at DPE without missing a beat,” Doug said. “Her experience with both top level and young horses has made her an invaluable asset to our team.”
Trae Meder is another such SREC graduate, and he now works for show jumper Matthias Hollberg. “Trae came to us with a solid foundation of knowledge and was eager to learn about the show world,” Matthias said. “With an excellent work attitude and great feel for horses, he has become a valuable member of our team.”
Sue Clark, Manager of Stonehall Farm, sings the praises of EMTC and SREC students, including current employee and SREC alumni Katherine Lester. “When people want to enter into the horse world as a professional career, there are many considerations that go into hiring the ‘right’ person. One thing that has certainly made the hiring process easier for us is the EMTC,” Sue said.
“I would highly recommend this program to anyone that was seriously thinking about entering the professional horse world. With this background behind you, you will enter the industry with confidence!”
Another happy employer is Allison Springer. “When I was in need of a new head groom, my first call was to Sam Burton at the EMTC. I know Sam personally and professionally, and I had full confidence she would steer me in the right direction filling the most important position on my staff,” Allison said.
“Sam connected me with Sarah Zimmer, who has been my head groom since May of 2015. Sarah has proven to be an invaluable part of my team; her dedication and kindness has been a blessing to my program.”
It was the success of these SREC alumni — Courtney, Trae, Katherine and Sarah — that inspired the creation of the EMTC Professional Groom Certificate Program. Now the most recent graduates are following in their footsteps as successful professionals. Rachel Petty is now employed by show jumpers Faith and Tammy Davis, and Claudia Sadler is grooming for Hannah Sue Burnett.
“I’ve been very impressed with the skills and horsemanship that Claudia came to work for me with after being in the EMTC for just a short amount of time,” Hannah said. “Her positive attitude and great way with the horses makes her a valuable member of my team. I’m excited to see more qualified grooms come out of this great program!”
EMTC has four sessions of the Professional Groom Training Certificate program scheduled for 2017, with the first one beginning Feb. 6. Employment is guaranteed upon completion of the program, and scholarships are available. In addition to the groom program, a two-day Winter Event Workshop, called “Preparing for Your Spring Season,” led by Sam has been generating a lot of interest and will take place in January.
Anyone interested in either the Winter Event Workshop or the Professional Groom Training Certificate program can check out the EMTC webpage for more information and applications.