FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Founding Director of the International Grooms Association™ (IGA) Lucy Katan have recognised the creation of the IGA with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the FEI Sports Forum today.
An independent not-for-profit professional association, the IGA has been established to achieve greater representation and career recognition for grooms, as well as to improve their working conditions, especially at equestrian events where long hours are the norm.
The support provided by the IGA will include guidance on employment rules, answers to commonly asked questions on recruitment, a toolkit for grooms working freelance, and a job board, to name a few. A section on well-being on the IGA website, International Grooms Minds, will ensure that grooms also have a strong emotional support system in place to assist them in their daily work.
“Today’s signing of the MOU is the culmination of many years of discussion and planning and marks the start of a new era for international grooms,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.
“This is a journey which began in 2017 with the first meeting of the FEI Grooms Working Group, and started to take shape at last year’s Sports Forum when the community provided its full support for the creation of the IGA. What we see today is the result of a great deal of hard work and persistence and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the FEI Grooms Working Group and Lucy Katan for her vision and leadership in creating this important organisation.
“The IGA has laid the foundations for the grooms’ community to grow, evolve and have a strong voice in the long-term development of equestrian sport and I count on grooms, as well as National Federations, athletes, organisers, officials and owners to make this a success.”
Since its inception in 2009, the annual FEI Best Groom Award has paid tribute to the hard work of grooms across the FEI’s disciplines.
The FEI has also developed educational tools and resources to assist grooms with their day-to-day work. Education has been key to creating international standards of operation that are accepted and followed by grooms at all levels.
In 2015, FEI Solidarity created an educational course for grooms, which consists of three in-person sessions and one practical assessment. Over the years, 280 grooms worldwide, have already benefited from these courses that provide practical training delivered by a technical expert. The IGA will now collaborate with FEI Campus to provide grooms with information on anti-doping, biosecurity and general stable management.
“This is the moment in time that finally gives the international grooms a voice within the FEI and at competitions,” said Lucy Katan, herself a former international groom.
“The goal is for the IGA to become the voice of international grooms, while recognising all the work goes into keeping the equine athletes of our sport happy, healthy and performing at their best.
“While we want Organising Committees to raise their commitment to improving working conditions, we hope that Grooms will provide feedback on their work experiences through a ‘Grooms Report’, so that improvements can be made to their working conditions at events. This is a real opportunity for grooms to constructively and collaboratively be heard and play a key role in their profession and this industry.”
Grooms from all over the world can now become an IGA member through the Association’s official website: www.internationalgrooms.org.
Each FEI discipline will also have four to six representatives working within the industry to promote the status of international grooms. These representatives will be asked to mentor new grooms, creating a support hub for those new to the scene.
“The career of a groom should be seen as integral to the success of any equestrian team and to equestrian sport,” Chair of the Grooms Consultative Group, former groom, and former FEI Executive Board member Frank Kemperman said.
“An international athlete is nothing without a good horse, but a good horse is nothing without an exceptional groom. It is about being a team. Athlete, horse, and groom are key to each other’s success. We hope the national federations and their athletes will spread the word and encourage their international grooms to join the IGA.”
The Grooms Consultative Group was set up by the FEI following last year’s Sports Forum and is made up of Grooms, Owners, Athletes, representatives of Organising Committees, Officials, Stewards and National Federations. The Group’s mission is to assist with the definition of a roadmap for the development of key structures for the Grooms community, including the creation of a Charter of rights and obligations for Grooms.