The Debrief with: 3* Eventer and Pan Ams Groom Lea Adams-Blackmore

Lea Adams-Blackmore and Sharon White at the Pan American Games. Photo courtesy of Sharon White / US Equestrian.

Welcome to The Debrief, where we’ll recap the experience of a rider following a big result or otherwise memorable competition.

Lea Adams-Blackmore has had a busy season. In the last year, Lea conquered her first Advanced with her trusty steed Frostbite, competed in the MARS Bromont CCI Horse Trial as part of the Bromont Rising Program, and capped off her personal competition season by adding zero faults to her dressage score in the CCI3*-L at the Maryland Five Star.

While Lea works full-time as Sharon White’s assistant trainer, she traveled with Sharon and Claus 63 to the Pan-American Games under a different title: groom. Today, we’re getting her take on the Games from this unique perspective.

What is your history with Sharon White? What’s she like to work with?

I’ve been with Sharon for about four years now, which has been great. I started working for her as a working student right after high school. Everyone pretty much starts out doing everything — you’re not really limited to one job. Whenever she’d be competing, I’d go to the shows with her and help out the grooms. So that’s been really fun, because you learn every aspect of the upper level eventing life. You don’t just learn about riding; you learn about horse management, horse care, and all the things that you need to know to make a program run successfully.

Sharon is great because she leaves no stone unturned in her teaching. She is so adamant that you have to know how to do all the things and do them really well, which is great because I feel like a lot of people just know one thing and that’s kind of it. So even though I’m not necessarily a professional groom by any means, I could go to this show and groom for her without a problem.

And she puts so much effort into her students. She is out there with us. If we’re out there working till 7pm, she’s out there teaching until 7pm. She doesn’t take advantage of how hard we work. She works just as hard as we do.

What’s Claus’s personality like, and what’s your favorite thing about working with him?

He is such a dork. We call him Claus-Mouse, because he’s just so in your pocket and personable. You just see him in the barn and he wants to touch you and play with you. And, if you have a treat, he’s all about it. He’s just a goofy guy. He’s a little opinionated about things in the best way.

He’s just so sweet when you’re taking care of him, if you’re icing him, or lasering him, or putting the Bemer on him, he just loves it. He loves all the attention.

I think that’s why he was so happy at the Pan Ams because he had me and Sharon there to just do things for him all day. He was like, ‘I have my own personal butler that’s gonna make sure all my needs are met all the time.’ I’m pretty sure it was his idea of heaven.


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A post shared by Sharon White (@lastfrontierfarm)

As Sharon’s Assistant Trainer, what’s your training philosophy?

I would say my teaching/training style has been heavily influenced by Sharon, and I really believe in her ideology around training horses and coaching people. I think that being patient is really important. I definitely focus on balance – riding horses in a good balance makes all the difference, especially in eventing. I think that whether you’re riding a horse around its first Beginner Novice, or tackling your first Advanced, you should always be thinking about the four things that a rider is responsible for: your own position, your steering, your rhythm, and your intention. Sharon has a phrase: ‘Horses go the way they are ridden.’ And I think that is such an accurate statement. Horses can tell a coach or trainer a lot about what their rider is doing, so it’s my job to look at where the communication could be improved and how we can get both the horse and rider to be on the same page, so they can be successful at whatever it is they are trying to accomplish.

What do you prefer more: grooming or competing?

Definitely competing. It’s funny – I thought going to the Pan Ams and not competing there was going to be so much less pressure on myself. But I was just as nervous and invested in Sharon’s performances the entire week. I was right there with her every step of the way. I like competing because I feel like I have so much influence on how things go — but when I’m grooming, all I can do is my part, but I wanted to do more. I love all the aspects of being at a show, but definitely competing is a little bit more my speed.

Describe the atmosphere at the Pan American Games in 3 words.

Intense, different, and precise.

Everything has to be so precise for every single rider that was there. They’re such high performance athletes that have the exact way that they do everything down to a science. I mean, it was precision to the point that the hole you put your nose band on was influential.

I think that’s why it’s so important to have people there that the riders are really close to and that they can trust. You have to do things a certain way to get the best results and I think that, while it’s so true for anything, it’s especially true for this sport because the smallest thing can completely put you off your performance.


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A post shared by Sharon White (@lastfrontierfarm)

How did you prepare for your trip to Chile?

It was a team effort for sure. We had three back-to-back weekends leading up to it and we were all hands on deck – Morven and then Fair Hill, and then obviously the Pan Ams. Like boom, boom, boom: that was that whole three week stretch. I think probably everyone at the farm had a collective six hours of sleep!

We had to make sure everything was where it needed to be for the various shows, because you can’t put aside the stuff you need to show early because we needed it for Morven and then for Fair Hill. I couldn’t have done it without Sharon’s groom, Kate Servais. She was on top of it. If there was anything I was forgetting, she was on it.

We had to prepare for any scenario. You had to be willing to stay at the barn until 9:30 at night and repack things over and over. They needed access to different things along the journey as well, so it was a long process.

What was it like to watch riders from all over the world?

I hadn’t really appreciated how big riding is in South America. Obviously, the last Pan American Games had a huge turnout. But I was still shocked at how many countries had full teams of riders that had results at FEI competitions that had gotten them qualified. There was some really good riding and everyone and their horses tried really hard.

There were so many riders that the last morning before show jumping, they had an open schooling ring where you could do a little jump school if you wanted. And it was the first day that the show jumpers could ride their horses. I think there were probably about 30 horses in a small ring – I mean, it could fit no more than two standard size dressage rings in there.

The problem was, there were so many bay horses in that ring that I was having trouble finding Sharon! Everyone was dressed in their formal schooling attire and she was also on a bay horse, and I was like, ‘where did she go?!’

What is one thing you learned about yourself that weekend?

I learned that I’ve gotten a lot better at projecting one thing externally when I’m feeling completely different internally. Every single warm up I had to be cool as a cucumber, because Claus can easily get very emotional. It was so important that I was being completely calm externally, even while on the inside I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so exciting. This is so crazy!’ Externally, you have to be professional and serious and completely unfazed by all of the action going on around you because both Sharon and Claus need that right now.

What did you learn about being a groom at a big event?

I’ve learned that it’s not actually as daunting as I thought it was gonna be. And it was fun because a lot of the people that were grooming there also, were not really professional grooms, at least for the eventers. It was so much fun being surrounded by all these like-minded people.

It made me realize that all you’re doing is the same thing that you would do at any show. You’re making sure that the horses look immaculate every time they leave the barn. And when there’s only one horse to show, you have so much time to redo braids and stuff like that. So that was really nice.


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A post shared by Sharon White (@lastfrontierfarm)

What do you wish riders knew about grooms and grooming?

I wish the average rider knew that so much of the stuff you do when you’re grooming at the show, you should be doing all the time. If your horse is always well groomed and you groom your horses every day really well then you don’t have to change all that much at the show. Maybe you scrub a little more in the bath, but you won’t have to do anything extra at the show because you should always take really good care of your horse and always keep their body free of fungus and stuff like that.

How do you plan to spend your off season?

We’re doing all the things we didn’t really have time to do during the season. So, bringing the babies into work again and working on all the things that got pushed onto the backburner a bit. Like making the farm look great, doing arena care, stuff like that. Sharon is also hosting a couple of schooling shows this fall, so we’ll be making the arenas ready for that and focusing on some sales horses and getting things ready for us to go to Florida.

Frosty has his shoes pulled, so he’s living his best life out in the pasture and will be ready to return to work in a couple of months. He’s very much like, ‘Give me some carrots and treats and I’ll see you in a couple of months.’

What do you like to do when you’re not riding, competing, or grooming?

Whenever I can, I go home to see my family in Vermont. They’re really amazing people, so that’s always fun. And I’m big on being outside, so I like to exercise outside. I also find a lot of satisfaction in cleaning stuff. I’ve actually spent a lot of time cleaning, which is probably not healthy but I really enjoy it. It’s super satisfying for me.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself five years ago, what would you say?

Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your riding and your goals. Things will happen when they’re meant to happen at the pace they’re meant to happen at. Don’t freak out when you have setbacks because all that does is make it worse. If things start going wrong, don’t give up. Just be patient and give yourself a break. Take a moment to be upset about whatever’s gone wrong or isn’t working out the way you thought and then give yourself a little bit of time to work through it. Things work themselves out in mysterious ways. Don’t look at other people’s progress and be distracted by that, because everyone is on their own path and headed in their own direction. All you can do is keep your head down and keep working hard.

As a rider for World Equestrian Brands, Lea Adams-Blackmore is very familiar with their products. Her favorite one? The iconic Mattes pad. According to Lea, “They always look amazing and are just an all-around quality product.”

Click here to explore the selection of Mattes pads on the World Equestrian Brands’ website.

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