Life as a groom: this is who are (and how they work) the women and men who take care of the horses of the champions

It is a silent presence, inconspicuous but indispensable. She works behind the scenes and during competitions you can meet her on the sidelines, while she screws the crampons or fixes the harness. He is the person with whom the professional rider shares the minutes before the race and the one who welcomes him immediately after, with a biscuit always ready for the horse, for better or for worse. Today we say groom, once he was the man of the stable, but however he is called this figure has acquired responsibilities and skills that go beyond handling the gallows and brusque, coming to occupy an important place in the team that builds the success of a combination. , especially in high-level competitive activity. A role that the world of horse riding is slowly beginning to recognize.

During the International Horse Competition in Piazza di Siena, in Rome, we wanted to give credit to this work, awarding on behalf of the whole category Yulia Khokhryakova, 35, for 8 years the shadow of Piergiorgio Bucci and his horses. It must have been a sign of fate, Bucci himself a couple of hours later on that same lawn celebrated his third place in the Grand Prix. It was a symbolic recognition, but in any case it is a sign that the way of looking at this figure is changing: no longer low labor but specialized technicians.

“It is a job of great responsibility. The groom lives with the horse almost 24 hours a day, at home or away, so he is the first to notice if something is wrong. It’s like a mechanic who knows the car perfectly ”, explains Alberto Zorzi, one of the strongest knights in the world. After seven years spent in the Netherlands, a few months ago he returned to Italy and with him his groom Alin Seidler. German, 35, while she weaves Ludvig’s mane she tells us that it is difficult to stay away from home and loved ones, but the emptiness is compensated by the presence of the horses, which she loves all equally, without distinction.

Alin Seidler, groom of Alberto Zorzi

Alin Seidler, groom of Alberto Zorzi

Petru Moroseanu, known as Christian, on the other hand has his favorites: “When they leave the team – he admits – it is inevitable to suffer. As happened to me with Elzas ”, the bay recently sold by Giulia Martinengo Marquet. “The hardest thing was telling him,” confirms the rider, twice gold medal at the Italian Championships. It is not obvious that the riders give visibility to their groom, but she shares her successes: “Christian has been in my team for 15 years. Thanks to his work, I can concentrate only on sporting performance, because I know that everything else has been done in the best possible way and this is a great luxury ”. Total trust therefore, also demonstrated by the fact that Christian, born in 1964, not only manages the stable and trips, but trains Martinengo’s horses when she is not around.

We could say that he is at the apex in this type of career, which requires sacrifices. “Last year we were out all summer between the Nations Cup and the European Championships, so no family, friends and holidays. Not everyone would accept it ”, says Antonio Maria Garofalo, rider making his debut this year in the Cup in Piazza di Siena. His groom is Italian, almost a rarity: “It’s true, there are more foreigners because abroad there is a greater equestrian culture and therefore this profession is also more considered and more widespread”, explains Silvia Onorevoli, 30 years old. . “As a young girl I used to ride in suits – she says – when I realized that it wasn’t my way I looked for a way to stay in the environment, for the love of horses”. This is how she often begins, when she is young, helping out in the riding stables near her home, assisting the most experienced riders. Silvia then decided to gain experience in Germany and Holland, an experience that she recommends: “Abroad there are more possibilities”.

In England the IGA, International Grooms Association, was born with the aim of giving voice and protecting the rights of the category. In Italy there is still no similar reality, so everyone organizes themselves: contract (when there is), insurance, training … To define the salary there are many components: experience, the type of duties, if you only work at home (home groom) or away (show groom) or both. You can be linked to a stable, which usually also provides the house and pays the utilities, or work as a freelance. At high levels, you can earn up to 2 thousand euros per month. It is an area where there is no lack of gray areas, but something is starting to move.

Last year the FISE, the Italian Federation that brings together equestrian sports, established the figure of the stable technician and promoted a training course whose program ranges from farriery to horse training techniques, from disease prevention to legal notions. . The International Equestrian Federation, which awards the Best Groom award every year, signed a memorandum of understanding with the IGA last April, thus officially recognizing the role of this professional category within the Fei. A big step forward, commented the president Ingmar De Vos, a historic moment and not a way of saying: “Sorry if it took us a century!”.

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