Alex Brown’s “A Day in the Life of a Groom” piece in the New York Times’ Rail blog brought back some memories for me. I loved being a groom – I learned so much about handling Thoroughbreds, I got no sleep at all, and I only broke one bone.
Early mornings, shoveling sweet feed out of a wheelbarrow into feed pans, dropping them into stalls (or clipping them to the stall door, depending on the barn). Skipping out the stalls and sneaking some coffee while the kids snarfed down their breakfast. Curry comb, body brush, and hoofpick in hand, tying each horse to the length of chain (harder to eat, my dear) on the back wall of the stall and getting them clean and shiny for the day. Tack up one by one, leg-up the rider, get the stall cleaned and bedded… It was such a nice rhythm.
The thing about grooming is, everything is done fast and efficiently. So while an OTTB may buffalo someone into thinking they can’t stand fast moves or loud voices, guess what, they’re used to it! Or perhaps most popularly, people think their OTTBs don’t tie. Oh, yes they do, just not the way you think they do…
I had an event trainer tell me never to groom a horse in its stall. The stall is their home and it’s their safe personal space. That is of course anthropomorphic at its worst. Horses are herd animals and do not seek safe personal space, or bedrooms with locking doors. They’re not teenagers, however they may act like it in other respects.
And if you have a Thoroughbred stroll into your boarding stable straight out of the shedrow, guess what he’s never done? Cross-tie, that’s what. Especially in the barn aisle (barn aisle, he says, what’s a barn aisle?). And it’s highly unlikely that he’s ever been tied to a hitching post with no wall behind it, if that’s your technique. He’s been groomed in his stall. And yes, he ties. For hours, if you insist. In his stall, not in the washrack or the aisle!
Skip over to the Times and read Alex’s blog, if you haven’t. A thoroughbred’s morning is quick and hectic. They’re used to snappy grooming sessions, being tied, being tacked, being polite – don’t let them tell you otherwise! Oh thoroughbreds, always trying to trick us..