A groom, or stable hand, is someone who is employed to take care of horses. They will also be resonsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the horses' environment, the stables. Grooms can be employed in all sorts of horse establishments, from local riding schools to international competitive racing stables and stud farms.
Typically, the responsibilities for a groom will include mucking out stables, feeding the animals and making sure that they have sufficient water to drink, checking and oiling their hooves, replacing bedding as required, brushing the horses' bodies and combing their manes and tails. Depending on the establishment, grooms may also be involved with exercising the horses, maintaining tack and other equipment, and assisting riding teachers with lessons or accompanying competition riders to events.
There are no formal qualifications required to become a groom. Grooms often start out volunteering at their local stables and work their way into a paid position. However, most employers will expect grooms to have a high school education.
Pay and Opportunities
On average, the weekly rate for a groom starts at around £195 and can rise to £325 for a yard manager. The hours can be long and working weekends will be expected, particularly if employed at a stable that is involved in lots of shows. Sometimes employers will offer live-in accommodation and meals as part of the remuneration package. As your experience increases you may be able to take on more responsibility, managing a yard or organising travel arrangements for riders and staff. There may be possibilities to move into training horses and riders.
Firstly, and most importantly, is a love of working with horses. It is also necessary to be confident around these large animals. A good level of physical fitness is required and a willingness to undertake all sorts of tasks, even mundane ones. Good people skills are essential, particularly if the stables are open to the public for lessons.
The best way to find work in the first instance is to ask at your local stables and be prepared to volunteer in order to gain experience. Vacancies are often only passed on by word-of-mouth so it is a good idea to foster contacts within the horse industry whenever possible. Sometimes positions will be advertised in local newspapers or trade magazines.