Wondering how to become a horse groom?
Grooms are some of the hardest-working individuals in the horse industry. Pair long days with demanding riders and quirky horses, and you’ll soon wonder why you ever liked horses (ok, it’s because they’re beautiful and majestic).
Grooms work long days, 6 days a week. They are responsible for all aspects of a horse’s care, from mucking and feeding to vet visits and grooming. It’s not a job for the faint of heart, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Not to mention all of the knowledge you’ll gain and all of the horse connections you can make!
The Horse Groom: A Job Description
There’s no single description of what a groom does. It changes based on your location, your experience, and even the rider or barn you work for.
Generally, a groom starts their day with feeding, turning out, and mucking stalls.
Once the rider or riders are ready to begin training, add in tacking and untacking. You’ll also be responsible for managing vet visits and holding for the farrier.
How many hours a week does a groom work?
If you’re lucky, you work 40 hours a week. Most grooms work closer to 60, more during a show weekend or show season. In this career, long days are the norm (think from 6 am to 6 pm, plus night check).
What are the physical demands of being a horse groom?
Being a groom means being on your feet. You’ll need to be able to carry 50lbs (sometimes more), lead multiple horses at a time, stack hay, drive a tractor, and walk many miles each day.
Education vs. Experience
Horses are one field where experience is almost always valued more than education.
Sure, there are degrees in equine management and courses in grooming, but nothing beats living it.
If I had to choose between someone with a college degree or someone with three years of experience in a barn, I’d choose the latter, every time.
Are there any certifications or associations for grooms?
There are. One of the most common is a four-year degree in equine business management, equine studies, or equine nutrition.
A degree will be of more help if you plan to be a barn manager, though most degree programs will offer a course or two that a future groom may benefit from.
Anyone considering becoming a groom should check out Pro Equine Grooms.
The Horse Groom: A Day in the Life
Here’s a quick peek at what a typical day may look like:
- 5:45 am: Wake up
- 6:00 am: Feed the horses
- 6:30 am: Turnout and stall cleaning
- 8:00 am: Start grooming and tacking for the day’s rides
- 12:00 pm: Bring the horses in, throw hay
- 1:00 pm: Short lunch break
- 1:30 pm: Grooming and tacking for afternoon rides, managing appointments, cleaning
- 5:30 pm: Feed the horses
- 6:00 pm: Nightly turnouts (if applicable), medications, leg wraps
- 10:00 pm: Night check
Some grooms may also help with warming up or cooling down horses. Plan time to help the vet (if she’s coming out), or to hold for the farrier, or to meet with the chiropractor, or to greet the visiting trainer, or to clean the tack, etc.
Of course, all those prior or’s should be and’s.
Horse Grooming as a Career Path – Let’s Talk Dollars
If you want to be a horse groom, you’re not in it *just* for the money (which is for the best, because this career has rarely come with big dollar signs). Want to get rich with horses? Don’t become a groom.
Want to get rich with horse experience? This may be the right career for you.
How much can you expect to make as a horse groom? How does it change from entry-level to Olympic level?
When you’re first starting, you may not make much at all. Chances are good you’ll be offered a small weekly stipend, along with a place to live. As you gain more experience, you could start to make $12-$13/hour.
At the highest level (Olympic grooms), you could expect to make around $17/hour. Most grooms will never make more than $40,000/year, with a more realistic number being $25,000/year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What perks come with the job?
Perks are a huge reason to become a groom. You’ll get to work with some of the top horses and riders in the industry. In addition, you’ll attend shows for free and you can watch a lot of professional-level riding. Not to mention all of the knowledge you’ll absorb listening to your rider, their trainer, vets, etc.
Did we mention you get to spend all day with horses?
Q: How much experience do you need to be a horse groom?
How much experience you need depends on what level you want to work at.
Olympic-level grooms will need a minimum of five years of experience.
This isn’t a job you can come into lacking any horse experience. Take some lessons at a local barn, volunteer at a horse shelter, or become a working student. Many times, if you tell the owner/manager at your working student position you have an interest in becoming a groom, once you’ve proven yourself, they’ll tailor your experience to some of the education you’ll need.
At the very least, you should be comfortable leading, grooming, tacking, and lunging horses of all temperaments.
Q: What kind of training do you need to become a horse groom?
Think of this field like metalwork: you learn best through experience (like with an apprenticeship).
A working student position is a great place to start.
It will let you experience the different disciplines (dressage, hunters, show jumping, etc.) and see what you like best, plus you’ll gain experience in all aspects of horse care.
It’s also a great idea to keep your knowledge up to date. Reading reputable blogs, keeping up with the latest research, and reading every book about horses and their health and wellbeing that you can find never hurts. The more you know, the better you can do your job.
Q: How do you find a job to be a horse groom?
If you’re already established in the horse world (either you’re in a lesson program or you own a horse and board somewhere), it could be as easy as asking around.
You can call some local vets and see if they have any clients that are looking. You can check job boards at tack shops. My favorite way to check for open positions is with Yard and Groom.
Being a groom isn’t easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re passionate about horses and want to learn from the best, this career may be for you. Be prepared for long days and lots of hard work. In the end, being a groom is an experience like no other that you’ll always look back on fondly.
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