Diary of a travelling groom
Hi I’m Emelia Hazell and I am Head girl and travelling groom for Lucy Jackson Eventing. I started working for Lucy in January 2014 while I was at Berkshire College of Agriculture studying Level 3 Horse Management. I was working part-time while I was at college and then started full time in July 2014. Eight years on and I’m still here! I did however take a break in 2019 for 18 months when I went freelance to experience how other yards are run and also to extend my knowledge. This included going to the Sunshine Tour in Spain with Tim and Jonelle Price, working at some other 5* event yards and riding out for a race yard. Here at Team Jackson we have around 18 horses including eventers, racehorses in for retraining and sales liveries. I work alongside Hannah Norvill and a couple of part-time helpers too.
The aspect of the job which I enjoy most is travelling to international events, the most recent of which was Houghton Hall International with one horse in the 2*L and two horses in the 3*L. The weeks leading up to an international competition mainly involve preparation work such as packing, ensuring the horses are fit, happy and up to date with all their needs including flu and EHV vaccinations. We take the horse’s temperatures for 5 days prior to arriving at the showground to be sure they are healthy and we also check their shoes are all well-fitting and have stud holes.
Over the years I have added to my packing list with items that you learn make a difference to the horse’s experience. For example, one of the horses likes to be alone in his own space and so I take a stable banner to provide him with privacy which helps to keep him much more settled. Little adjustments for each individual can make such a difference to their performance and their health and well-being.
Everyone is different with regard to their routine for an event. We tend to travel the day before the trot-up to allow the horses to settle in. When we first arrive arrive at an event, I take the horses for their vet inspection before settling them in to their stables. Once I’ve unloaded and set up all my kit I take the horses for a walk to allow them to stretch their legs and pick at some grass. The next morning Lucy will take the horses for a good hack and run through her dressage test before I bath and plait them for the trot-up which normally takes place in the afternoon. This allows the horses to have a good look around the venue and settle in before taking to the red carpet!
Thursday and Friday tend to be dressage days and I will leave trot up plaits in the horses doing dressage on the Thursday and take out the Friday dressage horses depending on their times. Lucy will always take the horses for a pre-test exercise too, maybe a hack or a training session depending on the horse and how they rise to the occasion. At the same time I may potentially lunge another horse. I always make a plan with Lucy the day before, so we work out when the other horses need riding around dressage times. Getting ready for dressage for me is about getting the horse looking as best I can. Once we get to the dressage warm-up arena I will be on hand to take boots off, administer any last minute touch ups, and provide water for Lucy. I’m also there to let the owners know exactly where we are and to video, so that the owners can watch their horses again later.
Saturday for the long format events is cross-country day. Working back from the horse’s times I will feed them in the morning before taking them for a walk around to start loosening them up. We feed a handful of Alfa-A before they go cross-country to try and help reduce the risk of gastric ulcers.
Lucy walks the cross country course several times with owners, team mates and on her own. I would go once with her so I know where she is when I listen to the commentary. In preparation for the cross country I will take a wheelbarrow of kit including a first aid kit, spare shoes and studs, water for Lucy, grease to top up if needed after they’ve warmed up and then buckets and ice for when they get back.
Saturday night can be a long one for me. If the horse has had a knock or gets stiff after a good run, it will be my responsibility to keep walk them, ice legs and feet and work with vets, physios and team members to ensure the horse is the best they can for the next morning.
On Sunday I’m up early trotting the horses up for Lucy to check their soundness and determine if they are fit enough to compete and we make a plan for each horse. A good hand graze, more icing, or a lunge to loosen up are typically what we do to keep the horses happy. We may occasionally lunge or use poles to get the horses moving and loosen up their backs after the trot up. They then get a well earned rest before their last effort over the show jumps. I like to get up early to plait the horses so they have a comfy night on Saturday having gone round the cross country.
We have a routine for the warm up for the show jumping which involves jumping 3 uprights gradually increasing in height then a low oxer, moving on to an ascending oxer which we increase in width and then finally one up to height square oxer. As the horse in front of her goes in to the ring, Lucy will jump one up-to height upright and that’s it. All I can do at this point is watch and keep everything crossed!
Travelling home from an event
Once we have untacked and groomed the horses after their show-jumping, our focus turns to loading the lorry and preparing to travel home. It can be a long drive so we sleep well when we do eventually get to bed. The next morning I will trot the horses up and deal with any issues. If all is well they go in the field for the day and have a well-earned rest. The lorry is then unpacked and re-packed for our next event!
Top tips from me would be…
- Give yourself plenty of time, being prepared and not stressed is much better for the rider rider.
- I always carry spare studs so I’ve got one to hand should a horse lose one
- Give a handful of chopped alfalfa, such as Dengie Alfa-A Original before competing.
- I’m always cautious of the fact that the horse’s routine is different at events compared to at home. As we turnout overnight in the summer, being back in stables 24/7 is a big change to their routine and can upset them. Lots of hand grazing and walking can break up the day for them.
- The horses MUST have their time too. It’s very easy at a 3 day competition to be at the stables all day. Give yourself an hour or 2 in your daily plan if you can to leave the horses to sleep and relax.
I’ve always dreamt of working for a top Event rider and being very biased I think Lucy is the best of the best. Team Jackson is a family run yard with a very supportive and hardworking boss. Seeing the horses loving their work coming through the cross country safe and sound gives me huge satisfaction.