Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Baby Boomer Dreams of Arabian Horses - Rhythm's Story - Tommy Garland - Part 2

Part One of the Baby Boomer Series

Rhythm's Story starts here

Those who read this blog on a regular basis will know that I've spent a considerable amount of time over the years working as a groom in big Arabian barns. While it can be a great way to learn, it can also be h*ll. The pay, if any, really sucks. The education can be useless sometimes and the appreciation for a job well done is usually non existent.

I've described it from the start as "slave labor." Now, I say that jokingly, but over the years I can assure you that I've seen farms where it really is true. Some trainers and owners are good to their grooms but those are few and far between. Most pretty much ignore them taking what they have to offer but only speaking when they have orders or complaints. Still others treat grooms like they really are slaves and something less than human. All of the education in the world wouldn't be worth that later position to me.

Going to horse shows means taking all of that up a notch. The bigger the horse show, the higher the volume of pressure and the longer the hours. Grooms get all the grunt work and barely get time to eat let alone sleep. Some even are required to sleep in the stalls near the horses so trainers don't have to pay for rooms.

For shows like Scottsdale, US and Canadian Nationals, you can figure grooms arrive days (sometimes a couple weeks) ahead of time. They not only care for horses but can end up building elaborate displays with client rooms, viewing rooms and fancy landscaping. The shows have awards for these displays and the big barns have unspoken rivalries that mean each year must be bigger and better. It all falls under groom duties.

A groom can figure on the days starting off with at the very least 14 - 16 hours, steadily climbing up to even 20 sometimes once the show starts. Being a groom at any show is tough. When it comes to the big ones, this job is not for the faint of heart even in the very best of barns.

When I heard that Brittany was going to go to the US Nationals with Tommy Garland to groom, I laughed with her about the slave labor. You have to be a pretty big horse nut to work as a groom at nationals just so you can experience the show.

Since Brittany had never been to the US National Arabian Horse Show the allure was huge. I don't think she even gave the work at the show any thought. It was going to work for Tommy Garland full time that she was not sure of. The plan was she would just do the show and see how it went. A decision about working for Tommy full time would come later.

It wasn't long after she got home, that Tommy was calling her on the phone saying he really needed her to come early. She didn't want to disappoint the horse trainer so she gave 2 week notice at her job. Brittany was flying to Virginia by the first of October.

It was looking pretty good to Rich and me. I think we both had visions of Brittany becoming a horse training super star. Of course that meant riding our boy, Rhythm up the road to stardom.

The bad part was she was leaving her horse behind. The Arabian horse was staying home with Rich. Since Brittany was going to be gone with horses to the national horse show there was no point in taking the horse to Garland's. Rich would longe the horse to keep him in shape while his daughter was gone.

Brittany arrived at Garlands to those 14 hour days she'd figured would be there. It was the time after that day was finished bucking hay in the fields with the other groom that bothered me. I guess because she'd not been told ahead of time this was part of her job description. It sure wasn't any place that I ever worked.

My friend, Jean, told me she was required to buck hay at the day's end when she'd worked for Vantage Point Farms. But then that's one of the reasons my friend, Jean, has quit the horse industry. She's long since burned out, used and abused by an industry she put her heart and soul into.

Despite this twist that Brittany hadn't expected, she hung in there. Because she given Tommy her word she'd work through Nationals, that was what she was going to do. She wasn't a quitter.

But even on the day that was supposed to be her day off to do laundry and personal stuff, Brittany and her now friend and fellow groom, Natasha, were bucking hay in the field all day. Both girls had cracked and bleeding hands and chiggers. That's right, chiggers...... not something I am familiar with but I know enough to realize that they are painful and difficult to clear up. I have to say at this point in this venture, I'm not so sure I would have still been there but Brittany and Natasha forged ahead. Both were committed to going to nationals.

To be continued.........

Tommy Garland Part 3

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  1. What a mouth. I don't think I have ever seen one opened this wide before. Nice shot.

  2. Wow, this post brings back some yucky memories from last summer. I think the lack of sleep at horse shows is the very worst part of being a working student. I slept in a tack room next to the farm's stallion who literally screamed all night long. By the third day of the show, I wondered if I could possibly make it to the end? I don't think I have ever been so tired in my life. Add in a really mean trainer, and it was just horrible. I didn't last very long at the job, and am impressed with anyone who can stick with it.

    The whole hay thing sounds ridiculous. Poor Brittany.

  3. though I admire her dedication in working through the long hours, I would have refused to work on my day off. I'm sure I'd have firmly and politely told TG that it was my day off and he would have to make other arrangements. I hope in the end, it's worth it to her, she has a wonderful opportunity and a horse that can do it WITH her, but if it doesn't work out...she's still taking home the best horse at any show.

  4. Good for her to stick through it so far. sounds just grouling!

  5. I had to Google what "bucking hay" meant but now I know and boy that is a job I hate. I could do it until about a year ago but now have just run out of energy to lift those big bales, my hay malls are above the stables so it requires lots of lifting.

    This doesnt sound like it is going to have a good outcome.

    Woke to -1F here this morning Brrrr


  6. Also wanted to add, I learned about chiggers soon after arriving here in the USA. I have clear nail polish which I put on the area and it seems to solve the problem if you keep replenishing it. If you dont they itch like blazes and develop into nasty sores.


  7. Wow... I have been BLESSED where I have worked. I have worked at hobby farms, high-end dressage barns, high-end paint/qh barns and now a polish arabian barn. While I haven't always been treated equal, it was atleast with respect. One guy even let me ride an expensive dressage horse once, because I wanted to feel the difference between that and hunt seat. I did quit one because of deplorable conditions (new barn... NO turnout, heated with no ventilation, and to boot bad stall conditions. I have stood on poop piles that are less noxious). PS... I ALWAYS ask questions for those that have time for me. I have learned more that way than anything else.

  8. haha, great photo, what a BIG mouth!

    you are right on about the treatment of grooms!

    One year I worked at Remington Park. It was an excellent education when I was single, 20yo, and full of energy. But, the pay was crap and the hours were awful.

    lol, bucking hay. I lucked out this summer, hubs and his friend loaded while I drove the truck/trailer.

  9. Wow. I give Brittany props for staying around that long as well as Natahsa.

    I cannot believe that a trainer would be so slave driving?

    We all love horses, why do we have to single out others..

    I'd give her a raise do whatever I could to help her dreams come true if she stayed that long!!

  10. Bucking way! I would have had a few words with Tommy Garland and found a way back home:-)

  11. This is better than TV...Keep the story going...