Lady and The Track | August 8, 2020

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A Day in the Life of a Thoroughbred Groom

A Day in the Life of a Thoroughbred Groom: A groom’s life is one that can be characterized as gratifying, enchanting, even some sort of captivating, starting with such quiet mornings that can only be found amidst the land of horse farms. The drive to the farm, regardless of the location of the property, is always a pleasant one because of the ensuing beauty of the day that, somehow, for some fortunate souls, becomes the norm.

thoroughbred groom

Perhaps the least beautiful part of the day is the moment a groom steps into the barn and is reminded that stalls must be cleaned and refreshed for the day’s inhabitants.
Photo: Jessica Smith

Perhaps the least beautiful part of the day is the moment a groom steps into the barn and is reminded that stalls must be cleaned and refreshed for the day’s inhabitants. But, even an unenjoyable task has a silver lining, for in mucking out stalls lies the promise that the horses will be in soon. Once the stalls are emptied of their refuse, water buckets are dumped and refilled, morning feed is allotted, and stall doors are left wide open in preparation for their tenants.

Then comes what is best described as a parade of yearlings. A dozen or so grooms from all barns of the farm arrive, lead shanks in hand, to accompany the young horses to their stalls. Pastures are emptied as their occupants are gathered and brought forward for inspection by a pair of eyes trained to seek out anything that may be amiss. The many stalls of the several barns on the farm are filled within the hour thanks to the numerous dedicated handlers.

Hooves must then be picked out and cleaned, and temperatures must be measured, daily processes intended to ensure the health of the precocious youngsters. Grumbling can often be heard from behind stall doors as grooms argue with the colts and fillies about handling their feet and minding their manners, but such mild reprimands are kindly delivered to horses that simply don’t know any better and must learn.

In addition to learning the proper behaviors, yearlings must also prepare to learn the ways of the racetrack, their eventual second home once they depart the farms on which they were born and raised. The grooms assist with this process as well, beginning with leading them by hand around the walking ring until they are able to safely trot around it on their own. In this way they get their daily exercise and begin strengthening their necessary muscles before returning to the barn where bath time for all parties involved certainly awaits.

Once the horses are refreshed from their showers, they again return to their stalls to patiently await their next meal. The devoted grooms take their own lunch breaks at the same time as their charges in an effort to make certain that not a moment is wasted in working with the blossoming juveniles.

thoroughbred groom

The devoted grooms take their own lunch breaks at the same time as their charges in an effort to make certain that not a moment is wasted in working with the blossoming juveniles. Photo: Jessica Smith

Afternoons in the barn following lunchtime are quite peaceful. Grooms return from their breaks rejuvenated and ready for their namesake job – grooming. Boxes of grooming supplies are picked up and carried to the various stalls in which their particular yearlings are housed, and one by one the yearlings are primped and prettied, sometimes in preparation to be shown to potential buyers but always to make certain the young horses are well cared for.

On a typical day, the groom’s job ends following the grooming process, except for picking stalls and providing dinner. The barn is simply tidied up with whatever time remains in the groom’s schedule once the real tasks are completed. Other days, all of the yearlings retrieved in the morning will be returned to their respective pastures and paddocks in the afternoon. Releasing the playful colts and fillies offers a glimpse of the natural wildness that exists in all horses as they buck, whinny, toss their heads, kick, prance, and gallop away into the open fields. Few things provide as magnificent a sight and as matchless a sound.

With their main responsibilities removed from the barn, grooms end their days only to prepare for the next. There is no doubt that their schedule seeps with hard work and effort, but it is equally certain that there is nothing more fulfilling to the groom. The dawn sojourners return home to await the next day of work that feels like no such thing.

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