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Horse Groom

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Woman grooming horse head
Guido Mieth / Moment / Getty Images

Grooms in the equine industry provide daily care and maintenance for the horses under their supervision.

Duties

Grooms are generally responsible for tasks such as mucking out stalls, feed preparation and distribution, cleaning and refilling water containers, grooming and bathing, cleaning tack, bandaging legs, tacking up, and administering basic first aid for cuts and scrapes. Grooms with riding skills may warm up or cool out a horse for its rider.

Grooms also hold horses for treatment by the farrier and veterinarian, assist with preparations for shipping horses to shows or races, and operate various pieces of farm equipment.

Most grooms are supervised by a barn manager, trainer, or foreman. The groom is expected to report back to those in management when they notice any injuries, changes in behavior, or potential hazards.

Grooms must be prepared to work outdoors in extreme temperatures and varying weather conditions. Most grooms work 6 days a week, anywhere from 40 to 60 hours per week. The working hours often include evenings, weekends, and holidays. Travel is frequently required for grooms working with competition horses in the racing and showing industries.

Career Options

All areas of the equine industry employ grooms to assist with basic equine management duties. Grooms may find positions with racing stables, showing stables, riding schools, boarding farms, breeding farms, stallion farms, polo clubs, equine vet clinics, and nutritional research centers.

Some grooms specialize by working exclusively with one equine age group, such as foals, yearlings, or mature stallions. Others choose to focus their efforts on working in a particular sport or with a particular breed.

Grooming skills are highly transferrable from one area of the equine industry to another, so there is always the option of transitioning into another area of equine sport or production. Some individuals also choose to travel internationally while working with horses in grooming positions.

Grooms often are able to move up into management positions as they become more experienced. Many former grooms have transitioned to careers as stable managers, trainers, exercise riders, show riders, breeders, veterinary assistants, or farm managers.

Education & Training

While no formal education is required for grooms, it is imperative that they possess solid horsemanship skills. These skills may be acquired through formal education or on the job training. Prior horse ownership or volunteer experience at a local riding stable generally provides the aspiring groom a good knowledge base.

The Groom Elite program is offered at over 17 racetracks in the U.S. This 40-hour program consists of 10 sessions and includes both hands on training and classroom lectures on equine topics. At the conclusion of the course, the groom achieves professional certification. There is also an advanced level of certification which focuses on leg injuries and treatment.

The British Grooms Association is a professional membership group for grooms that puts out a quarterly newsletter, posts job listings, and offers special discounts on personal accident insurance.

Grooms that are employed at the racetrack must be licensed in the state in which they are working. This licensing requires a simple application and fee; there is no skills testing involved. Show grooms are not required to hold any occupational licenses.

Salary

Most grooming positions do not offer a very high salary, though grooms working for major racing or showing interests may be compensated with bonuses when the horses under their care perform well in competition.

Grooms generally earn between $9 and $15 per hour, or around $400 weekly. Some employment sites such as SimplyHired.com give an estimate of $15,000 to $24,000 for groom positions. It is possible for grooms to earn significantly more if they have additional specialty skills or take a more managerial role within a large operation.

While the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) does not separate out groom salary data from the category of animal care and service workers, the average salary in this category was $19,360 per year according to the most recent salary survey in 2009. The lowest ten percent earned less than $15,140 and the highest ten percent earned more than $31,590.

Housing and travel expenses are often paid by the employer, and some stables give their grooms free use of a stall for their personal horse (if they have one). Some employers also offer health insurance benefits.

Job Outlook

The BLS projects that jobs in the animal care and service worker category will grow at a faster than average rate from 2008 to 2018, about 21 percent. Demand for grooms should continue to be steady across the various areas of the equine industry.

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