12 Bags of Ice and Pigs on the Run: 24 Hours in the Life of Pro Groom Emma Ford

As we leave the past weekend’s World Cup competition in Las Vegas behind and close in on Rolex Kentucky 2015 (April 23-26, 2015), it stands to reason we’d spend a little time in awe of the world’s top riders and the horses with whom they conquer massive jump courses and dance intricate dressage steps.

But there’s more to these successful partnerships than what we see in the spotlight. Outside the competitive arena, beside every great horse, stands a great groom (damp rag and hoof oil in hand). These hard-working individuals are often the earliest to rise and the last to leave the barn. They travel in the back of trailers and the underbellies of planes to keep watch over their charges. And they master the ritual, labor, and indeed, the artistry involved in ensuring healthy, happy horses that shine like the lucky side of a new dime, inside and out.

With the first jog at Rolex on the horizon (scheduled for tomorrow at 3 pm), Emma Ford, head groom to gold-medal-winning event rider Phillip Dutton’s string and co-author of the season’s must-have book WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, stole a few precious minutes from her busy day to tell us what life is like on True Prospect Farm.

WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES and MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Photo of Emma Ford by Amber Heintzberger from Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton.

Photo of Emma Ford by Amber Heintzberger from Modern Eventing with Phillip Dutton.

For those of you not familiar with eventing, every work day for the event horse varies. Day 1 might be a hack day, Day 2 jog and flat, Day 3 flat and jump… For the purpose of this blog, I am going to tell you about a gallop day. For me there is no “typical” day at True Prospect. With so many horses in work, plans can change hourly, and who knows what is waiting around the corner to surprise us. Being flexible and being able to cope with last-minute decisions is a must.

6:00 am  Whilst I’m making my coffee and feeding my faithful sidekick Charlie, one of the working students feeds the barn of anywhere from 30 to 45 horses. We have a rotation for AM feedings and late-night check, that way no one person gets stuck doing it multiple times.

7:00 am  Arrive at barn. Immediately I go to check the legs of the three horses heading to Rolex. For me, I feel every day is primarily about the safety and care of the horses; however, after the Rolex horses have run their last prep run at the Fork Horse Trials in North Carolina, I become ultra-paranoid about the possibility of missing a small abnormal cut or swelling that could alter the horses’ chance of getting to Kentucky.

7:15 am  Horses on night turnout come in, and it is about now I start to hear, “EMMA!” called from numerous directions. The usual question: “What blankets are the horses to wear?” If I had a dollar for all the times I am asked that question, I would be a very rich groom!

7:30 am  Tack up Happy (Mighty Nice) for Phillip to go galloping. Phillip reminds me that NBC is coming to film at 9:00 am. Shoot! I do a walk through the barn, getting the guys to muck a little quicker while I tidy up—have to make sure those blankets are folded just so!! [Editor’s Note: Find out how in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES!]

8:00 am  Need to run to buy ice. Phillip will be back by 8:45. I always wonder what the local gas station attendant thinks I am doing, buying 12 bags of ice every four to five days. He never asks, so I don’t tell!

9:00 am  Phillip returns, the NBC crew arrives, the training log book has been done, so the first set of horses get tacked up for their riders. NBC wants to film in the tack room, so I grab as much tack as I think we might need in order to avoid disturbing the interview…Oh…and, “Everybody keep the noise level down!” Meantime, Happy is standing in ice for 20 minutes. He only tries to jump out once…that’s good going for him.

10:00 am I head to the feed room to make up lunches and dinners…Must remember to call in that grain order. That’s odd, Caileigh is jogging up the path. I ask what’s up and am told the neighbor’s pigs are out and Fred jumped out of his paddock.” GREAT!! Grab a bucket of grain and get everybody on the ground to put horses in stalls, grab halters, and head out to catch Fred! Luckily for us, Fred cleared the fence and stayed near the next paddock. However, I say, “Bacon anyone?!”

Emma feeding.

Emma feeding.

11:00 am  Feed lunch, bring in all horses, switch those round pens…”Everybody has been out…correct?” NBC want to film Evie and Phillip galloping the other Rolex horses, so I say, “Okay girls, they need to be show-ready in 10 minutes…hoof oil please! I’ll grab the sponsor pads.”

12:00 pm  I ice Happy once more and put him on the Vitafloor for half an hour, then groom him, check his legs, and turn him out to the paddock for downtime. Phillip and Evie arrive back from galloping, cameras in tow! I really want to clip their horses this afternoon, so they get full shampoo baths, and I ice twice.

1:00 pm Make up morning feeds. I then take a horse to the vet clinic to get evaluated. We are extremely lucky to have Dr. Kevin Keane’s practice located literally next door, so if I need medications, have an emergency, or have to get that passport stamped, it is all at my fingertips.

2:00 pm I check Jack’s (Fernhill Fugitive’s) legs. They feel nice and tight. So I start the clipping session. Whilst doing this I have to organize my team for the afternoon. Changes to night turnout, what horses still need grooming, and let’s not forget about soaking Jackson’s foot and re-wrapping it. I rely heavily on my team to let me know if any horse has a slight abnormality that needs attention. With the number of horses we have in the barn, I do not get a chance to personally check each of them over every day.

3:00 pm  On a good day, most of the riding is done by 3:00 pm. Then everybody shares in the afternoon chore duties.

4:00 pm  Jack gets his post-clip bath with apple cider vinegar to try and prevent his skin from breaking out. I get Happy in, check his legs, and they feel great, so I wrap him up for the night. I use Stayons Poultice Wraps, which have made my life so much easier. They are much more time-efficient and have put an end to clay poultice all over myself and the horse!

The barn is fed dinner around 4:00, so I let Cuba (Fernhill Cubalawn) finish his meal before starting his Rolex clipping session. It takes me over an hour to get him done. By this time the barn is hopefully cleaned, but I maybe still have to wrap, roll, fold, and put away that laundry pile!

Emma washing socks.

Emma washing socks.

6:00 pm Bathe Cuba, and groom and wrap Jack before turning him out for the night. I do a walk-through of the barn to ensure horses are happy and correctly blanketed. I put Cuba on the Vitafloor and this helps to dry him quicker. (It is a vibrating plate that helps with circulation.) Then, time to groom him, check his legs, and wrap him for the night.

7:00 pm I’m done for the day, so home to shower and have a little downtime with friends before heading to bed, hopefully by 9:30 to rest up for tomorrow. I wonder what that will bring? Hopefully sound, happy, healthy horses and no more escaped pigs!!

 

Get hundreds of grooming tips from the pros in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by Cat Hill and Emma Ford, with over 1200 color photographs!

 

And get find all you need to enjoy the thrilling sport of eventing in MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON by Phillip Dutton with Amber Heintzberger.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE GREAT HORSE BOOKS

 

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

Tame That Wild Thing in Your Barn! Pro Tips for Training Unruly Spring Manes

Is there a "wild thing" loose in your barn? Get these great tips for "taming manes" and more in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.

Is there a “wild thing” loose in your barn? Get these great tips for “taming manes” and more in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.

 

AH, SPRING! The warmth of the sun tickled just right by a crisp breeze…the grass growing braver by the day, emerging little by little…the birds chirping their hourly status report with pre-nesting gusto…and ALL THAT HAIR coming off your horse…and onto you…and into your mouth…and…

UGH. SPRING.

As much as we northern horse folk love what it heralds, spring’s not the prettiest time of year for horse OR rider. Between the acres of dirt we’ve let accumulate under “Simba’s” coat (for insulation) and the wilderness that once was a bridlepath, we have weeks ahead spent shedding blade in hand while avoiding all clothing made of fleece and its near relations (aka horsehair magnets).

When we grow most desperate, we just need to remember: the rewards are many when our horses finally reflect the hours of love, labor, and supplements we’ve been throwing their way…usually around June.

Just in time for spring cleanup, pro grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford bring us WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, a truly unparalleled guide to top equine turnout, with over 1200 professional color photographs by Jessica Dailey (www.jesslynn.photography). WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Here’s what Cat and Emma have to say about training unruly manes:

 

Whenever you groom your horse, the mane should be combed or brushed out to keep it free of tangles. After bathing, always comb down the wet mane to encourage it to stay on the same side. For the most part, a mane is “trained” to the right side of the horse; however, breeds with manes naturally to the left—Friesians, Andalusians, Lusitanos, Morgans, and Arabians, as well as any dressage horse—are allowed to leave the manes where they are.

 

“Training” the Mane

There are a couple of ways to train a mane to stay on the right side of the neck and to lie flat. In the long run you may never fix issues like manes that stand up or lie on two sides of the neck, but getting it to lie down correctly for a couple of days will allow you to pull, thin, or trim it evenly.

 

Banding

1 Wet the mane and comb smoothly on the right side of the neck.

2 Section off a 2- to 4-inch piece of mane and wrap a braiding band around it until it is snug.

3 Repeat this all the way down the neck.

 

Braiding Down

Depending on how “wild” the mane is, you might need to braid it down.

1 Wet the mane and comb it smoothly on the right side of the neck.

2 Section off a 2- to 4-inch piece of mane and start a loose braid.

3 Make sure you do not pull the side pieces in tightly since this can cause irritation, as well as damage the mane.

4 Braid only 3 or 4 “crosses,” then rubber band the end.

5 Leave these braids in for as long as the horse is comfortable; when he starts to rub his neck, they need to be taken out. Be aware that some horses will take offense and start to rub them out immediately, so always be on the lookout for this!

 

Check out this short video trailer about WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES:

 

 

To order your copy, CLICK HERE NOW.

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Rolex Kentucky “Begins” at 3 p.m.! Dos and Donts of the Wednesday Jog–Tips from Phillip Dutton

Thejoglegs

Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event unofficially begins Wednesday with the first jog or horse inspection, scheduled at 3:00 p.m EST. At all Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) sanctioned events, the veterinary delegate and the ground jury evaluate each competing horse twice–once prior to the competition (Wednesday) and once prior to the show jumping phase (the third and final phase)–to ensure he is fit to compete (Sunday).

“During the (first veterinary) exam the horse is identified according to its passport, its vaccination status is verified, and it is established that the horse does not have apparent contagious or infectious disease,” explained Lisa Crump, DVM, associate veterinarian for the 2012 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, in TheHorse.com Article #29022. “The baseline health is evaluated by a physical examination, including listening to heart and lungs, palpating limbs to investigate abnormalities, and (making) general observations.”

In addition to the practical matters of fitness and soundness, and particularly when the public is admitted to the jog, horse appearance and “trot-up outfits” (the rider’s attire) are of importance. In the following excerpt from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON, Phillip’s former “Head Girl” Emma Ford shares her secrets to a successful jog, and Phillip provides a rundown on basic attire Dos and Donts.

Sign up to WIN THIS! Stop by the Cosequin booth in the Sponsor Village at Rolex Kentucky!

Sign up to WIN THIS! Stop by the Cosequin booth in the Sponsor Village at Rolex Kentucky!

A limited number of copies of MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON will be available for purchase and signing at Rolex Kentucky. CLICK HERE to read more about the special events planned for the weekend, and be sure to stop by the Cosequin booth in the Sponsor Village to find out the exact times for book signings and your chance to win great prizes, including a Gift Bucket full of Cosequin products, plus a copy of MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON and a $50 gift certificate to spend on books and DVDs at the TSB online bookstore (www.HorseandRiderBooks.com).

PREP FOR THE JOG

from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON by Phillip Dutton with Amber Heintzberger

Out of respect for the judges (and because sometimes they offer great prizes for the best turned-out horse and rider), both should be immaculately turned out for the presentation to the Ground Jury. Below is a step-by-step description of how Phillip Dutton’s former “Head Girl” Emma Ford prepares each horse for the jog:

For the Wednesday jog Phillip normally rides the horse in the morning and then jogs him by hand to make sure that he is sound.

  • I give each horse a full bath including twice cleaning any white socks.
  • After the bath I use Cowboy Magic Super Bodyshine™ (CHARMAR ®) and spray it all over the horse and rub it in with a towel. It doesn’t make the coat slippery.
  • I put some detangler in the tail then put a tail wrap on while the tail is still wet; this remains on until just before Phillip jogs him out.
  • I braid the horse, increasing the number of braids from the 12–15 that I normally put in for a Horse Trials competition to 14–18 in for the jog. This lengthens the appearance of the horse’s neck—for aesthetic purposes.
  • Once the horse is ready I make sure the jog bridle is spotless and use metal polish to bring buckles to a shine.
  • Phillip likes to have the horse walking about 20 to 30 minutes prior to his jog time, so 30 minutes before that I bring him out of his stall, brush him off, rub him over with a towel, put Afro-Sheen™ (Johnson Products) in the tail and make sure the tail wrap is still in place.
  • I put baby oil on the skin around the eyes and muzzle.
  • For chestnuts, bays and black horses, I rub baby oil into my hands and run it down the crest of their neck and their legs to pick up any dust that might have accumulated.
  • I pick out the feet.
  • I use hoof oil on the walls and soles.
  • I add quarter markers to the hindquarters.
  • I like to put boots on prior to the jog to prevent any silly accidents that might prevent the horse from jogging up sound.
  • Then, I put the bridle on, and he’s ready for Phillip. (If you’re riding and by yourself, get the horse ready, then get dressed before you put the bridle on.)
  • Be aware of the weather; when it’s on the cool side, ensure the horse is warm while you are waiting so his muscles don’t tighten up.

Fashion Dos and Don’ts from Phillip:

Clean and conservative is always appropriate for the horse inspection. Photo by Amber Heintzberger from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON (www.HorseandRiderBooks.com).

Clean and conservative is always appropriate for the horse inspection. Photo by Amber Heintzberger from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON (www.HorseandRiderBooks.com).

It is important to wear something comfortable enough to jog in, which will not distract you or the ground jury from the main focus: your horse. Men are safe wearing khaki pants and a sport coat, adding a touch of style with an accessory like a hat or cowboy boots. Women can be a little more daring with skirts or dresses and fancy shoes, but a flapping mini skirt or tottering heels is unprofessional and distracting. Keep your style classic and simple for the best results, especially when it comes to footwear. Unless you are really comfortable jogging along next to a thousand pounds of horseflesh while wearing 3-inch heels, opt for something a little more practical.

DO

  • Wear pants that fit well. It may be worth hiring a tailor to get the right length and cut.
  • Coordinate your outfit to complement your horse. This is your chance to highlight your assets—take advantage of the opportunity.
  • Polish your shoes. You polish your riding boots, you polish your horse’s hooves, so take the time to polish your “jog” shoes, as well. Whether they are old paddock boots or Italian dress shoes, make sure they are clean and shiny.
  • Wear something that you like that flatters your body type. Fashion trends come and go, but nothing compares to feeling your best in whatever clothes you wear. If you like to take fashion risks, feel free to express yourself within reason, but if your style is more conservative, that’s fine, too.

DON’T

  • Wear clogs. Sprawling head over heels as you twist an ankle in these barn favorites will not earn favor with the ground jury.
  • Wear a skirt shorter than knee length. It should be of a heavy enough fabric that it does not flap around.
  • Wear a big floppy hat without securing it to your head.
  • Dress as if you are going out clubbing or to a dance party.
  • Wear anything with stains on it. Yes, it’s hard to stay clean when you are working with horses. Wear something over your nice clothes to keep them clean while you are getting ready, or have someone help you with your horse.

ModEventwPhilDutwebRead another FREE EXCERPT from MODERN EVENTING WITH PHILLIP DUTTON by CLICKING HERE.

Look for the Free Chapter Download link in red! And don’t forget to preorder your copy. Books ship at the end of May, 2013.

Click the image above to see photos (and "outfits"!) from the first horse inspection at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky on Eventing Nation.

Click the image above to see photos (and “outfits”!) from the first horse inspection at the 2012 Rolex Kentucky on Eventing Nation.