Tell us a little bit about your journey to CHI Geneva…
I flew from Miami to Belgium with Nayel Nassar’s Coronado and Igor Van De Wittemoere five days ago, and we stayed there until Tuesday night, before arriving in Geneva yesterday morning. They are feeling good and are in a great mood. They both travelled extremely well, eating and drinking plenty. They are very kind, friendly and talented horses. Coronado and Igor travelled in a double container. There are also containers called ‘triples’, which hold three horses, but the horses have less room. To ensure they have a more comfortable journey, we always ship our horses in a double.
This time the plane was also full of flowers, which were being transported to Amsterdam – there were lots of tulips so the whole flight smelt beautiful! The flight is a little cold, as the horses travel better when they are cool, and it’s also better for the flowers. We also had one boat engine on the flight; generally, as well as horses, these cargo flights transport all sorts of things – cars, washing machines, pretty much anything you can think of. The grooms sit behind the pilots’ cockpit and from there we have access to check on the horses, which is what we’re doing every second hour or sometimes every hour, depending on how they travel.
It must be very important to monitor a horse’s hydration, nutrition and wellbeing when they fly?
Yes. Some of the horses don’t drink very well when they fly, so we try to give them a bit of wet mash, which we sometimes add apple juice to, as a way of hydrating them. The hay that they eat of the plane contains a lot of electrolytes, which hydrates them even more. It’s also important to make sure that the horses are properly fed and hydrated and fully prepared before any type of plane journey.
Do you do a lot of driving, and how do you keep yourself entertained on long journeys?
I used to, but now I do not do as much, as I am lucky enough to have use of a transport company that drives for us. I like to listen to music on long journeys, and I am now lucky to travel with friends so we try and get the atmosphere going. I think a lot – travelling is a good time to reflect.
If there is a horse that doesn’t like to travel, what can you do to help it?
I think you have to know your horses really well – in that way you can recognise if your horse does not feel well or if they are stressed, and then you will be able to help them. It is important to know these little things, such as if your horse travels hot or cold – the more you know about your horse the better it will be.
How have Coronado and Igor been preparing for CHI Geneva?
The horses have been jumping at home in the United States. A few weeks ago, they did some big shows in America and Canada so they have had a few quiet weeks since then in the build-up to this Major. I think that they can sense that it is a big venue here at CHI Geneva with a lot of atmosphere, and you can tell that their adrenaline kicks in.
How much do you enjoy coming to the Majors – The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, Spruce Meadows and now CHI Geneva? In your opinion, what sets them apart from the other shows?
Yes, absolutely – they are some of the best shows in the world! Everything is the best of the best – the facilities, the sport, the stabling and so on. They really take care to make sure the horses, riders and grooms do not want for anything.
Do you feel more pressure when you are at one of the Rolex Grand Slam Majors?
There is always pressure in this sport, but I do definitely feel that there is more pressure at a Major. You have the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, both are such prestigious classes with a lot of prize money. Everyone wants to win the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, and I think the field is so strong this year that anyone could win.
How much riding do you do?
I do not ride much anymore. I used to ride a little bit, but to be honest I think I am better at grooming the horses and giving them treats!
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?
I love being with the horses. It is always a very proud moment when the horses do well at a show – it is a whole team effort to get those results. I also love the bonds that you create with people at the shows. My least favourite part has to be mucking out!
What is the grooms’ community like? Do grooms support one another?
It is a great community. The grooms definitely support each other, which is very important, as the job can sometimes be hard. There is now more support than ever, with the introduction of associations that look after us – it is hard work and it is nice to be recognised.
What attributes do you need to have to be a top-level groom?
You need to be hardworking, passionate, love what you do, and of course want to win!
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Monkey see, monkey do. You must always look and learn by keeping your eyes and ears open at all time.
Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping
Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder