Thanks to Pony Club member Alex Ambelang we will now be offering some life lessons our members learn in Pony Club which help them in the real world. Alex is the head groom for Colleen Rutledge Eventing in Maryland. Follow along as she tells us how Pony Club has prepared her for this position as well as what she has learned since starting out. Alex will be a regular guest blogger, so if you have questions feel free to send them to us for her at Mandy@ponyclub.org.
Life after Pony Club: Reality Check
It’s 10:30pm. A movie plays on mute on the TV. An empty container of Talenti ice cream sits on the edge of a chair that doubles as my ottoman each night. Half unpacked boxes and suitcases litter the floor and clean laundry sits on the coach beside me. I’m still in my breeches; I need to shower. We need to leave the house by 6:30am to get to the barn and load horses to drive to dressage lessons. More dressage lessons Wednesday. Fair Hill this weekend. Rolex next week. My bed is calling my name. Since becoming a professional groom, this conversation and state of affairs has become routine for me. It all comes down to priorities. Eating, sleeping, personal hygiene and the job. This is the life of a groom. What are you getting yourself into? I don’t think anyone or anything can prepare an individual for the vast amounts of hard work and the LONG days that grooms put in. Take your longest day at a rally and multiply in by five (at least) and then remember that this will represent pretty much every day for the foreseeable future. Deep breaths, it will all be okay. I will admit, I spent about the first month of my groom career utterly and completely exhausted- all the time. No amount of sleep, food, hot showers or Netflix binges can fix that kind of exhaustion. During that time, I was pushed out of my comfort zone and stretched beyond my perceived limits pretty much every day. It was this time that I found the voice inside that said “keep going” rather than “stop, you can’t go on.” It was during that time that I also became acquainted with a whole list of things I was not prepared for. I realized how incredibly lucky I was and am to have grown up in USPC. This program laid down the frame work for success at this type position, but there are also things that USPC did not prepare me for.
First and foremost, I wasn’t prepared to work at pace. By this I mean that I was not prepared to have 5 horses turned out to an H-A standard at the same time. How do you get 5 horses ready for a 1-day recognized event? In January, I hadn’t a clue. By mid- February though, I had figured out how to time baths, tack cleaning, and clipping to ensure each horse is looking their best for the show. The next challenge is managing the schedule the day of; when to braid horses, when to put studs in, what saddles go on what horses when and what horse horse receives that saddle when it returns. Equally important, is getting the daily work done for each horse. In my case, I have 13 horses under my care. Getting as many ridden each day is always the goal. That goal is based on the juggling of saddles and bridles between horses, the horses that are priorities on any given day, lessons being attended or taught that day, baths needed to be given, turn out times, and much more. This is ultimately interrupted by lost shoes, loose horses, corralling of chickens and/or small dogs, bathroom breaks, snack breaks, freak thunderstorms, or fires (yes- all of these things have happened in some shape or form). Moral of the story- you must be prepared for all possible situations at any given time each day. Not saying that a field catches on fire every day, but stuff happens. While managing all of that external chaos, you maintain the course of trying to get as many horses done each day, as fluidly and swiftly as possible. It was this amount of work (okay-chaos) that I wasn’t prepared for coming into this position. I knew coming in the number of horses I was to take care of and the level of care that was expected, but its when you go to put it all together into a working daily schedule that things get interesting.
Alex Ambelang is an H-A Traditional member of Five Valleys Pony Club in the Big Sky Region. She joined Pony Club at the age of 8 and has been an active member ever since. She has competed in Eventing through Preliminary and in jumpers and dressage. Alex has been a working student for two National Examiners and was a member of the USPC National Youth Congress in 2010. She served as a member of the USPC National Youth Board from 2012 to 2014 and is part of the USPC Visiting Instructor Program as well as the Regional Instructor Coordinator for the Big Sky Region. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Cultural and Medical Anthropology in December of 2014 and is currently working as head girl for Colleen Rutledge Eventing in