Tales of a Pony Club Professional Groom- Grooming at Shows

Pony Club member Alex Ambelang is back with more 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.

Tips, Tricks, and Hints from an Amateur Professional Groom
D C Rutledge
At shows, I have a different set of tools to add that extra shine. I still bring along the trusted show sheen for tails and some times their hind quarters if I can’t seem to get the shine I want. My favorite product for shine and anti-static/dust is Marigold Spray. This stuff smells good, promotes shine, and repels dust, static and flies! If possible, I spray it all over their body after I have thoroughly brushed and cleaned them. If I have a horse that is spooky about spray bottles, I spray the liquid on a clean rag and rub it into the coats. Unlike show sheen, It does not make the coat super slippery so I can use it in the saddle area without fear of slippage! For white leg markings, I love a good whitening shampoo! It works fast and gets the job done. If I don’t have time to shampoo and let sit, I will apply baby powder to the white markings on the legs to get that extra pop of white. Not ideal, but it is useful in a pinch. I typically don’t focus on cleaning the pasterns, coronary bands and hooves until the horse if permanently out of their stall and getting ready to head to the jog strip or the warm-up arena. In that time, I brush off all shavings spray marigold spray to prevent more dust, pick the feet out again, and make sure the wall of the hoof is clean. I will apply baby powder if necessary and then apply hoof oil at the very last possible second so the hooves don’t get too dirty or collect dust. If the horse stands still before jogs or between warm up and the ring, I will re-apply hoof oil but generally, all of mine get too bouncy for me to safely and efficiently apply the hoof oil. At warm-up, I make sure to have hoof oil, baby oil and plenty of clean rags and peppermints. I squirt a bit of baby oil into my hands and wipe it on their muzzles, around the eyes inside the ears and any excess around the face for extra shine. Rags are for mud, slobber, and sweat. Mints are for bribery when necessary, but mostly for post-ride rewards! I also have a clean brush and a tail brush for those final go overs. This is generally for dressage and show jumping. I usually have extra crops, spurs, and boots for Show Jumping- you never know what can happen.

For cross country, I have a bigger bag and more stuff with me at warm-up. These items include sets of larger and smaller studs, in case the footing has changed since the course was walked or feels different than expected once Colleen is on. I also have a bottle of sticky spray, an extra bat, spurs, more rags, extra electrical tape for boots, and any other extra equipment I have been asked to bring. I also try to have a bottle of water and of course peppermints. For FEI events (CIC and CCI), we have hoof packing, hoof boots, and duct tape for lost shoes in addition to the vet box essentials: multiple buckets, sponges, scrapers and bags of ice. And you can’t forget a halter, cotton lead, and chain shank, the horses get a little excited with all the adrenaline pumping through their system!
D C Rutledge2
While some of these hints are tricks of the trade, a lot of these concepts I came across in my years in USPC. The cleanliness that was expected at testings and rallies certainly made the transition into the industry an easier one. Packing for shows was already second nature to me stemming from packing for overnight rallies and shows in my youth and having the guidelines from the required equipment checklist well ingrained into my brain. I am so grateful for the solid knowledge base USPC gave me and am equally grateful to have the opportunity to expand my skill set and knowledge to be a better over-all horse person.

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 Maryland.