Seeing the flip side – Toots the groom

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After a last-minute change of plans, eventer Toots Bartlett swapped boots this month – and found herself watching helplessly from the sidelines

March turned out to be the almost month!
After a madly busy few weeks trying to get the horses out training, competing at British Dressage and British Showjumping all while preparing them for the upcoming season, the whole team was ready (and determined) to take on the first event of the season at Cirencester Park. The horses were washed and glowing. The lorry had received its full pre-season clean and was fully packed. Excitement was through the roof. But then we received a last minute text from British Eventing to say the event was cancelled due to the rain.
So very disappointing – albeit expected with the weather we had been working through!
Anyway, we are keeping everything crossed that we will finally be out Eventing in the early weeks of April. Although we’re currently in the last week of March and might soon need to start begging the skies to stop raining!
The Cirencester cancellation did mean that we got to take four horses to a British Showjumping event at Dorset Showground however, which resulted in great results and many clear rounds.

Toots and Freestyle R

Toots the groom
Although I didn’t make it out Eventing in March, I was lucky to get the opportunity to try my hand at competition grooming at Moreton BE. I worked two days, helping and supporting three different riders from William Fox-Pitt’s yard – including two jockeys who were competing in their first British event after moving from their home countries.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and was amazed at just how different the roles of rider and groom are.
A groom has a completely different focus, and in some cases has to multi-task at a far quicker pace! I personally found it incredibly interesting to watch how each individual rider dealt with their nerves and how that affected their horses. I could pick up on small details which might indicate some anxiety or pressure that they were feeling and hopefully was able to help channel their emotions to allow for optimal performance.
I felt much more nervous watching them in the cross country then I would as a jockey myself. As a groom I was completely useless and had no control over the outcome once they left the start box. The biggest joy of all was seeing the rider’s faces as they crossed the line – they all did amazingly well. I felt a real sense of achievement and pride in being able to help such talented and grateful riders.
I totally recommend it to all my fellow eventers – swap your competition boots for wellies for the day and try grooming instead of riding. I have huge respect for all grooms; without them we really wouldn’t have a sport!

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