For Madeleine Broek, horses are friends. Over the years, she has been an active dressage competitor and jumper, worked for various stables, and traveled abroad for several months before winding up in Marc Houtzager’s yard some 15 years ago. Since then, Madeleine has become a pillar for Marc and his stable. Her status within the equestrian world was confirmed when she named Cavalor FEI Best Groom at the 2019 FEI Awards.
Photo by World of Show Jumping.
Marc and Madeleine get along very well, and over the years they have developed an extraordinary bond, going through the good times and the bad together. Marc appreciates and trusts Madeleine completely; he knows he can rely on her, no matter what happens. Madeleine prepares everything at the competitions, rides the horses, and flies with them all over the world. At events, she grooms the horses to perfection, allowing Marc to focus completely on his round.
Watch the video below for kind words from Marc about Madeline:
To Madeleine, the welfare of her horses is No.1, and there is nothing she would not do for them. This is not a job to her, but a way of life. Let’s find out more about her.
FEI: When did you start grooming and why did you want to become a groom?
Madeleine Broek: I came to Marc’s yard 15 years ago, originally as a rider. Once in Marc’s stable, I really wanted to come to a show, and he said “yes.”
One thing led to another, which led to every week. That is when I hung up my boots and stopped riding. What I like most about it is the relationship you build with a horse, you are with them all the time. There really is nothing you would not do for that horse.
Of course, the days are very long and it can get really tough. I am never tense, only the moment that Marc goes into the ring, of course you want it to go well. Traveling can be fun one time, and not so much fun the next. Especially the long journeys can be exhausting.
Photo by FEI.
FEI: What is important to you in your profession?
MB: I think most important is that the horses are happy. With your own horses, you can see in the blink of an eye if they are happy, and that is key for me.
In the morning, when I arrive at the stables, I love that Calimero will always answer when I call him.
Sometimes it can get very busy at shows, and then I like to sit with the horses in the stables. One horse likes the attention better than the other, so I give it to those that benefit from it and leave the others in peace.
FEI: What are some of the things you do not like?
MB: The long days can get tough sometimes, when you are away at a show the whole weekend and then have to pack everything on Sunday with the prospect of a long ride home. That can get a bit dull.
When a horse that you were very close with is sold, that can be very difficult. But it is part of the job; they have to keep the business running.
Photo by FEI.
FEI: And then all of a sudden, you are named the Best Groom in the world…
MB: It was fantastic, and so unexpected for me! I am not a person that likes to be in the limelight.
Lotte, a girl in our stable, arranged the whole thing. When I received the email that I had been nominated for the Cavalor FEI Best Groom Award, I seriously thought it was a prank. But then the ball was set rolling, and really you want to win as well.
Receiving the award was of course amazing, but the award was also good for the other grooms. Getting some recognition, since we are always behind the scenes where all the real work is done. The rider gets to ride into the ring, in front of all the television and photo cameras, but the grooms are rarely shown.
The 2019 Awards! Photo by FEI.
Grooms: The stars behind the scenes
Grooms are the key to the success and well-being of both rider and horse. Grooms love the horses, the close collaboration they have with the riders, and making sure everybody is happy and healthy.
Do you know a groom that has gone above and beyond for you? Maybe it’s even a horse show parent who does it all. Share your thoughts in the Facebook comments; we’d love to hear your shoutouts!
Words and photos courtesy FEI and Cavalor via Valor Magazine.