Candace Green is a full time groom for Juniper Farms and two-time Olympian Jill Henselwood in Ontario, Canada, but for the next three months she’ll be performing her duties in Thermal, California for the duration of the HITS Coachella circuit. Candace has kindly agreed to share some of her experiences grooming for a world class pro.
Remember in high school or university, when you studied for an exam, or tried to absorb it through osmosis?(because lets be honest, everyone tried.) You studied the material backwards, forward, upside-down, and sideways until you were dreaming of it. Test day rolls around, and you feel prepared. You’ve got this; you’re going to pass. You walk in, you sit down, and you open up that test and . . . Waiit. What is all of this?! You flip frantically through the pages and come to a horrible, gut clenching conclusion: You know nothing, John Snow!
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our first two weeks of showing at HITS Coachella.
My initial time here has highlighted something that my mom used to say to me all the time: “There are the things you know you know. There are the things you know you don’t know. And there’s the things you don’t know you don’t know.”
As a groom, and generally as a human being, I find that the things I didn’t know I didn’t know are the ones that cause me the most problems. Things I’ve never thought to think of have have been the major obstacle to overcome, and from what I can tell, that feeling never truly goes away. Our barn manager has somewhere in the range of three decades of experience in this industry, and he’s still learning!
On Ring Bags
One of our struggles has been ring bags. Figuring out your ring bag is an art and a science; it has everything to do with knowing your horses, knowing your riders, and knowing the program you’re working in. And of course a little bit of voodoo magic, too.
You need to think outside the box, get creative, and prepare to be a persona non grata when you’re under-prepared for something you didn’t even conceive as being an issue. Remember that bit someone used for 34 seconds two weeks ago? Bring that. Your bag is going to be heavy, but do your best to schlep it to the ring cheerfully.
On Life and Richard Spooner
Being a groom is a weird balancing act between being behind the scenes and being a highly visible member of the team. I had an incredibly embarrassing moment in the warm-up ring during one of my “highly visible” moments.
I had the opportunity to meet Richard Spooner, The Master of Faster, the MacGyver of show jumping. He stopped to help adjust a curb chain on my horse and I – a lowly peasant in comparison – had the honour of holding his mount while he fiddled with my equipment.
He then asked me for a leg up and I could feel the pit of my stomach drop to my knees; like I had studied for a test and blanked. Leg-ups are not one of my strengths. We agreed, “Down, up!” and we went down, and up, and his horse walked away! Mr. Spooner said “wait!” and I panicked and didn’t wait.
We scrambled, there was lots of laughing and he got caught on the saddle flap; the horse kept leaving, more scrambling and a little flailing. I couldn’t believe what just happened; I nearly threw Richard Spooner in the dirt! If there was ever a moment I wanted to melt into the sand, it was right then.
“Don’t worry,” said one of my riders after the fact. “Only everyone saw!” Bless her heart. I’ve been trying to catch his eye since “the incident” to apologize for nearly dropping him in the sand, but so far no luck.
Maybe he’s avoiding me?
Here’s hoping the next two weeks are full of great results, sunshine, and hopefully less embarrassing interactions with the legends of our wonderful sport!