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Phillip Dutton’s grooms, Emma Ford and Cat Hill, recently published a book, aptly titled World Class Grooming.  In conjunction with the book coming out, they offered a one-day intensive clinic to go along with the book, providing hands on instruction in many of the subjects covered in the book.

So in this blog, we offer the two-for-one review of both the book and the clinic.  While the book is great, there’s nothing like hands on experience.  We spent the day practicing the techniques outlined in the book.  There’s a quote that says something like: amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can’t do it wrong.  For me, the clinic was my way of getting a little closer to the professional level of proficiency.

I don’t know about you, but it used to be that when I first heard the word “grooming,” I thought it was just bathing and braiding, and it pretty much stopped there.  But over my years with horses, I came to know that there’s a lot more to the life of a professional groom.  But I didn’t have a full appreciation for everything a professional groom does.

Grooming doesn’t just have to do with making the horse look good.  As Emma says frequently, a groom’s job is all about making the horse comfortable and happy so he can perform at his best when his rider asks him to work.

One of the primary accomplishments of this book is that, without being condescending, it starts with the most basic of instructions on day-to-day care, and builds up to the more competitive and demanding aspects of caring for a horse.  It assumes that you may not know, but that you’re willing to learn.  It also assumes that if you understand why something should be done, or done a certain way, then you’re more likely to do it right the next time.

Cat shows how to properly bandage an injured hoof.

Cat shows how to properly bandage an injured hoof.

For instance, some riders might be insulted by being told how to attach a chain shank lead rope properly, but this book pulls it off with aplomb.

Another of the book’s achievements is its offering of the “why.”  There are always reasons for doing things a certain way.  But often, we just do it because that’s how it’s always been done.  We don’t really know why.  Here, we get both the description and the explanation for why.

And in the clinic, when we asked about the throat latches on all the halters being taped shut, we were provided with the “why.”  When we are pressed for time, we get lazy and forget to close our throat latches.  And the buckle on the end of that strap can do a good deal of injury if a horse spooks or shakes his head.  So Cat and Emma taped all the buckles shut, forcing the use of the breakaway strap that goes over the poll.

Emma demonstrates proper clipping technique around the leg joints. Fernhill Fortitude was an excellent volunteer.

Emma demonstrates proper clipping technique around the leg joints. Fernhill Fortitude was an excellent volunteer.

I admit, I have left my throat latch open a time or two (or more).  But with that explanation, offered with the intent of saving a horse from injury, I have adjusted my own behavior in the barn. It was surprisingly easy to create a new habit since I understood the reason behind it.  I haven’t taped my throat latch buckles shut, but I do require that the buckle always be attached on one side of the halter or the other.  So it’s either fully on, or buckled up into a harmless loop with the metal fixture secured and not swinging toward a horse’s eye.

To begin, it takes you through a groom’s major areas of responsibility.  It’s practically an encyclopedia for horse owners.  It runs the gamut of horse care – going through a regular day, and a competition day.  They review regularly scheduled care, injury care, pre-workout prep, and post-workout recovery care.  Then there’s feed, tack, trailering, clipping, farrier care, studs, barn management, quarter marks, manes and tails – all the subjects a professional groom knows well, and information any horse owner should know.

But this book doesn’t just give you a laundry list of what to do.  It also shows you how to do those jobs up to Emma and Cat’s professional standard so you can provide the same level of care for your horse at home.  As a first time horse owner, I’m very grateful for the knowledge and experience they offer.

Emma's complete stud kit.  She told us that at Rolex, the weather was so variable that her 9am, 11am, and 1pm starts were all wearing different studs because the ground conditions had changed so much.

Emma’s complete stud kit.  She told us that at Rolex, the weather was so variable that her 9am, 11am, and 1pm starts were all wearing different studs because the ground conditions had changed so much.

So you don’t have to figure everything out from the descriptions, photographer Jessica Dailey gives you a clear series of pictures to show you exactly what Emma and Cat are talking about.  Particularly handy, they mark the photos with a number to connect them to the text.  And when it’s an example of what not to do, the number is marked through with a red “X.”

It’s this spirit of helping you get it right that makes this book so successful.  I’m especially grateful for the section on leg protection.  This book talks through every type of leg protection available.  You see, I’ve personally found the variety and purpose of the myriad boots/wraps to be nothing short of baffling.

This book walked me through them all:  brushing boots, dressage boots, polo wraps, bell boots, cross country boots.  It explained their purpose, what they don’t do, how to put them on correctly, common mistakes when putting them on, and potential results of improper use.

And before it’s all said and done, Cat and Emma even give the reader their select turnout tips and tricks, broken down by discipline.

At the end of the clinic, we got a photo opportunity with several of Phillip Dutton's best horses.  I got to take icabad Crane for a walk, and a little hand graze. icabad is an OTTB who finished 3rd at the Preakness in 2008, and is now being retrained as an eventer.

At the end of the clinic, we got a photo opportunity with several of Phillip Dutton’s best horses.  I got to take Icabad Crane for a walk, and a little hand graze. Icabad is an OTTB who finished 3rd at the Preakness in 2008, and is now being retrained as an eventer.

Trust me, I will never be a professional groom.  And I won’t likely be in the position to hire one either.  But this book gives me a a great perspective on the knowledge that professional grooms bring to their craft.  And it has provided me with a good base of knowledge from which to care for my own horse.

The book is excellent, and so is the clinic.  If you’re in the area, and they offer another session, I’d highly recommend it.  Emma and Cat are gracious hosts and excellent instructors.  I appreciate their willingness to share their expertise.

True Prospect Farm

True Prospect Farm