How am I doing? ~ photo by Shannon Eldridge

It’s not that bad… ~ photo by Shannon Eldridge

Here it is folks. Stable Cleaner has made the Top 15 Worst Jobs in America list:

If there was ever a job that warranted the title “Professional Pooper Scooper”, this is it. Sure, there are other responsibilities that come with attending to a horse’s stall; changing the hay, feeding them, taking them out to trot. But, prime among these responsibilities or even a job of its own depending on which stable you work at, is the task of shoveling unthinkable amounts of feces from the horse stables.”

I’m on the fence about this one. On the one hand, I have been looking into grooming jobs lately – as a bit of a pipe dream after graduation (Sorry Mom, Dad and Bank Manager). It looks cool and fun to travel the world, going to all the top shows and parties. Then reality kicks in and I realise that my glamorous dream would vanish after the 10th stall.

The horses themselves aren’t so bad. If you have the knack, many of them can be trained to be on their best behaviour when you come in to do the housekeeping. Some horses are just unruly and no matter how hard you try, they will always have to be cross tied with a metal muzzle to avoid any casualties (true story!).

Usually, these horses are owned by even crazier people. I would go so far as to say that for every three horse people there’s one person who puts the ‘crazy’ into ‘horse crazy’. Sometimes as luck would have it, that one is your boss. If so, run; especially if you have to live in their house. Early warning signs of crazy include substituting spaghetti for boiled cabbage at dinner, not adding plumbing or heating to the grooms’ accommodation and general passive aggressiveness.

You can weed some of the crazy people out by the ads. Some people expect you to work long hours for “the experience”. This isn’t confined to the horse industry – many graduate internships are poorly paid and labour intensive. The thing is, in the horse industry, there isn’t much career mobility in the “Stable Cleaner” field. While the experience may be valuable for riding time under a BNT, it’s often a poor trade off. Long hours and routinely coming home wearing most of a bale of hay, smelling like a barn, isn’t for everyone.

In case I just justified the case for selecting groom as the 15th worst job in America, there are days that make up it. Getting up when the world is still sleeping and being the only one in the barn can be so therapeutic. Watching your rider win a big class is thrilling. So is having a great lesson you worked your butt off for by being an unpaid “Stable Cleaner”.

There are legendary grooms – the kind that keep the dream alive for people like me. In my dream, I’m like Clark Shipley who grooms for Beezie Madden or McLain Ward’s barn manager Lee McKeever. These top dogs get to go to all the biggest shows, including the Olympics.

At the end of the day, anyone in the grooming industry is in it for the love of the horse. It’s a long, hard job – but is it amongst the worst in America? You decide.

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