Professional grooms group added to FEI stable

FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Lucy Katan, Founding Director of the International Grooms Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the FEI Sports Forum 2022 at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.
FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Lucy Katan, Founding Director of the International Grooms Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the FEI Sports Forum 2022 at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland. © FEI/Richard Juilliart

Many years of discussion and planning have resulted in horse sport’s governing body signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the International Grooms Association (IGA).

FEI President Ingmar De Vos and IGA Founding Director Lucy Katan signed the agreement at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, last month.

An independent not-for-profit professional association, the International Grooms Association has been established to achieve greater representation and career recognition for grooms, as well as to improve their working conditions, especially at equestrian events where long hours are the norm.

The support provided by the IGA will include guidance on employment rules, answers to commonly asked questions on recruitment, a toolkit for grooms working freelance, and a job board, to name a few. A section on well-being on the IGA website, International Grooms Minds, will ensure that grooms also have a strong emotional support system in place to assist them in their daily work.

De Vos said the signing marks the start of a new era for international grooms. He noted that the movement began in 2017 with the first meeting of the FEI Grooms Working Group, and started to take shape at last year’s Sports Forum when the community provided its full support for the creation of the IGA.

“The IGA has laid the foundations for the grooms’ community to grow, evolve and have a strong voice in the long-term development of equestrian sport and I count on grooms, as well as National Federations, athletes, organisers, officials and owners to make this a success,” De Vos said.

Since its inception in 2009, the annual FEI Best Groom Award has paid tribute to the hard work of grooms across the FEI’s disciplines.

The FEI has also developed educational tools and resources to assist grooms with their day-to-day work. Education has been key to creating international standards of operation that are accepted and followed by grooms at all levels.

In 2015, FEI Solidarity created an educational course for grooms, which consists of three in-person sessions and one practical assessment. Over the years, 280 grooms worldwide have benefited from these courses that provide practical training delivered by a technical expert. The IGA will now collaborate with FEI Campus to provide grooms with information on anti-doping, biosecurity and general stable management.

Katan, a former international groom, said the signing finally gave international grooms a voice within the FEI and at competitions.

“The goal is for the IGA to become the voice of international grooms, while recognising all the work goes into keeping the equine athletes of our sport happy, healthy and performing at their best.

“While we want Organising Committees to raise their commitment to improving working conditions, we hope that Grooms will provide feedback on their work experiences through a ‘Grooms Report’, so that improvements can be made to their working conditions at events. This is a real opportunity for grooms to constructively and collaboratively be heard and play a key role in their profession and this industry,” Katan said.

Each FEI discipline will have four to six representatives working within the industry to promote the status of international grooms. These representatives will be asked to mentor new grooms, creating a support hub for those new to the scene.

Frank Kemperman, Chair of the Grooms Consultative Group, former FEI Executive Board member, and a former groom, said the career of a groom should be seen as integral to the success of any equestrian team and to equestrian sport.

“An international athlete is nothing without a good horse, but a good horse is nothing without an exceptional groom. It is about being a team. Athlete, horse, and groom are key to each other’s success. We hope the national federations and their athletes will spread the word and encourage their international grooms to join the IGA.”

The Grooms Consultative Group was set up by the FEI following last year’s Sports Forum and is made up of Grooms, Owners, Athletes, representatives of Organising Committees, Officials, Stewards and National Federations. The Group’s mission is to assist with the definition of a roadmap for the development of key structures for the Grooms community, including the creation of a Charter of rights and obligations for Grooms.

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