How to Keep Your Job As a Stable Groom

Getting a job as a groom can be tricky, and keeping one can be even harder. Scared yet? Keep reading. You won't be.


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    Prepare physically for the strenuous work at a stable. Hay, wheelbarrows and water buckets are heavy, and only get heavier throughout the day. There is a lot of pasture to walk, horses to ride, and a long aisle way to sweep. Grooming and tacking up fifty horses can make your arms fall off. Get yourself in shape. Now.
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    Learn all the rules of the stable. If they say that you must wear black boots while working, then you’d better be wearing your black boots. It doesn’t feel good at all to be fired over things you didn’t know about.
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    Know what is expected of you. Did you think you just had to brush this horse and muck that horse’s stall? Well, turns out, you also were supposed to sweep the aisle, turn the filly out, feed the cats, brush the two horses out back, and rake the arena. To avoid that kind of confusion, ask your boss to give you a written list of everything you are supposed to do and when you are supposed to do it. Take it home, type it up, laminate it, and keep it with you. And get to know about the horses there. Its important to know the actions and attitude of each horse so that you know how to react or what not to do. And read up a lot about horses. ex. how to groom horses, how to muck out stalls...etc. that is also very important!
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    Hang out with an established groom for a day (ask permission, first). This way, you can see how every thing's done, like where the manure is dumped, how often the stalls are picked out, which horses go where, and how the gates work. It’s an opportune time to ask questions, so don’t act like you know everything. Pretend you’re starting (almost) from square one. This way, you won’t miss any important bits of information (like, at this barn, you change the bedding every day, or wipe down the tack after it’s used, or pick out the horse’s feet before bed, or other things they might just assume you know).
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    Show up on time. Late grooms can never be counted on, and are, consequently, fired. Heavy sleeper? Get an alarm clock.
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    Dress professionally. That means working jeans or breeches, comfortable, waterproof, horse-safe boots, a plain shirt (a polo works nicely) and appropriate gloves. Add a baseball cap, if it’s appropriate for the barn and season, and a belt, if you need it. No jewelry, except for a watch, and wear your hair out of the way, in something sensible (ponytail). No designer anything, even for you fashion-conscious city slickers. Even if a few other grooms are wearing wacky clothes, you’d better avoid them. When someone has to get fired, it’ll be them, not you. Professionalism impresses.
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    Be normal. Don’t drink, smoke, chew tobacco, get tattoos, pierce yourself (exception, ears), dye your hair like a chameleon or do anything else that may cause them to pass you off as a nut case.
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    Be cheerful. No one likes a depressed person hanging around their barn.
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    Shower once in a while. Horse dust, dirt, manure and shavings get stuck in the most unattractive places, and a day at the barn (plus a little sweat) doesn’t exactly make you smell delicious. Your dog will think otherwise.
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    Be thorough. When they ask you to sweep the aisle, sweep it very well. Picking out a stall means get it really clean. Don’t go overboard, but if you exceed their expectations (and keep doing it), they’ll love you all the more (think promotions).
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    Be efficient. Don’t take too long on a particular task. Do it well, of course, but learn how to do it quickly.
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    Be honest. Don’t know how to clean a stud’s sheath? Don’t pretend, tell the boss. They’ll be happier if you’re frank with them, rather than pretending you know everything until something goes wrong. That’s a sure-fire way to get kicked out.
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    Be knowledgeable about horses and barn management. Not only does it make your job easier and less stressful, but when people start asking you questions (and they will), you’ll feel a lot more confident about answering them. For instance, the little kid that wonders just how much grain her pony really needs. And the amateur that doesn’t know how to put that blanket on her horse. Etcetera.
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    Be nice. Offer to help if someone needs it. Help carry their tack to the trailer. Say hello, learn their names, and say something nice every time you pass them. Bake them something for their birthday (and Christmas, New Year’s, etc. ). Compliment their horse. If everyone loves you, they’ll want you to stay longer. And the boss won’t fire you if everyone always tells him that the new groom is so nice.
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    Do your best. If you try your heart out, good things always happen.


  • Ask to trade cleaning a few stalls for lessons. Getting yourself a little more horse-savvy is great for a groom. You’ll get to know the lesson horses better, too, and be able to sympathize with the kid that can’t get Turtle moving. Or the girl that can’t get Rocket stopped.
  • Learn about the emergency procedures for the barn. Make a list. In Case of Fire, In Case of Hurricane, etc.
  • Get to know everyone (and every horse) by name. Not by ‘hey, you’.
  • Always be courteous of people’s feelings. If they get queasy when the conversation turns to vaccines, then don’t talk about vaccines. And if you have opposite opinions on something, don’t talk about it. Avoid fights at all costs.
  • After a person is done riding, quietly check to be sure their horse is cooled off enough. If they are not, nicely tell them or the barn manager. A hot horse is a colicky horse.
  • Tell the manager about any abusive riders. But be quiet, polite and calm. And don’t spread false alerts.
  • Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses if it is sunny. Lobster-red is not the hot skin color right now.
  • Report any sick or injured looking horses right away.
  • Disinfect anything that carries germs, especially if a horse is sick. A barn full of sick horses is no fun for anyone. Especially the horses.
  • Always pull long hair back.
  • Don’t change the radio volume or station.
  • When Christmastime rolls around, hang a small stocking outside of each horse’s stall. For each of the twelve days of Christmas, leave a small something in there for the owner or horse.
  • Invest in a good deodorant. Seriously, you’ll need it.
  • Carry a cell phone with you to report emergencies. It’s also good for calling the boss if he’s not at the barn. Make sure it’s charged and on. But don’t text and call friends while you’re working. Otherwise, your screen will read like this. U-R-FIRED!!! And that’s not a text you want to get.
  • Don’t wear dirty clothes and boots to work. Clean them often.
  • If you chew gum, don’t smack it. Chew quietly, or better yet, not at all.
  • Look like you’re happy and that you know what you’re doing. Even if you don’t.
  • Keep a small notebook with you to jot down things like when people’s birthdays are, how old their horse is, and any useful tips people give you.
  • Learn how to use everything in a first aid kit. It could save a horse’s life someday. Not to mention yours.
  • If you can, try organizing parties at the barn throughout the year. If not Christmas and birthdays, try a tack cleaning party. Or a dress-up, dancing one. Don’t forget to include the horses!
  • Think of a nice thing to do for everybody once a week. Leave a bunch of carrots outside the stall door, clean every one's bridle, or just leave a nice note. You won’t believe how much this makes people love you.


  • Bring a bottle of water. Keep yourself hydrated, or you’ll be in trouble – from heatstroke, not the boss.
  • Always tie horses in a quick-release knot in case one falls or pulls back. This invaluable knot lets you release them quickly.
  • Always be careful when handling a new horse. Don’t push any buttons.
  • Know where all the fire extinguishers and hoses are.
  • Always wear an ASTM approved helmet when riding or working around horses. They are big, powerful animals with four hard hooves, a strong jaw and a mind of their own. A helmet could save your life someday.
  • Don’t help a horse if you will get hurt in the process. Go find help for it. Fast.

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Categories: Horse Grooming