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WoSJ Exclusive; Alana Gamble – “Tinka is really special, and Je T’aime is easy going”

Monday, 09 May 2011

Alana and Tinka relax at the WEG. Photo: Private. Alana Gamble works for Irish rider Billy Twomey, and travels around the world with Billy’s best horses Tinka’s Serenade, Je T'aime Flamenco, Tackeray and Romanov. WoSJ had a chat with Alana to find out what it’s like to be on the road most of the year, what it takes to be a groom for an international rider and if she ever feels the urge for a holiday.

How did you end up working as a groom for one of Ireland's best riders? “I started out riding myself, and did that for about 12-13 years. It then turned out that my trainer needed some help with her horses, so I ended up doing some work for her and it went on from there. Before I started working for Billy, which is about 3 ½ years ago, I worked for a young rider in England. I have tried out other jobs as well – like working in an office – but I found that too boring for me and I didn’t last very long in that job,” Alana laughs.

A real character: GCT winner Je T'aime Flamenco and Billy. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Billy is not based on the continent like most of the other European riders – does that make any difference to your work? “Yes, definitely. We always try to fit in a few shows before we go back home to England, and I can be away with the horses for up to six weeks at the time. In between shows I stop at Stephex Stables – where they are really nice – and camp there with the horses. Also, when we are at the shows we try to arrive as early as possible and leave as late as possible to make it easier on the horses.” “I pack for several weeks at the time, and if necessary I ask my friends to bring me stuff when I am away for the longer periods. Even sometimes somebody needs to bring the horses over from England. As an example British dressage rider Richard Davidson brought Tinka with him to ‘s-Hertogenbosch for us. But I’m kind of getting used to this lifestyle now,” Alana smiles.

Do you notice any difference in your job now that Billy is ranked as number seven in the world? “First of all we go to a lot more shows now than before. Secondly, the shows are nicer than they used to be. I like going to the Global Champion Tour shows; they are in really nice places such as Monte Carlo and Cannes. At these shows you usually have the day time off as the classes are in the evening, and rarely do you have more than two horses with you. This summer will be tough for us though, with both the Super League and the Global Champions Tour, “Alana explains.

What kind of personal qualities would you say you need to work as a groom for an international rider? “I think you have to be a little bit mad, and very, very dedicated,” Alana laughs. “It can get quite intense as all the grooms spend a lot of time together; suddenly you are placed in a hotel room with one of your colleges – like at the WEG where Russel [Denis Lynch’s groom] and I had to share accommodation. And you have to enjoy that part of it as well,” Alana says. “As a groom you also need to be competitive; you have to want to do it.”

The typical chestnut mare; Tinka's Serenade who has won some big classes in 2011. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.Tell us about one of Billy’s top horses Tinka’s Serenade, what is she like? “Tinka is your typical crazy chestnut mare,” Alana says laughing. “She is very special; an example of that is the fact that she hates noise. Tinka doesn’t see any danger in the situations she creates either; and all of a sudden she can spook, trying to get me off and I will be trying my best to keep on – well encouraged by those around me,” Alana laughs. “But once Tinka is in the arena and there is a competition going on, she calms down and gets totally focused. And in the stables she is perfectly good to handle,” Alana says of the mare that has been with Billy for the last four years.

A good guy; Tackeray. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.And how about the boys; Je T'aime, Romanov and Tackeray – what are they like? “I would have to say that they are all quite spoiled, but also three very good guys,” Alana says with a smile on her face. “Je T'aime has a strong personality though, he is a real character. I have to admit that sometimes he can be a real wimp, but all over he is very easy going,” Alana tells us about the wonderful stallion who recently won the GCT in Valencia. “Romanov on the other hand is quite new to me, as he has only been with us since January when Billy’s owners bought him and he took over the ride from Phillip Spivey. Romanov is a gentleman and easy to look after, but he too is a bit spoiled. As I know his previous groom back home I have kind of made a promise to keep it that way,” Alana laughs.

So, do you ever have time for a holiday in this job? “Well, Billy would for sure let me have one,” Alana smiles. “But I don’t tend to go abroad and travel on my holidays – I have plenty of that in my job, so I’d rather go home to my family and just relax. And if I decided to go somewhere on a trip it would be difficult to find someone to go with – they would all be at a show somewhere,” Alana says before heading back to the stables.

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