Working as a groom for the best riders in the world certainly isn’t a walk in the park, but it offers fantastic experiences and lifelong memories. We spoke to Marianne Olsen – a Norwegian 32 year old – who has been working as Ludger Beerbaum’s international show groom for almost a year.
Marianne has been involved with horses since she was six. She started off at the local riding school, and then bought her own horse before she ended up working full time with the horses. She’s had some breaks in between, doing school and education, but has always ended up going back to the horses.
When we meet Marianne, she actually has one day left at work for Ludger and it’s her last show together with him and his horses.
She had a long career as a groom behind her before she started working for Ludger, although she never had worked for one of the top riders before. At the point when Marianne went to see Beerbaum about the job, she hadn’t groomed for over nine months. But when it was time to get back into the business, she was determined to do it 100 % and go abroad to work for one of the best. “I heard about the opportunity to work for Ludger through another groom, and a good friend of mine – Anita Kleppe. She spoke to Ludger’s groom about me being interested. After a week they called me, and before I knew it I was on my way to Germany to try out for the job.”
Olsen explains to us that she never thought she’d get the job, and was quite surprised when Beerbaum offered her the position after she’d tried out for about one and a half weeks. “Ludger was happy, and wanted me to come back. I told him I wanted to think about it, but of course – I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like that”, Marianne says modestly.
It was a few things that needed to be done before she could start though. Marianne needed a driver’s license so that she could drive Beerbaum’s enormous horsetruck around Europe. When that was done she was ready to go, and she started in the job in January 2010.
“For the first week, I had to pinch my arm – I couldn’t believe that I was actually there,” Marianne tells us. “I was terrified of not being good enough, of not having the knowledge. But I think the most important thing for many of the riders is that you are willing to learn. Every one of them has their own way of doing it, and it’s really vital that you can adjust to that.”
At Ludger’s stable all the horses are ridden every day, in addition to some daily exercise in the walker. If they’re not the type to hurt themselves, the horses are allowed out in the paddock as well. If not, they are usually grazed instead. The horses don’t go for very long hacks, Marianne explains – but they do hack them – and there’s a huge canter track around the estate that is used regularly to keep the horses fit. “And we’ve always tried to ride the horses outdoors, instead of indoors,” Olsen adds.
Marianne tells us that she is impressed by how good the best riders really are; “They are just fantastically good”, she explains. “So the best part of the job is obviously how much you learn. Just by looking at how they are around their horses, how they ride – it’s amazing.”
We ask the Norwegian how it has been to deal with some of the best horses in the world – such as Gotha, Chaman and Coupe de Cour. “I’ve tried not to think about it too much. I think that would have driven me crazy!” Her favorite is hard to pick, but she tells us that Gotha has been special to her – they travelled Europe together over the past year. “Gotha is the kindest horse, but she is special and very determined. You have to work with her. It’s usually her way or no way, and she’s like that when she is competing as well; if it was up to her, she could have jumped the course alone,” Marianne laughs.
The best memory from her time with Ludger is the world cup final in Geneva, when her boss was second together with Gotha. After only a few months in the job, she was trusted this important task alone and as she says, “got real nerves because of it!” Marianne laughs when she thinks back at the fact that she really wanted to sleep in the stable to look after Gotha, “but you can’t think like that, can you?”
Everyone has a favorite show, and Marianne decides that Aachen is probably one of the best shows she has ever been to. “It was so organized. The warm up arenas are huge! In Aachen they just accommodate, it’s amazing”, she says. “But I want to tell you about San Patrigano in Italy as well. First of all the location is stunning; at the top of a mountain! At San Patrigano there’s a rehabilitation center for people with drug related problems. And they are the ones that do all the work with the show – the whole year they work towards that one big event. I was just stunned and impressed; they did so much for you there. As an example the show office sent you text messages about starting orders, changes, etc. They arranged private tours for the grooms, and all the meals where home cooked. You could eat whenever you wanted to – which is not usual at these big shows. It was fantastic, and I will never forget about it!”
As most of the other grooms, Marianne is loyal to her fingertips. She won’t tell us about the shows that are not so good, that doesn’t do much for the grooms and where the organizers really doesn’t think about them at all. We’ve heard about examples of it, but Olsen just shakes her head and refuses to speak about it.
The hours the grooms work at shows are long and many. A regular day at the international shows starts at around 6 AM and carries out into the evening, usually to around 22 PM. Normally the grooms have around two-three horses with them, and if there is more they are guaranteed non-stop work.
The hardest thing about the job has been the travelling though, and not the working-hours. “There’s non-stop travelling. Usually I’ve only been at home for about two days per week, and the rest of the week has been spent travelling or at shows,” Marianne says.
At the question on what type of a boss Beerbaum has been Marianne smiles. “Ludger has authority. But it’s of the good kind. He is very present in everything he does, and he knows exactly what he wants. He’s focused, and he works with long-term goals. Ludger is also a great planner, which comes in good when you work for him. He is demanding – but in a fair way. And you can always ask him a question if there is something you are wondering about. I feel like I have gotten a lot back from working for him,” she says mildly.
Marianne heads back into the stable. The day after our interview is her last day at work for Ludger, and ahead lays a different lifestyle. “It’s strange. And then it’s really sad to leave Ludger and his horses. But it’s been an amazing experience, and I’m sure I won’t be able to stay away completely from the horses." Well - that turned out to be right. Marianne went with Ludger to the World Cup in Helsinki, but then she said her goodbyes.
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