To work for Denis Lynch, and travel the world with horses such as Lantinus, All Inclusive and Abbervail van het Dingeshof seems like a pretty good deal. WoSJ sat down with the guy who does exactly this; Russell Parkin.
Russell is from England, and is the kind of guy that will bring a smile to your face. Most of his professional life has been spend in his home country working for John and Robert Whitaker; “I worked there for 14 years, and then Denis asked me if I wanted to come work for him – I fancied a change, so I said yes and now I’ve been working for Denis for seven months,” Russell explains. “It was hard to leave the Whitaker’s horses behind. Lucky for me Lacroix – who Robert used to ride – is with Denis now and that way I could continue to follow him, which is really nice. I was promised once that he’ll be mine when he retires,” Russell says with a smile on his face.
To move from one country to another is not always easy, and Russell points out that a lot of things were very different in Germany compared to England – and in the beginning it could be quite hard to get accustomed to it all. “But Kay [Neatham] lives only forty minutes away, so that’s made it all easier,” the 38 year old lets us know.
When asked about his boss, Russell smiles and says; “Denis is very easy to work for. He really looks after me!” Russell explains that working as a professional groom is hard work, and that he can get tired with all the driving involved – “But, I’m lucky because if it’s a really long way to go Denis makes sure I have a driver with me. It’s exhausting driving through the night, and with a driver with me I’ll do a much better job the following day,” he says. “Sometimes we grooms also travel together, like Kay and I will be going together to Cannes,” Russell continues. “If I have more than three horses with me to a show, Denis also makes sure I have another groom with me – which is great for both the horses and myself,” Russell adds.
Denis has a star-string of horses, and we ask Russel to tell us more about them. “Lantinus is great; he’s quite demanding though as he is somewhat spoiled. You see, Lantinus is Denis’ favorite horse! I mean he just loves and adores that horse – so what Lantinus wants, Lantinus gets,” Russell laughs. “He’s really nice to ride, but if you walk him by hand he can sometimes try to run off with you,” Russell smiles. “It’s great to have him back here in Hamburg, seeing him win was so good,” Russell says about Latinus’ Mercedes-Benz win, as he continues “and All Inclusive is really sweet, but he’s a bit more of the quiet sort. He’s really nice to handle, and has no vices!”
When it comes to Abberuail van het Dingeshof – Denis’ World Cup winner from Den Bosch – Russell is loud and clear; “Abberuail is fantastic, he’s my favorite! When he won in Den Bosch it was amazing. It was really good for Denis, as the win took him to his first World Cup final. It was quite incredible that he won, there were so many clears and so many fast horses – and Abberuail is a big horse and finds it quite hard to turn!” Russell laughs as he tells us the rest of the memories from the same evening; “Denis took us out for dinner to celebrate, but I was so exhausted I fell asleep!”
Russell can also reveal that Denis has some really nice younger horses climbing up the ranks. “We have All Star, who is an eight year old by Argentinus and he is a really good one. Then there’s Contifex who is by Cornet Obolensky and he will be the next Hickstead! He’s going really well at the moment,” Russell says excited.
Back home at the yard in Munster there are a total of 25 horses and twelve of these are ridden by Denis. The rest are either ridden by Flaminia Straumann, the daughter of Denis’ sponsor Thomas Straumann, or they are enjoying their retirement. “We have seven people working at home, and it’s always very tidy and clean around the yard – actually there’s not a shaving in sight,” Russell laughs.
Russell also tells us about the life with the other grooms that are his colleagues and travelling companions. “We all get along really well. Sometimes it’s really hard work though, and in such times you really need a good sense of humor! But I mean; we all have our moments…”
All careers have some high and lows, but we want to know if Russell has done something that was really embarrassing. “Well, I once was taking seven horses for training for John and Robert. I was in a real rush, and when we got there I was asked to tack up this particular horse. Well, turns out it wasn’t there, I had taken six instead of seven and left that one behind,” he laughs.
And what about the highs? “The best memories I have are from the Sydney Olympics. Calvaro [John’s horse] jumped amazing! We had the time of our lives there, and I just didn’t want it to end – it’s the best Olympics I have ever been to. If I didn’t do this job, I wouldn’t have gone to half of the places I have been to. The Global Champions Tour takes you to lovely locations, like Monte Carlo! But I think Doha is the nicest; we get to live in five star hotels,” Russell laughs. “That being said, you have to love the job, and fully commit to it – otherwise you won’t last. I’m happy not to be stuck in an office,” he says, then thinks and continues laughing “Well in the winter maybe no!” “My favorite shows are San Patrignano and the GCT in Doha,” Russell says while continuing to describe a recent German show he went to as “a pony club; it was the worst show ever!”
Russell tells us that coffee is an essential item when he travels; “I always keep it in the truck,” he smiles. “We get meal tickets at shows, but I like to bring my own food – I’m a bit fussy about that. Meal times are sometimes not very thought through, and can crash with the schedule of the horses – which it did in Leipzig. Breakfast at eight in the morning is too late for us, you just can’t make it. The meal times here in Hamburg are good though!”
Russell also has some clear opinions on other issues, and points out; “I think the show organizers should make an effort towards the grooms more often than what they do now. It’s easy; put up a prize for the best groom, or have a competition like the one that Doda[Alvaro de Miranda] put up for us in Rio – it was a bandage rolling competition for the grooms with a 3000 Euro prize. That’s a lot nicer than being met by a sign such as the one on the Club House in Madrid that says ‘Dogs and grooms not allowed’,” Russell laughs before heading off to feed his stars.
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