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WoSJ Exclusive; Terri Fitton – “I love this job! You get paid to travel the world!”

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Terri at work in Paris. All photos by Jenny Abrahamsson.Terri Fitton works for Marco Kutscher, and is no less than a primary school teacher turned top international show groom. But who says that the skills of a teacher for children in the age from 5-11 won’t come in handy on the showjumping circuit? This 25 year old English girl from Manchester – who has a great sense of humor and made us laugh several times during our talk – left her safe haven as a teacher at the age of 20, and started working for British top rider Ben Maher. Terri stayed on for almost five years, before she left for Germany – and horses such as Cornet Obolensky, Cash and Satisfaction FRH.


“It’s completely different in Germany from what I’m used to. At Stall Beerbaum there are four professional riders [Ludger Beerbaum, Marco Kutscher, Philipp Weishaupt and Henrik Von Eckermann], and they each have their separate yard. I’m Marco’s show groom, and then we have an amazing home groom who does the clipping, washing and everything else in between the shows – I can’t say enough good things about her,” Terri says. “Everything is so professional in Germany; the horses are the most important thing, “she says. “Also, I have a day off every week which is great! Then I can sleep and shop!”

"A really cool customer": Cornet Obolensky - WC winner in Zürich.“I have been working for Marco since September 2011. I heard that he needed a new show groom, so I gave him a call. There was a little back and forth, and I almost left for the States as I got a job offer over there – but in the end I ended up in Germany. And Marco is a super boss! He is very friendly and likes to have a good laugh,“ Terri lets us know.  “In our stable we have twelve horses, and four of them are Marco’s top level horses. At the stables we have Marco’s home groom, a stable jockey and a practicant. On a normal work day there is a lot to do; and we are all kept busy!”

In the beginning all was not easy though. “I don’t speak German so at the first German shows I was a bit lost. At the warm-up somebody spoke to me in German, and I didn’t understand anything. So, in the end I just smiled to them – like this,” Terri laughs and puts up a very funny face.

Cornet Obolensky – the lovely grey Clinton-stallion ridden by Marco – is a crowd favorite, and we ask Terri to tell us about him. “Cornet is very easy to do. And he is very sweet as he sleeps and dreams all the time! If you try and get him up, he’s like ‘No way’! He is just adorable; a really cool customer.”

Cash in action with Marco.“Cash is more of a whimp I would say. He is a bit more of the nervous kind. Cash makes you want to be there for him, especially when he looks at you and goes ‘Oh, please help me’,” Terri says of the bay gelding that looks safe as a rock and full of confidence in the ring.


“Then there is Satisfaction, he’s actually blind on one eye – not everybody knows that. He’s really cute, and as he only has eyesight on one side he has a tendency to look to one side as well – which makes him even cuter!”


“Marco also used to have Allerdings that Henrik now rides. Allerdings is lovely; he follows you around like a little dog. But he actually has a skin condition, so he has to wear a turn out rug in stead of a stable rug on the box so he doesn’t scratch too much,” Terri explains of the chestnut.

Satisfaction FRH is according to Terri "really cute"!“Marco is really nice with the horses; he lets them be themselves. He talks with them and is really sweet with them!” Does Marco have any bad sides to him we ask Terri? “Ha ha, the only thing I can think of is that he said ‘No way’ when I tried to convince him that we should go to the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida for a month,” Terri laughs. “It’s great out there for educating the horses; it kind of made Tripple X when I worked for Ben. But of course it can be hard to win the money in.”

As she has been travelling to most big shows in the world over the past five years, we ask Terri if she has any favorite shows. “Lyon is really nice for us grooms. The stables are nice, the warm-up is good, it’s possible to get food all day and we can keep the trucks nearby – all important elements to make it a good show for us,” she explains. “Outdoors Rome is my favorite!”

Terri in full concentration.And the worst? “Well, Oslo was pretty bad last year for us grooms. There was no stable manager, and the boxes were dirty when we arrived and there were no shavings. And in general I don’t like shows that can’t manage to have a starting list ready before there is one hour left to the class,” Terri says.

Is there any memorable moments that stand out we ask Terri; “Any show with Russel [Denis Lynch’s groom] is memorable,” Terri laughs. “Russel is a very fun guy who does all kind of strange things, but I have to say if you need him he’s really there for you!”


Life as an international show groom is no walk in the park, so we ask Terri what kind of personal qualities that are needed to make it in a job such as hers. “To make it as a groom at this level I think you need to be independent, but at the same time you need to be able to get on with people and interact with them. You definitely learn how to make new friends; like when I went to Florida for the first time – it felt like I didn’t know anybody! So to be outgoing is a start. And you also need a high tolerance level,” Terri smiles.

 

“My colleagues are great though; we help each other out when needed! Like when we flew out to Abu Dhabi there was a bit of chaos when we were loading up the horses that were flying out there, but Alex that works for Harrie [Smolders] helped out and was just a savior for me,” she says. “And one more thing; you have to be tough. You can’t just get sick and stay in your bed. Once I actually drove to Rome with a broken foot. I just got on with it and kept going!”

“That being said: I love this job! You get paid to travel the world!” Terri concludes.


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