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Frank Kemperman – Chair of the FEI Grooms Consultative Group: “Grooms are a matter of my heart”

Wednesday, 18 January 2023
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. Frank Kemperman. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

While good and knowledgeable grooms are vital for the equestrian industry, official numbers imply there is a huge lack of them*. In December, World of Showjumping spoke with Ludger Beerbaum, Scott Brash, Lee McKeever, Andrea Hoenack, Ken Ruysen and David Honnet to hear about their opinions on how to improve the working conditions for the grooms, and how to make their careers sustainable.

Over the years, the FEI has done its part in trying to integrate grooms and give them an official role among their stakeholders. The FEI Grooms Working Group’s first meeting took place in 2017, and following the FEI Sports Forum in 2021, the Grooms Consultative Group was created by the FEI with a mission to assist with the definition of a roadmap for the development of key structures for the grooms’ community – including the creation of a charter of rights and obligations for grooms. Then, in April 2022, at the FEI Sports Forum, FEI President Ingmar De Vos finally signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Grooms Association (IGA). 

But what exactly does the Grooms Consultative Group do? WoSJ called up Frank Kemperman – Chair of the group, as well as former FEI Executive Board Member and former CHIO Aachen Event Director – to learn more. “I don’t want to hear what we are doing good, I want to hear what we can do better,” Kemperman says about his approach towards the grooms.

The Grooms Consultative Group 

“Within the FEI, there is a committee for everything,” Kemperman explains. “However, we did not have anything in place for the grooms, and therefore the FEI Board decided to create the Grooms Consultative Group. With the International Grooms Association (IGA) now organized and growing – currently it has 275 members – the Grooms Consultative Group is today an instrument used between the FEI and the IGA. Once the IGA has identified their issues, the group will help in solving them.”

I believe there are many more issues to tackle to make the grooms’ working conditions better

“While I am the Chair of the group, the other members are Lucy Katan (IGA), Peter Bollen (International Equestrian Organizers), Robin Parsky (Jumping Owners Club), Chris Webb (Australian National Federation), Susan Macken (Official), Jackie Potts (IGA), Melina Jobst (IGA) and the current FEI Athlete Representatives – and of course we get help from the FEI headquarters.”

A lack of knowledge of the rules

“The first thing we did was to look at the FEI rules and regulations to see what is already in place when it comes to the grooms,” Kemperman continues. “In the FEI Veterinary Regulations, there are already a lot of regulations concerning the stables – which is the grooms’ workplace.”

“Even though there are differences between Europe and America, some of the regulations are universal: First of all, stables have to be clean with wide aisles, and good security must be in place. And when it comes to the grooms’ accommodation, water and electricity should be available if they stay in the trucks, as should toilets.”

It seems there are not many people who actually read the rules or follow up on their implementation

“However, it seems there are not many people who actually read the rules or follow up on their implementation – at FEI events there is a lot to improve when it comes to the conditions for the grooms. Furthermore, the travelling is an issue, as well as the general working conditions when the grooms are at home. These issues have to be discussed, especially with riders and owners.”

“At the moment, while we are waiting for the IGA to present their issues, we are working on guidelines for the organisers, and we try to identify what the most important factors are from the grooms’ perspectives. We have meetings every six weeks, but the frequency can be increased depending on the issues that are brought to our attention. I hope that many more issues will be discussed in the coming year.” 

Back to the roots

For Kemperman – who did the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976 as a groom – working with the Grooms Consultative Group has meant returning to his roots. “I retired as Event Director at CHIO Aachen last year, but I am still on the Board of Advisors there, and I am involved in organising The Dutch Masters and Jumping Indoor Maastricht,” he says. “Hence, I know how important it is to look after every single detail at a show and it is interesting for me to do something for the grooms.”

“There is a big difference between the shows,” Kemperman continues. “While catering came up as one of the main points in a FEI stakeholder survey presented at the Sports Forum in 2022, I believe there are many more issues to tackle to make the grooms’ working conditions better. I was responsible for CHIO Aachen for 29 years, and as a groom, I have slept in those stables – so I know how the conditions can be.”

I don’t want to hear what we are doing good, I want to hear what we can do better

“My favourite place in Aachen is the stable, and I love to speak with the grooms – and I don’t want to hear what we are doing good, I want to hear what we can do better,” Kemperman says. “My advice to any fellow organisers is to listen to the grooms, ask them – and find solutions. Some shows only seem to look after the VIP, but horse shows are about horses, and grooms look after those horses – they are the artists of the show, and we have to take care of them. I have seen many shows in my life and some of them are very badly organised from the grooms’ perspectives.”

“For me, grooms have always been important – that is part of my personal career path. What can we really do to make life better for them? This is a personal matter of my heart; if you were a groom yourself, you know. Look at what they do all day! Grooms are important for the sport and have special working conditions; we need to respect them because a happy groom is a happy horse,”  Kemperman concludes.

 


* Currently, there are 248,967 different people registered in the FEI database within several categories, 5305 of them being grooms and 169,440 athletes. 


 

 

18.1.2023 No reproduction of any of the content in this article will be accepted without a written permission, all rights reserved © World of Showjumping.com. If copyright violations occur, a penalty fee will apply. 

 



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