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FEI Online Sports Forum, day two: Grooms' integration

Thursday, 03 June 2021
FEI Online Sports Forum 2021

Photo © FEI/Richard Juillart Ingmar De Vos, FEI President, and Sabrina Ibáñez, FEI Secretary General during the FEI Online General Assembly 2021. Photo © FEI/Richard Juillart.

The second day of the FEI Online Sports Forum concluded on Wednesday 2nd of June, and a video replay, summaries, as well as supporting documents can be viewed here.

The third session of the Sports Forum, which opened day two, was dedicated to grooms and a summary from the FEI reads:

"The opening Session of Day 2 was dedicated to Grooms, a vital stakeholder group which has not previously been formally recognised by the FEI and the international equestrian community.

The FEI President, who initiated the first engagement with the Grooms community back in 2017, led the session with a panel of speakers representing the interests of Grooms, Athletes, Owners, Organisers, Officials and National Federations, with discussions providing a 360° view of the status and needs of the Grooms community.

“Grooms play a very important role in our sport, in the day to day life of equine and human athletes and at equestrian competitions, whatever the level may be,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said in his opening remarks to the session. “I don’t think anyone needs to be convinced that they are key for the welfare of our horses and in many cases also for the well-being of our human athletes."

“For this reason I have never understood why this essential role - which also represents a large number of individuals - has never been officially recognised by the FEI as a specific stakeholder group. We do refer to Grooms in some of our rules, but this does not constitute an official status per se. I really believe now is the time to rectify this huge oversight and to officially recognise and integrate Grooms in our organisation and community.”

The discussion panel was made up of Jackie Potts (GBR), Lucy Katan (BGA), Pedro Veniss (BRA), Robin Parsky (USA), Peter Bollen (BEL), Susanne Macken (IRL), Chris Webb (AUS) and Frank Kemperman (NED).

During the session, FEI Director of Information & Sports Technology Gaspard Dufour highlighted the self-registration system currently in place for Grooms and the FEI HorseApp modules that are being developed to allow Grooms to enter horse temperatures at Events in line with current EHV-1 by-laws in mainland Europe. 

Participants also heard from FEI Director of Education Frank Spadinger, who provided an overview of the educational resources for Grooms available on FEI Campus. FEI Tutor Susanne Macken provided insights into the FEI Solidarity Courses for Grooms, which she has delivered around the world since 2012. These courses are available on FEI Campus in both English and Spanish.

Lucy Katan, Executive Director of the British Grooms Association (BGA), took the floor to talk about the creation of an International Grooms Association (IGA), an independent, not-for-profit, professional association with a vision and mission to improving the status of Grooms worldwide. She also outlined the membership requirements, governance and administrative structures of such an organisation.

There was general consensus among panellists about the need for official recognition for Grooms within the community. The participants were also very supportive of the initiatives presented and forthcoming with their own suggestions and ideas, including a recommendation from a Bahraini Jumping and Endurance Judge to add Grooms in the start and results lists, which was warmly welcomed by Lucy Katan who also encouraged all National Federations to include the names of Grooms on the team announcement for the upcoming Olympic & Paralympic Games. This simple and cost effective recommendation received widespread support from panellists as well as from those viewing the session remotely.

Several areas for advancement were identified during the discussions:

  • The Grooms community is composed of a diverse group of individuals, from the full time professional Groom to the volunteer, friend or family member who helps out an athlete when competing at an occasional show. Grooms are the key link between the horse owner and the horse and any structures and procedures that will be created need to cater for Grooms from the grassroots to the elite level.
  • There is a need to provide a more professional structure for Grooms if the community is to retain individuals in the profession and make it a long-term career path. Providing this structure will go a long way to recognising and acknowledging the important work of Grooms in the industry.   
  • A more robust structure is needed to safeguard the welfare and well-being of Grooms. High on the list, is the improvement of working conditions for Grooms, especially at Events where long hours are the norm.
  • Grooms should have the possibility to feed back their experiences to Organisers through a ‘Grooms Report’ so that improvements can be made to their working conditions at Events.
  • More needs to be done to educate Grooms on biosecurity protocols and horse inspection processes to ensure they have all the resources and the tools to carry out their work effectively. It was noted that many Grooms do not know how to properly present a horse for a horse inspection as they have never been trained to do so. This education is needed for Grooms in developed as well as developing countries. Clean sport certification for Grooms was also seen as necessary.
  • There is a real need to make the Grooms community aware of the educational resources and tools that already exist. Education will be key to creating international standards of operation that are accepted and followed by Grooms at all levels. But it was also stated that the FEI and National Federations need to find way of assisting Grooms with their education, especially as most of them do a lot of travelling and are working very long hours at events. The FEI is currently looking into technology that will allow Grooms to listen to FEI Campus material offline.
  • Registration of Grooms in the FEI Database will allow for better communication pathways between the FEI and the Grooms community.
  • For the needs of Grooms to be met, there needs to be representation in the decision making process. Grooms need a voice that can represent their interests, support their needs and also help to professionalise the industry and the standards. However, panellists cautioned that it would be necessary to look into certification practices so as not to provide more obstacles to entry into the profession.
  • It was proposed that the resources and structures being developed for FEI Grooms could also be extended to other equestrian disciplines such as racing and polo.
  • Grooms must have more training on the mobile applications that are being developed by the FEI. It was also suggested that paper versions must still exist alongside these Apps as not all Grooms around the world have access to this technology. National Federations need to also help with translating courses for Grooms.
  • The possibility of providing the existing Grooms educational courses on FEI Campus in additional languages was also discussed, and the FEI President urged National Federations to provide their support in this process.
  • There needs to be more assistance provided to Grooms for working visas, especially the community in Britain following Brexit.

The Session ended with the following key conclusions:

Support for the creation of an International Grooms Association (IGA)

The proposal to create the International Grooms Association (IGA) to give Grooms a unified voice within official decision-making processes has the full support of the FEI, and also of the stakeholders groups represented in the session. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be established over the coming month between the FEI and the IGA to formalise the partnership.

Creation of Grooms Consultative Group

The session provided the opportunity for the FEI President to announce that a Grooms Consultative Group will be set up by the FEI and will be led by FEI Executive Board Member Frank Kemperman (GER). The Group will be made up of IGA representatives, Owners, Athletes, representatives of Organising Committees, Stewards and National Federations. The Group’s mission is to define a roadmap for the development of key structures for the Grooms community, including the creation of a charter of rights and obligations for Grooms.

The FEI President wound up the almost two-hour session on a very positive note.

“We have set in motion the wheels for the future of the Grooms community,” he said. “There will soon be a representative body and we will have a consultative group to set a framework and a roadmap for the integration and official recognition of the Grooms."

“Today is a very important and special day because for the first time in the 100 years of existence of the FEI, we now officially recognise Grooms. Not only have we recognised them, but we also have a clear way forward and a plan of action.”



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