December 2017 Issue - page 8

Page 8
December 2017
PENNSYLVANIA EQUESTRIAN
By Suzanne Bush
The names are familiar to
equestrians everywhere: Laura
Kraut, Leslie Howard, Rodrigo
Pessoa, Norman Dello Joio. Their
achievements in equestrian sport
have earned them worldwide
acclaim, medals and money.
They’ve represented their coun-
Emily Hayden, right, won the Caretaker’s Award at the 2017 Pennsylvania
National Horse Show. She is pictured with winning Grand Prix horse Falco
van Spieveld and rider Nicole Walker.
Photo credit: Tracy Emmanuel
Professional Grooms are Unsung Heroes No More
tries with dignity, standing with
their exquisitely-groomed horses
for photos and shaking hands
with presidents, princes and
prime ministers. Those vignettes
don’t tell the whole story, though.
Somebody worked anony-
mously but with extraordinary
dedication for hours before world
class horses like Cedric or Donna
Speciale entered the ring. In the
stable area, surrounded by the tools
of their trade, grooms are hard at
work—often before dawn. Grooms
for upper level show horses are
critical members of the team. They
make sure every braid is perfect,
every stirrup is polished, every inch
of the horse is spotless.
Although it’s unlikely they’ll
ever achieve the fame of the horses
and the riders they work for, some
grooms at the equestrian world’s
most prestigious events are finding
their ways to the limelight. The
effort to recognize how much work
and skill grooms bring to the team
began in 1998 at the Pennsylvania
National Horse Show. “My friend
Noel Glavin and I created the
award in memory of Moira Caffar-
ey who passed away in 1997, from
cancer. She was one of the best
grooms ever,” Andrea Mewhinney
explains. Mewhinney was once a
groom, but is now a kidney/pancre-
as transplant nurse.
The award, referred to fre-
quently as the “Caretakers” award,
and the “Grooms” award is formal-
ly called The Caffarey-Hennessy
Groom's Award, paying homage to
both Caffarey and George Hen-
nessy, a horse transporter for the
US Equestrian Team, who died in
2013. Mewhinney says that Hen-
nessy was “a friend to all.”
And the Winner Is…
Coordinating the details
of the award is a labor of love.
“There are three people who
organize the award and prizes,”
Mewhinney explains. “Tracy
Emanuel, who worked with me
and is now a professional pho-
tographer, Nicole Orna, who was
also a groom in the early 80s, now
management in retail, and me.”
Mewhinney says that the Caf-
farey-Hennessy Groom’s Award is
presented at the Pennsylvania Na-
tional Horse Show to the groom of
the horse that wins the Grand Prix
de Penn National. “A few years
ago the award was expanded so
each Grand Prix groom gets a bag
of goodies,” she says. “People and
companies donate to the award.
The winner gets a pile of gifts, gift
cards and prizes. Each groom's
bag is packed with food, drink and
a gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin
Donuts.” The list of donors to the
award is impressive, and includes
items like leather goods, grooming
box covers, picture frames, etc.
Many of the sponsors and donors
to the award are former grooms.
Who ARE You?
In the early days of the
award, grooms were startled and
surprised when Mewhinney’s
crew distributed bags of treats to
all the Grand Prix grooms. “The
first year the bags were handed
out—Saturday morning, back in
FEI stabling—one of the Double
H Farms grooms burst into tears.
She exclaimed ‘Who ARE you
people?’ and hugged us.”
And there are some true out-
liers in the stabling area, Mewhin-
ney says, recalling the rider who
groomed her own horse. “Unheard
of! She came with husband, new
baby, stroller, horse, etc., and
accepted her groom’s bag. Cute.
Riders at the Grand Prix level
rarely care for a horse. It’s definite-
ly a job for a professional groom,”
she says. “Riders ride and grooms
groom. How many NASCAR driv-
ers could tune an engine?”
She says there have been
some memorable winners of the
award, which is presented in the
show ring, not back in the stabling
(Continued on page 11)
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