The countdown is on to the SOLD OUT Connolly’s RED MILLS National Hunt Race Day in Gowran Park on the 19th of February. Keep an eye on RED MILLS so you don’t miss the release of the last remaining FREE tickets this week.
In the lead up to race day we caught up with some race yard grooms to get an insight into the work they do to ensure each horse is looking their best on the day. We want to highlight the amazing work done behind the scenes and the important role a groom has to play on race day.
Our first grooming spotlight series is with Abigail Kelleher who is 22 years old from Macroom, Co. Cork, Ireland groom for her family yard Kelleher racing.
1. How did you get involved in being a groom?
I was lucky to grow up around horses and started hunting at a young age. As I got older, I started to look after the racehorses at home and it has just gone from there!
2. What is your favourite part of being a groom?
I love having my horses looking well at the races. I think that presentation is everything. I feel a sense of pride in my horses when I walk them around the parade ring and see them run well on the track.
3. What does a normal day at work look like for you?
I actually work as a General Nurse full time!
I am so lucky that on my days off I get to take a break from nursing to look after the horses at home. When I’m not on the frontline, it’s another early start at 7:30 for the first lot! If I’m not riding a lot, I’m kept busy with yard duties. When the horses are ridden out on the gallops, I think it is very important to wash them under the warm hose using Gallop shampoo to maintain their good coats. When they are cooled off on the walker, they head back to their stables and get a scoop for lunch.
We let them relax for the evening in the stable or the paddock and come back to feed again at 5:00pm.
4. How many horses do you look after in a week?
I am lucky that we only have 10 in training. I get to give each horse just as much attention as the next. (Even though I do have a soft spot for one or two!!)
5. What products are always in your grooming kit?
I couldn’t be without the tigers tongue sponge, it gives the horses coat such a shine combined with the CDM Dreamcoat! I always bring the CDM Hoof Oil to the races and apply it just before the parade ring. Black hooves are the finishing touch!
6. Do you have a favourite CDM product?
I love the Mane & Tail spray. It makes my job so much easier. It detangles and gives the tail a lovely shine. The spray is also fabulous when applied before plaiting the tail as it keeps the hairs together.
7. Do you have a top tip for when you are getting horses ready on race day?
My top tip is to keep the plaits as tight as possible so that the rosebuds are neat and small. I also love putting baby oil on after the CDM mane and tail spray to achieve a curly tail when the plait is taken out.
8. What’s the best part of race day for a groom?
The best turned out award is always lovely to win. It encourages me as a groom to be more competitive in having the horses looking their best! I think it recognises the hard work that goes into getting the horses the way they look. It can be a very competitive parade ring!!
9. What is your post race grooming routine?
When the horses come back into the stable yard I take off the bridle and get the head collar on and head to the wash bays. We are lucky to have such powerful water hoses at most tracks so those mucky days are made a lot easier! I bring a sponge and gallop shampoo and give the horses a good wash down. I then scrape them off and put on a cooling rug. It’s important to give the horses a drink after their run to rehydrate, followed by a walk around the stable yard. I take the plaits out and get them set to head home. I love giving them a well-deserved carrot after their run!
10. Any advice for someone interested in becoming a racehorse groom?
Practice makes perfect!
Keep an eye out for our next grooming spotlight when we will be speaking with Stephanie Searle from Willie Mullins yard and hear what her favourite part of being a groom is!