Turning Show Grooms Into Wedding Grooms

Five lessons you can take from horse shows to your happily-ever-after

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My beautiful fiancée Erika and her haflinger Oliver. I have been their (un)official show groom for years.

The life of a competitive horseback rider involves sacrificing both time and energy to be successful. My now-fiancée Erika has been an avid rider for years, and after nine years of being together, I have become a big fan of equestrian activities. For anyone who has not tried it, I can tell you with utmost certainty that it is much, much harder than it looks. Recreational riding is challenging enough, but riding competitively in horse shows brings it to a new level of difficulty.

As the summers of horse shows went by, I played a bigger and bigger role in Erika’s horse shows. After hours of unofficial training, I eventually became useful enough to be granted the title of show groom.

They don't just give these ribbons away! (Can be purchased at your local tack store)

They don’t just give these ribbons away! (Can be purchased at your local tack store)

A show groom helps their rider with the everyday tasks during a horse show. These responsibilities include cleaning tack, brushing dust off of their boots, making sure the horse is perfectly brushed, and helping the rider recuperate after a difficult ride. The shows involve jumping over obstacles, which can be both stressful and exhilarating at the same time.

After so many years of working together, I have picked up some important key tips for being successful. I will soon be watching my beautiful soon-to-be wife walk down the aisle, and I will remember the lessons I learnt as a show groom. Here are the five key tips I have picked up over the years.

Communication is key

If horse shows have taught me anything, it is that communication is what leads to success. Horse shows involve a lot of running around, figuring out who is riding at what time, if they have qualified for a second run, where the coaches are, and so on. It is important for the groom and the rider to be on the same page at all times, making sure they both know what responsibilities each has covered and if either of them need help with their tasks. It is better to communicate any problems or issues and work through them together than to stay silent and fail.

Teamwork helps overcome many obstacles

What is a horse groom without a noble steed to brush? What is a rider with disheveled horse? The answer is simple: inadequate. A groom and rider need each other to be successful at a horse show. The rider needs the groom just as much as the groom relies on a rider for a job. Teams rarely get far if the parties involved are not working together. Supporting one another is vital for any team to thrive, and it is just as important to ask for help when you need it. Most obstacles are manageable when people are working together.

Don’t hold grudges

The horse is the most important part of a horse show, but the rider and groom are necessary pieces to be successful.

The horse is the most important part of a horse show, but the rider and groom are necessary pieces to be successful.

I am not going to sugarcoat things; horse shows can be very stressful. There are thousands of different things to worry about throughout the day, and when things don’t go as planned, tempers may flare. I don’t always work well under pressure, and when there are too many things happening at once, I tend to shut down. This can be incredibly aggravating for the Erika and all parties involved.

The one thing I have learned is that anything said in the heat of the moment needs to be water under the bridge. No relationship is perfect, be it between a rider and groom or a bride and groom. What is important to remember is that when the waters get rough, it is teamwork and forgiveness which keeps the ship afloat. Getting worked up over the little things takes up a lot of energy, which in turn takes its toll on a relationship. Let things go, and move on.

Stay positive, positive, positive

Whenever I leave a horse show, I always leave the negatives behind. I make a point to remember the how pleasant horse shows can be. What isn’t there to enjoy about being outside on a sunny day, sitting in a field with a light breeze in the air and horses in the distance. I think about the smile on Erika’s face when things go well, and the love she gives to both the horse and to me. I also think about how when things don’t go well, she comes to me for comfort.

Anyone who has been in a relationship will tell you that they are a roller coaster. What is important to remember is that there are positives in every situation.

Build off of failures and celebrate the victories

At times, things can get rough. The important thing is to learn from mistakes and build for future success.

At times, things can get rough. The important thing is to learn from mistakes and build for future success.

Even though teamwork can help the rider and groom get over some obstacles, things don’t always go smoothly. Horses spook, riders fall, and distances are miscalculated. Sometimes, the outcome can be downright awful. What the rider and groom takes from these experiences can be used to help build a better future.

Couples are able grow their relationship by using the same principle. What doesn’t kill you make you stronger, and whenever a couple hits a road bump, it has the potential to help pave a better road for the future. As a wise baboon named Rafiki once said;

“Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”

It is important to remember that failures can strengthen a relationship, but success should not be overlooked either.

All of these tips have helped build a very strong bond between Erika and I. We will soon enough be starting our lives together as husband and wife, and we will move forward taking what we have learned as rider and groom to get through anything life throws our way. Working as a team can get any couple through troubling times. Relationships are never easy, but remembering that you are both on the same side can make a world of difference.

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