The hard reality of being a groom ... education or exploitation?

The hard reality of being a groom ... education or exploitation?

The groom is a big theme this week. Earlier this week we already wrote about how much you can make as a groom (article in Dutch or French). Then we zoomed in on the hard reality of late competition days. A fact is a fact - a lot of grooms, just like everybody, start on the very bottom, often as an intern and work their way up. It is no secret that a groom can be severely underpaid and the road to being a top-level groom is long and winding. Is this exploitation? What is legal - and what is not? 

Starting as a groom often equals making ends meet. As an intern, it is often a position without living accomodations and a mere 150€/week as pay is no exception. 

A groom testifies: "I had to take care of 10 horses, and that included taking care of their stables. I also did the maintenance of the arena, all the equipment etc. Six days out of seven, I was working. I did this for ten months, and the pay equaled to 350€ every two weeks. Of course, the rider helped as much as possible ... there was no other option!". 

According to the groom, the proces of learning everything is a necessity and on the other hand, much extra's have been enjoyed: "I received free materials that were sponsored for the rider, and once in a while we took some horses into the fields and I was able to ride." But, that doesn't pays the bills, doesn't it? 

The times, they are changing...

The last couple of years, being a groom has changed - a lot. There is a lot of competition of (il)legal foreign freelancers and lots of previously contracted grooms now become independent and start their own grooming business. 

Which, of course, if you're a top notch international groom, might not be a bad idea at all. Being a groom is a well wanted position, and a real career can be made. 

UK in the lead

With these developments, the United Kingdom was the first country to provide a legal framework. Legally, you are entitled to a minimum wage, vacation days and paid sick leave. If you take lessons with the rider, those lessons can be deducted from your pay BUT this has to be clear on your payslip. For living accommodations, deductions are limited to 7.55£ a day or 52.85£ a week. In the real world, you spend a lot of long days at the barn, but those might be compensated by long 'breaks'. 

All together, a groom in the UK will earn about 420£ a week.