Most of us can name the top riders in our favorite disciplines. Sometimes, we also come to know the famous Grooms that help our favorite top riders do their thing. One such Groom is my friend Ruben Palomera. I first met Ruben about a decade ago when I was working for Guenter and Ruben was working for River Grove Farm – home of Brentina and Debbie McDonald. Ruben is the guy who is always smiling, always prepared, and always smiling. He smiles THAT MUCH. Everyone knows him, and more importantly, everyone respects him.



Brentina and Ruben



Ruben wasn’t always a professional Groom, to that he gives credit to Debbie and River Grove Farm. “I grew up with horses, and I worked in a couple of barns only cleaning stalls before I stared working for Debbie. I learned how to be a Groom on the job, and thanks to Debbie I am a professional Groom!!”


As a Groom, you also have the amazing opportunity to learn from other horse specialists. Ruben credits much of his knowledge to “really good professional friends like our local farrier. He will take that the time to explain me how to do a good balance on all four hoofs with x rays. You can see the difference! I also learned a lot about therapy and massage. Helping a horse with massage in the perfect spot is something I learned from my friend Tom Meyers! For treatment plans, I always learn from Dr. Rick Mitchell!



Ruben and Debbie

Debbie and Ruben!


Ruben also reminded me of a few critical things about being a Groom – staying one step ahead! Time management is critical, as is the ability to predict the rest of the day and plan accordingly. For dressage Grooms like Ruben, schedule is critical, especially at the shows when the horses have a designated ride time. Ruben adds “I learned that the horse must be groomed, braided, and tacked up right on time to keep the schedule organized. It also means you have a happy rider!”


Time management plays a large part in the day to day workings of a top barn. I asked Ruben to describe his typical day at home. “In the morning, I feed the horses, clean the stalls, wet the arena, put some horses at hot walker, organize a list of the horses to be ridden. Only then do you start grooming and tacking, and some horses get ready for the grass paddocks, others have a turn out to the sand pen. At noon I feed hay again, and it’s time for more grooming, cleaning tack, and barn chores. At the end of the day, it’s time to clean stalls, start wrapping legs, more hay. I will also start blanketing if the weather is cold. Throughout the day we always keep an eye on the horses. I need to be sure they are drinking well, pooping normally, of if they are doing funny things like colic. We always check temperatures and call the Veterinarian if needed.”



Ruben with Olympic horse

Show time! Notice Ruben’s credentials and also his backpack – ready for anything!


The daily routine is a great chance to make sure your horses are healthy and happy. Same goes for the riders, and also the owners of the horses that you work with. Ruben shares some tips for keeping everyone happy. For making sure the horses are happy, Ruben says you must “Give the grain with supplements on time! And medicines as they need it.” (Again with the time management!) For keeping the riders and owners happy, Ruben adds “The owners always like to know how their horses are feeling! The horses are their children! I send pictures of the horses when they are training and competing. I will also send pictures of the barns where they are living and the competition list too, so that when the owners are far away from their horses they can have more information.”


As far as daily grooming tips go, Ruben has a good one for us. “If your horse is is going on the sand pen, I will wet it first to keep the dust down. And try to clean the stall a few times a day. Add the vacuum and a good grooming!”



Ruben at the Olympics

Ruben with Brentina at the Olympics, Athens, Greece.


So now for the juicy stuff! Ruben has been to more shows, nationally and internationally, than just about anyone I know. His favorite shows are at the “LA Equestrian center and Del Mar in San Diego! This is where I grew up as a Groom, and where I met great friends and stayed at nice barns. GO west coast!!” But Ruben has also been to many shows in Europe and beyond, including three Olympics. In a ROW. Athens, Hong Kong, and London. Add to that the many WEG’s, and you have one well travelled Groom. Ruben tells us “Being in the Olympics or WEG, you already reached the top of your dream. As a Groom, you must be proud of your horse and rider!! When you are working at top competitions, you must always watch your horse. There are always people who wants to feed or touch your horse, but you must be careful what do you feed. You must always wash your hands before you touch your horse or take care of him. Testing for illegal substances is guaranteed, so you must take every precaution.” Ruben goes on to add that the Olympics in Greece were his favorite, when Debbie won a Bronze medal!. He also mentioned something else about Athens….. “I would like to go back to Greece for a vacation – good food and very rich in history!!”



Ruben and Wizard

Flying with Wizard!


When in Europe for competitions, Ruben reminds me of a large difference between US show and European shows, of which part of the mission of what I aim to correct. “The big difference between Europe and the US is that the European shows take care of the Grooms at the horse shows. Most shows have three free meals and also a Grooms party!! You can have drinks and shuttle rides all day. There are also Groom’s awards for nicely turned out horses.”


But how do you get to Europe or Asia with a horse? Of course you fly. Ruben has probably logged more airlines miles than some pilots…. “Flying with horses is the best way. It’s safe and comfortable for them, especially if you go from coast to coast or overseas. You must be with your horse when the plane takes off and during landing. During the flight I always stay with them, to help with turbulence. I will check on them every two hours or more, offering water, giving carrots, taking extra hay, keeping them happy!”


Of course (because you guys know me all too well….) I asked Ruben about some of the issues that Grooms face. He has heard it and seen it, just as I have. When you work at the shows, you talk to other Grooms. Not all Grooms have wonderful employers like Debbie and Guenter. Ruben chimes in “Most grooms have obstacles such as working with too many horses, no insurance, too many hours, not being paid fairly. I have heard too many stories. This is sad but true. Grooms often have to leave their families for too many months, and on top of this some riders just don’t appreciate it the hard work we do for them.”



Ruben and Brentina

Ruben and Brentina!


I also asked Ruben if he wanted to add anything else. “To be a groom is not easy job, but we love the horses. We must focus on the horse, and always be responsible. And never forget, horses are very smart they just don’t talk.”


Thank you Ruben! You inspire us.