Empowering the Backbone of Equestrian Sports: Kathy McMullan and the Grooms Group Initiative

Kathy McMullan, a dedicated starter at the Meadows Equestrian Centre for over a decade, has always been deeply involved in the equestrian world. Inspired by her daughter, Kayleigh, who is a groom at a top competition yard, Kathy saw firsthand the hard work and long hours that grooms put into their roles. Motivated to make their lives a bit easier, she launched the Grooms Group initiative, aiming to support and recognize these unsung heroes of the equestrian community.

Inspiration and Motivation

Kathy’s inspiration for starting the Grooms Group stemmed from her daughter’s experiences. “Kayleigh works long hours and works hard, and I have seen many grooms over the years. I thought, what can we as an industry do to help make a groom’s life just that wee bit easier?” Kathy explains. Observing the dedication and challenges faced by grooms, she felt compelled to create a supportive community that addresses their needs and acknowledges their contributions.

Discounts and Benefits for Members

One of the primary benefits of the Grooms Group is the discounts members receive from various stores and businesses. These discounts are designed to ease the financial burden on grooms. Kathy has already secured partnerships with several businesses, including:

  • TRI (NI): 20% off their own brands and 10% off other brands
  • Bovean Accounting: 20% off assistance with self-assessment tax returns for self-employed grooms
  • Tux and Tails Dungannon: 20% off formal wear, including special occasion wear for weddings
  • Omagh Equestrian: 10% off all clothing and footwear
  • Aloga Equestrian: 10% off Aloga Equestrian Products

Kathy continues to seek additional partnerships to expand these benefits.

Tuck Shop for Affordable Refreshments

Understanding that grooms often don’t have time to stand in long queues for refreshments, the Grooms Group introduced a tuck shop service. Thanks to a generous £100 donation, they stocked up on water, tea, coffee, and biscuits. Members can visit the starter box at the Meadows Equestrian Centre to get a cup of tea, coffee, bottled water, or biscuits for just 50p. “This makes these items more affordable and accessible to grooms,” Kathy notes. She is also exploring the possibility of setting up similar services at other venues.

Training and Development Opportunities

The Grooms Group is committed to the professional development of its members. They have partnered with Rutledge Recruitment and their equine apprenticeship programs, as well as CAFRE, to offer training days covering a variety of topics. These include demonstrations and seminars by a 5* international show groom, a health, fitness, and nutrition coach, mental health support within equestrianism, equine Pilates, and breathing exercises. “We want to provide comprehensive training to support the physical and mental well-being of our members,” Kathy emphasises.

Support from the Broader Equestrian Community

Kathy is actively seeking support from businesses across Ireland to offer discounts, prizes, and other forms of assistance to Grooms Group members. Employers are also encouraged to assist their grooms with the membership fee. Kathy hopes that this initiative will create a sense of community and mutual support among grooms, helping to reduce the high turnover rate in the industry.

Prize System for Recognizing Excellence

To further motivate and recognize grooms, the Grooms Group has introduced a prize system. At the launch event on June 16th at the Meadows Equestrian Centre, the groom whose horse is the highest placed in the Grand Prix will receive €100, donated by Jim Derwin. Other shows will feature additional prizes, such as TRI Vouchers for turnout and horsemanship at the Banbridge Show and cash prizes at various events. “We hope to do this at shows throughout Ireland on an ongoing basis,” Kathy says.

Joining the Grooms Group

Interested individuals can join the Grooms Group by visiting their Facebook page or contacting Kathy directly via email or phone. The membership fee for 2024 is just £20, and payment can be made via PayPal, Revolut, or Bank Transfer. Members will receive a membership card that they need to present at participating businesses to avail of discounts. Kathy encourages potential members to get involved and take advantage of the support and benefits offered by the group.

Positive Impact and Future Goals

Kathy hopes that the Grooms Group will bring positive changes to the lives of grooms by creating a supportive community and providing training opportunities. “I want to make things just that wee bit easier and help build a community where grooms can reach out to each other,” she says. By fostering a sense of belonging and mutual support, the Grooms Group aims to improve job satisfaction and retention rates in the equestrian industry.

Long-Term Vision and Growth

Looking ahead, Kathy envisions the Grooms Group evolving to offer even more support and recognition for grooms. She hopes to see prizes awarded at major events like Balmoral and the RDS and to expand the training programs offered. “We want to see this initiative grow and make a real difference in the lives of grooms,” she asserts.

Building Relationships and Community

Kathy emphasises the importance of creating strong bonds among grooms. “I never want anyone to feel alone, in despair, or struggling. We can build on the friendships that already exist in our community,” she says. By encouraging a culture of support and collaboration, the Grooms Group aims to make the equestrian industry a more welcoming and nurturing environment for all.

A Message to Potential Members

Kathy’s message to potential members is one of encouragement and inclusivity. “Let’s make this about our grooms. We welcome any suggestions and hope that we can put a smile on their faces with a wee bit of recognition. Help each other out and provide the support that they deserve so much,” she urges. She invites anyone interested to reach out, join the group, and contribute to making a positive impact in the lives of grooms.

Excitement for the Launch Day

Kathy is particularly excited about the launch day on June 16th, which has received overwhelming support. The event will feature a free prize draw with various prizes, including £100 cash, a £100 voucher for Acca Longevity Clinic, a Tropic Skincare Pamper Pack, a cooler rug, a £50 gift card from Armagh Sports and Trophies, and a voucher for Bellisle Equestrian Store. “We want to empower grooms to thrive and feel appreciated not just by their employers but by the wider equestrian sector,” Kathy concludes.

Through the Grooms Group initiative, Kathy McMullan is championing the cause of grooms, providing them with much-needed support, recognition, and a sense of community. Her dedication to improving the lives of these hardworking individuals is a testament to her passion for the equestrian industry and her commitment to making a positive difference.


Empowering the Backbone of Equestrian Sports: Kathy McMullan and the Grooms Group Initiative

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