The British Grooms Association (BGA) have announced a project, ‘Grooms Minds’ in conjunction with World Mental Health Day.
Grooms Minds will focus on the mental health of grooms and those working in the equestrian industry, a subject which many people are still not keen to talk about. With an increasing number of grooms, riders and employers contacting the BGA for help and advice, the project aims to identify the specific issues associated with mental health within the industry to allow the BGA to raise awareness of these issues and then focus on and develop within this area. This work will include employees, employers and those who are self employed.
The inspiration from the project came from founder of the BGA Lucy Katan, who said, “My experience of being bullied whilst working at a high profile dressage yard was the catalyst for the formation of the BGA. It is something that I will never forget, and at the time there was no organisation for me, as a groom, to turn to.
'Life as a groom can be challenging. That’s what makes it so interesting and rewarding. But it sometimes can start to feel out of control, leading to levels of stress that can adversely affect your work and your personal life.' - BGA
“Being a groom was my dream career I enjoyed every aspect of it. The long hours and hard work didn't bother me. I was so proud to have this job, to have the responsibility of such top class horses and to be part of a team. My anxiety snuck up on me, grooms are expected to conscientious and a bit OCD so again I was proud to have these qualities. However I started to take this to the extreme, whilst doing a double check is always a good idea, doing a quintuple check is time wasting, exhausting, unnecessary and the first sign of my anxiety. I didn't acknowledge this, to me this was still being conscientious. And if I am completely honest I didn't want to be held responsible if something went wrong.
“I also completely lost confidence in my own ability, handling some of the more difficult horses became an impossible task. I never had an accident, nothing ever happened to make be believe that I couldn't deal with those horses but I became completely crippled by fear. I didn't feel I could talk to anyone about it because not only did I think it was ridiculous (I had been handling these horses and been in sole charge of the yard whilst my boss was competing since I started the job) but I also didn't understand why I had become so terrified. I was angry and disappointed with myself. I eventually decided that I should leave the job. At this point I was asked by my employer if I was ok, unable to come up with anything else I replied with a rather shaky nod. This was taken at face value despite the fact that I clearly was not ok. I hope that the Grooms Minds project will help employers and grooms themselves be more alert to their mental wellbeing.”
The first step in this important project is to discover how widespread the issues are and so the BGA is urging that all grooms take part in a quick survey, which is 100% anonymous.