Written by: Jessica Lefroy

Organize like a pro with advice from Scott Brash’s groom, who makes sure everything is ship-shape and in its place while on the road.

Thumbnail for A Place for Everything – On the Road with Pro Groom Hannah Colman

Stefano Grasso Photo

As Scott Brash’s travelling head groom, Hannah Colman, 23, has played an integral role in the success of one of the world’s leading riders with her work behind the scenes. Responsible for the care of his top horses, she has stood ringside as Brash piloted Hello Sanctos, Hello M’Lady, Hello Annie, and Hello Forever to wins everywhere from Aachen, Spruce Meadows, GCT tour stops, and European Championships. Brash was the FEI world number one-ranked rider for almost two years, and with his victory in the 2015 Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping, he and Hello Sanctos established themselves as one of the best combinations the sport has ever seen.

Originally from Suffolk, England, Colman joined Brash’s yard in the summer of 2013. Here, she shares her tips for setting up a ‘home away from home.’

Prioritize and Prepare

On the road, it’s best to be as organized as possible, which means that you need to be prepared with your packing well ahead of time. It’s never just a normal day when we’re away from home; you can be traveling for a long period of time without access to your usual supplies, so it’s essential to prioritize and prepare. I always carry clippers and a few pairs of blades, and when I’m away for a long time I try and keep every kind of blanket in the lorry – one day in France it can be -2 degrees, and then in Spain it can be 20 degrees.

I believe it’s very important to keep to your normal routine as much as possible, although when travelling to the top shows in a different country, this can be difficult. I try to give my horses their feed at the same time as if they were at home, whether we are at a show, on a stopover, or on the truck. Most of all, I try to be tidy. I keep the stable swept out, beds skipped out, tack always cleaned, head collars hung to show the horse’s names, and sponsors’ logos shown where possible.

Packing

I always worry a little bit about packing, especially when we’re flying or have a three-day drive ahead of us. However, when you’re on the road every week you don’t ever totally unpack the lorry, which makes things a bit easier. I try to keep a spare of most items on hand, and once something is finished I’ll replace it immediately.

When we are home, washing will be done (only saddle pads, boots, and rugs would normally get washed on a quick turn-around) and placed straight back where they came from. The tack stays with each horse, and feed gets replaced as you go. I make sure I have access to the following items at all times while travelling: water, hay, feed, medical kit, lunge line, rope, brush, and hoof pick.

A Place for Everything

It’s very important to have a good set-up at a show. You need to have things readily accessible and convenient, but also looking neat and tidy. I’ll try to keep all of our feed, hay, supplements, wheelbarrow, and tools out of sight and normally around a corner out of the way. The tack trunks and grooming box should be central to the horses if possible. Most important is the cleaning hook: it needs to be close enough that when you’re in a rush you can throw all your dirty tack on it quickly. Everything else can normally be placed around this, so where you then have space, saddle and rug holders can be placed and head collars and bridles can be hung.

It’s best to ensure that if your horses will have the doors open that they can’t get hold of anything. Nearly all the horses I look after are great; however, Hello Forever (aka Ginger) is a little devil. He’s gotten better over time, but still pulls down the curtains, saddle pads, and chews anything in his reach. He normally has a toy or a Jolly Ball to keep him entertained.

The Grooming Stall

Most shows in Europe are limited on space, so I normally don’t get a grooming stall. If I get the chance to have one, I try and prepare the horses in their own stall (Sanctos and a few others always pee before they jump) and will normally finish them off in the grooming stall, where it’s much easier to clean and grease the feet and bandage.

If I have a grooming stall and plan on preparing the horse there, I’ll always try and keep clutter to a minimum (see “On-The-Go Tips” sidebar). Most shows are only three to four days, so I don’t need shelves – I would rather the equipment is packed away and locked when not in use. You don’t want the horse to stand on or bump into anything, so the tack trunk and skip bucket should be in a safe place. The other huge hazard is the cleaning hook: you have to be careful when a horse has a bridle or headcollar on, as it’s very easy for them to swing their heads and get caught up in it.

Three Must-Haves

It’s very hard to say what item I couldn’t live without, because everything I’ve got with me is normally in there for a reason, but if I had to choose, it would be:

1 A Magic Brush, which is great for brushing dirt of saddle pads, blankets, bandages, and boots.

2 A kettle for cleaning tack in cold countries and also for hot-clothing the horses.

3 Most importantly, baby powder, because on the road you wash the horses more often than you do at home and baby powder keeps the skin free from scabs or scratches and ensures white legs always look amazing.

7 ESSENTIAL GROOM-ON-THE-GO TIPS

1. Hang baling twine or stall guards across the walls of the grooming stall to hang blankets, boots, wraps, and saddle pads.

2. Have a designated area for laundry and trash; at day’s end, empty the trash and store the laundry in the trailer.

3. In the grooming stall, have lots of screw eyes handy for hanging buckets for water and grooming supplies to keep them off the ground and out of the way.

4. Make sure your trunks have wheels.

5. Have several hooks handy to hang bridles for cleaning or toss halters onto.

6. For longer shows, inexpensive plastic shelving is light, easy to transport, and makes a great storage area for supplies.

7. Label everything before you get to the show, and don’t forget your padlocks.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

When it comes to organizing your trunks, it definitely takes a while to collect little bits and bobs. Once you’ve done it a few times, you soon realize if there is a better way of organizing things. It doesn’t really matter where you put any of the items below, and you can move and change places to be more convenient; however, I do think it’s important what you have in your ring bag, as normally you don’t have time to run back to the stable if there is a problem. As is always the case, being prepared is the best solution.

Tack Trunks

  • tack
  • head collars
  • lunge lines
  • half pads
  • fly hats
  • clippers
  • show jacket
  • studs
  • a kettle

Rug Box

  • blankets
  • saddle pads
  • holders
  • bridle hooks
  • cleaning hook
  • clips
  • boots
  • ring bag

Grooming Box

  • brushes
  • numbers
  • sprays
  • arnica and hoof grease
  • marker pen

Ring Bag

  • spare noseband (at the Oslo Grand Prix in 2013, Hello Sanctos’s noseband broke just as he was walking into the ring for the jump-off, big drama!)
  • curb chain
  • rein connectors
  • brush
  • silver/white powder spray
  • whip
  • spurs
  • hat
  • vet wrap and boot tape
  • towel
  • number and safety pins
  • rubber bands
  • scissors
  • start list