Competent Grooms Make Competent Trainers
We have heard the phrase “not competent to stand trial” and I suspect most of us have referred to someone as an “incompetent” horseperson. The first entry under competent in an Encarta dictionary is “Able – having enough skill or ability to do something”. A competency is “the ability to do something…to a required standard”. To be “certified” in a field means that a person has demonstrated that they can perform the necessary skills to the “required standard” of a licensing (or certifying) agency. Racehorse trainers and assistant trainers must pass a ‘barn test” in which they demonstrate their abilities in the daily hands-on skills required of a trainer. They then take a written test in which they demonstrate they have a minimum knowledge of the rules of racing, daily training protocols and the skill to enter a horse in an appropriate race with the correct impost (weight).
In March I was hired by the Kentucky Community and Technical
College System (KCTCS) to write the curriculum for the North American Racing
Academy, the resulting outgrowth of Chris McCarron’s
At our weekly meeting on July 20, I presented the first rough draft of the program’s competencies as derived from the classes being offered for each of three pathways (Jockey, Horseman and Racing Administration). When the associate dean for academic affairs of Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) looked at his copy of the horsemen’s pathway he said, “ONE-HUNDRED-THIRTY FOUR! You mean there are 134 things a groom is supposed to know to be able to groom a horse?” I told him to remember this is a rough draft and that another 50 or so will be added to that list. No, a groom can “do the job” without knowing 12 bones of the front leg or the name of the long muscle in the neck (brachiocephalicus muscle). But those that do have that ability can do a better job of providing care for their horses and assisting the trainer in recognizing potential problems early enough to prevent them from becoming more serious and perhaps career ending.
On Friday July 21 I graduated the second class of grooms
from the Second Chances Elite program at the Wateree Correctional Institute in
How can you apply competency based education on a daily basis? Consider something your grooms are not currently doing “your” way. Or, maybe you have just hired some new grooms. You can have them doing it your way in one simple lesson.
Take time to prepare a brief and simple “lesson plan” as follows;
Example of competencies for washing feed tubs and water buckets
At the end of this session my grooms will be able to:
i. Pull feed tubs and water buckets upon first arriving at barn.
ii. Organize tubs and buckets in designated area near wash rack.
iii. Use one ounce each of of dishwashing liquid and bleach in each tub and bucket.
iv. Scrub tubs and buckets using designated scrub brush(es).
v. Rinse tubs and buckets clean of all soap and bleach.
vi. Return tubs to designated place on stall wall.
vii. Return water bucket to stall and fill bucket with water..
Obviously our example is simplistic. No it’s not necessary to go through all that just to tell grooms how you want something done. But, the time you spend “educating” your grooms pay dividends in time you don’t have to spend goine over and over the same routine things week after week. You can have more competent grooms in your barn and they can help you maintain your reputation as a competent trainer.