© - Content and images in this blog are copyright HorseGrooms LLC unless stated otherwise. Feel free to repost or share for non-commercial purpose, but please make sure to link back to this website and its original post.

℗ - We do not store any information about your visit to our website other than for analytics and optimization for content and reading experience through the use of cookies.

℅ - Our site does at times contain paid advertisements, sponsored content, and/or affiliate links.

Reader Etiquette


Get the FREE Guide

We're on a mission to advance the craft of grooming & keep horsemanship alive.

Master recipe maker


subscribe for free

Get Access to Exclusive HorseGrooms Content


Horse abuse scandals have continued to rock the horse world over the years. With a mission to always promote horsemanship and horse welfare, HorseGrooms wanted to give a more detailed look, over the span of several articles, into how to report abuse and how this process unfolds. While legal systems differ per country, there are also many similarities. Although we will never be able to anticipate every situation, we hope to share valuable information so that grooms can have a good idea on what to do–and what not to do–if they witness horse abuse.

NOTE: This blog was submitted to HorseGrooms by an individual who wished to tell their story yet remain anonymous.

Ever since I was a child, I always loved horses. I grew up riding, went off to college, had a great job, and then decided that I was happier in a barn than in an office.

For years, I was fortunate to work for many great equestrians who became role models for me.

“The horses come first” and “The care of the horses is our number one priority” were not just words but a cherished code that they lived by, and it was the driving force in all we did.

Things changed unexpectedly when I accepted a new position in a different discipline. I soon was to be faced with a somber and bitter awakening. 

Speak Up But…

Recent equine abuse cases involving Cesar Parra and Andreas Helgstrand have catapulted awareness to a new level. National and international federations are telling us that, “Being silent is being guilty of complicity.”

On February 13, 2024, Thomas O’Mara, President of the U.S. Equestrian Federation issued a statement to all USEF members. He wrote: “It is imperative that as a community, we continue to hold each other accountable and speak up when we see something that endangers the integrity of our sport, the health and welfare of our horses, and/or the well-being of our athletes and members.”

Strong words indeed, but, regrettably, what has not been addressed is what happens if we do speak up. What happens next?

There still remains the harsh possibility of repercussions and backlash for those who do come forward and seek to do right by the horses we so dearly love. 

I do know of grooms who have been threatened. Some have been berated and bullied into keeping quiet. Some have been told to shut up because they know nothing, and some have faced sudden and immediate termination. 

Terminated for Speaking Up… Now What?

What happens when a groom can no longer keep quiet after witnessing endless harsh training methods that cause pain and suffering to the horses that we love and is met with sudden termination?

The groom has bills to pay.. He/she may be reliant on grooms’ housing or transportation; may have a mortgage, rent payments and insurance premiums may have a family or children to support. What counseling or resources are available for the mental and financial impact “coming forward” has caused?

What happens next? What happens if you speak up and then get terminated? Photos courtesy of Shelley Paulson Photography.

I spoke up after I witnessed repeated harsh and abusive training techniques at a barn where I worked. After “keeping my mouth shut,” I gathered up my courage and attempted to have what I mistakenly thought would be a meaningful and calm dialogue with the “professional trainer.”

I was not prepared for the aggression and retaliation that followed. It lasted for several days, and then I was terminated. My attempts at diplomacy and apology were met with anger: “You should have known better and just shut up,” and “Why did you open your mouth, especially now with all these abuse violations going on?”

Red Flags and Gut Feelings

Ironically, shortly after I began my new job, I started to see those red flags–the ones that tell us to rethink things and reconsider. I thought about giving notice and spoke with my boss, but she pleaded with me not to quit like the previous groom had, that it would be impossible to find an experienced groom during the season and that she and the horses would be left in a desperate situation. 

I gave her my word that I would stay until the end of the season, convincing myself that things would get better and feeling concerned for the horses. 

In hindsight, I should have trusted my gut and given notice earlier. But as they say, it’s easy to be wise after the fact.

Picking Up the Pieces

My experience is not unique. After doing a lot of soul-searching and doubting if I even wanted to continue working as a groom, I finally decided to reach out to other professional grooms for help and advice. The support and kindness they showed helped me to establish clarity and reaffirm the “code” that the care and welfare of the horses must always be our number one priority. 

I contacted HorseGrooms and the International Grooms Association (IGA), and they helped me develop a better sense of clarity. I reached out to the most prolific and longstanding champion of grooms in our industry, Alison McIvor of Show Grooms International, and she did what she always does for so many others like me: She listened and offered to help. 

I’m still picking up the pieces and getting on with it. It hasn’t been easy, but I know that had I not spoken up, I would have always felt complicit and violated that code that so many wonderful and highly respected equestrian professionals have taught me: The horses must always come first.

March 5, 2024


read & Leave a comment






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

learn more

The Community for Horse grooms

join now

Featuring event schedules, connection with peers, access to industry leaders, and exclusive courses. Signing up is totally free and gets you instant access to everything the Community has to offer.

get involved