Around the Water Trough

World Class Grooming

Shannon Habenicht

If you haven't heard of Cat Hill and Emma Ford by now this is your chance to get to know them. In 2015, they had their first book published by Trafalgar Square Books titled World Class Grooming for the Competition Horse.  It became an overnight success soon reaching the number one spot of equestrian selling books. But who are these ladies?

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Cat Hill grew up in Central New York.  Her love for horses first started when she was given a pony for her birthday.  From 4H, Arabian horse showing to riding hunters for her Intercollegiate Horse Show team at the Geneseo University, Cat has gained a vast wealth of experience within the horse industry. Cat followed her love of horses to Ireland, where she quickly became barn manager at the Mullingar Equestrian Centre working with show jumpers and eventers.  On returning to the states she would groom for professionals within Grand Prix dressage, show jumping as well as the AA Hunter circuits. Having found her passion for three-day eventing whilst grooming for advanced event rider, Craig Thompson, Cat would move onto managing former Olympian Mara Deprys operation.  Now married with 3 children, Cat runs a busy life between taking care of her family, working as a freelance groom, teaching, preparing to write another book and continuing to grow the World Class Grooming business alongside Emma.

Emma Ford originates from North Devon, in south west England.  Growing up on a farm, with her dad as a Master of Foxhound of the local pack, Emma was in the saddle before she could walk.  She grew up through the Pony Club system, competing on all championship teams and gaining her B rating. After finishing her BSC degree in 1997 she decided to travel to the states to work in an eventing operation before returning to “the real” world.  Twenty years on, Emma has a created a life, a living and a name for herself as one of the top eventing grooms in the states. Currently working for Phillip Dutton, Emma has been to numerous top-level three-day events, including, Kentucky, Burghley, 3 Olympics, 4 World Equestrian Championships and 2 Pan American Games.  

How did the book come about? Cat and Emma first met in 2006 when Mara DePuy, Cat’s employer at the time, was taking lesson from Phillip.  In 2007, both riders made the Pan American team, so between team training and 10 days in Rio Janeiro, Brazil, a close friendship was formed between Cat and Emma.  As in all disciplines, grooms always get together and talk about their work life, what needs improving, how to get good barn help. When Cat was approached in 2012 by Trafalgar Publications about the possibility of writing a book on grooming for beginners through professionals, asking Emma to be co-author was a no brainer.  At the time Emma was changing her career path, moving from Phillips large operation into a smaller young rider barn. This would give her the time needed to help write the book. Having well documented photographs was going to be key to the book’s success. Fortunately, at the time, Cats sister-in-law, Jessica Lynn was looking to expand on her photography business.  Jessica, not being a horse person in the slightest, was a blessing in disguise. When trying to show through photos the step needed for each task, Jessica would portray it from an unknown aspect, knowing that if she could understand what the photos were trying to explain, it hopefully translate well to the future readers. 80% of the photos you see in the book were taken during a major photo shoot in the summer of 2013, held at Emma’s then employers barn in Virginia.  Following the shoot, the girls split up writing the chapters and would pass them back and forth to ensure all tasks, tricks and tips had been covered. When it came to editing - Cat was at the helm. The first edit came back with some serious red ink all over it! It was very daunting, but by the end of the summer 2014 the book had gone to print.

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World Class Grooming for the Competition Horse was officially released in March 2015. Since then it has remained a best equestrian seller as well as having been released in French and Japanese. In 2016, Emma and Cat formed the World Class Grooming, LLC.  Their mission is to bring as much knowledge and experience into the horsemanship aspect of owning, riding and competing horses at any level or discipline. They aim to teach that through hard work, patience and time the bond between horse and his or her caretaker can only strengthen. They now offer clinics, seminars, Pony Club rating preps and barn staff training around the USA.  

Emma and Cat are going to be answering a question, asked by our readers, each month on “Around the Water Trough.” So now is your chance to ask the professionals for answers regarding anything horse related.

To start us off, Emma has provided a tip for this month:

Managing to keep a healthy tail during the summer months and fly season can be problematic for some horses.  We are always wanting a more full and thicker tail. I like to moisturize my tails weekly with a deep penetrating conditioner such as Shapleys Natural Elegance.  I like to keep spray detanglers for show days only, so the hair doesn’t dry out. By using a conditioner, the hair is less likely to break when used to get rid of flies.  A well moisturized tail will also take up less stain than a dry tail. For those super dry tails, try doing a deep conditioning treatment by wrapping the tail in seran wrap or a plastic bag for 20 minutes before washing out the moisturizer.  Try to only finger groom tails, keep the comb or brush for special occasions. Happy Grooming!