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Groom Elite® Educational Program Offers Certification for


September 20, 2004     E-mail this page to a friend!

(photo by Jack Coady, Jr. / Coady Photography)
ALTOONA, IA-Numbering in the thousands they are truly the industry's unsung heroes, trading a few additional hours of shut-eye in the waning hours of darkness, in exchange for hoisting on a pair of denim blues and work boots.

They are grooms, stable hands, dutifully carving out a living on the backside of horse tracks all across the nation.

Thirty of these caretakers recently seized this valuable opportunity to advance their careers, wedging 30 hours of Groom Elite® training at Prairie Meadows between their regularly assigned, daily responsibilities.

A collaboration of college professors specializing in equine and racing domains, together with racing industry experts, created this certified training program.

Gaining national attention since 2001, Groom Elite® provides a dynamic, universal means to implement the best possible care for the equine athlete while accelerating skills through computer-aided classroom learning modules and hands-on lab practices.

To the mutual benefit of horse, trainer, and groom, this program bridges the gaps for veteran backstretch workers and provides a foundation for newer workers.

The core curriculum addresses 1) anatomy and confirmation; 2) height, weight and fitness; 3) behavior; 4) feed and digestive system; 5) legs and bandaging; 6) shedrow safety; 7) equipment and tacking up; and 8) test barn procedures.

Peak focus on forelimb anatomy concentrates on the areas of the suspensory ligament and sesamoid bone. Students learning leg wrapping procedures on classroom fiberglass reproductions transferred that knowledge in subsequent study units to live horse subjects.

A national standardized, written assessment and hands-on skills measurement evaluated the students' level of comprehension.

Jaimie Mata, a fourth year groom for trainer Charles Conner, was one of this year's 13 certified Groom Elite® graduates receiving a logo jacket for a job well done.

"I wanted to learn to take better care of horses," said Mata. "I like this program. Dr. Kipper knows a lot."

Mata is referring to Roy Kipper, DVM, the Groom Elite® lead instructor. Peggy Miller, Associate Professor of Animal Science, Iowa State University, and Keith Soring, State Veterinarian, were also guest lecturers. 3M representative Tom Wood lectured on bandaging methods.

Program sponsors, the Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association, provided translation headsets allowing for the bilingual PowerPoint presentation. Carlos Flores, a 2003 Groom Elite® graduate working for owner and trainer Larry Hunt, was this year's English-to-Spanish interpreter.

Serving as program administrators for the second year were Doug and Sharon Vail of River Ridge Ranch. Doug Vail demonstrated the proper use of fire extinguishers and spoke on barn safety. Sharon Vail addressed proper shedrow management. Jockey agent Rick Jones instructed tacking procedures. Brandi Fett, an assistant trainer to Dick Clark, was the program's classroom assistant.

Certified Graduates: Silvia De La Cruz, Peggy Ryan, Jaimie Mata, Rueben Garivay, Jorge Avina, Sam Hazen, Erin McMahon, Mariano Martinez, April Pitzer. Certified Pending License:      

Sarah Johnston, Matt Stahl. Attendee: Carol Johnson.   

In 2005, the Groom Elite® program will also offer the second-tiered, advanced program to Level 1 Groom Elite® graduates.