Today, Holly Osman is at home in the bright lights and exotic locales she routinely frequents as groom for show jumper Callan Solem and VDL Wizard. But although Holly has been working with horses professionally since graduating from college in 2006, her initial ambitions in the industry were far from grand. “I knew absolutely nothing about the horse show world. I just loved horses and wanted to go south for winter,” she says.

“It was a crash course that I barely survived. I was very lucky [since] to have had many good jobs with a lot of good teachers.”

Holly says it was fate that brought her to Callan’s barn at just the right time. Three years later, she adds, it has continued to feel that way. “Everything has just fallen into place and we’ve been really successful together.”

Here are a few of Holly’s go-to tips for better horse care, ground manners, and more.

NF Style: What is a common horse care mistake you see that you would like corrected?

Holly Osman: I think the thing I hate to see most is grooms spraying horses in the face with a hose when they clearly don’t like it. I know that this is just a job for a lot of people but the horses don’t get paid. It’s just not nice, find another way.

What is your claim to fame as a groom?

I have no fame, I’m very low-key. If anything, people would know me for my hats and long sleeves. I am almost always wearing big hats and sun shirts.

If you were stuck on an island and you could only take five things with your top horse, what would you take and why?

The thing about VDL Wizard is that he loves his family and could probably give up everything else. So he would want to bring Callan, Carter (his dog), and Torlando (his best friend and mentor). And I would insist on his Assure Guard Gold and some Marquis.

What is your biggest splurge item for horse care?

My Respond Laser. I can use it in FEI and all my horses, especially Wizard, have benefited from it.

What are your top five favorite horse care products and why?

1. Lucky Braids Whitener & Dry Wash Spray: I love that it gets stains off my gray horse, but also stains out of clothes, saddle pads, and the Equifit boot straps. I’ve used it in a pinch to clean just about everything.

2. Effol Hoof Ointment: Since it is not a liquid, it’s easy to travel with. I use it on the soles and hoof walls and it really helps protect from excessive moisture, which can destroy a hoof.

3. Show Sheen: I always keep it because it is multi-purpose; it shines trunks, boots, and it detangles.

4. AgSilver Shampoo Daily Strength: I use this for leg washing, skin problems, and minor cuts and scrapes. It’s gentle, effective, and FEI-safe.

5. Zinc-based skin cream is always in my box. It rubs in completely and treats a multitude of skin issues. My current bottle is made by Effol.

What is your personal motto for horse care?

Keep them happy. The more we can reduce the stress of a plane ride or a walk across a roundabout in Rome, the better their performance in the ring. Knowing what makes our horses feel their best is our gift. Wizard trusts me to keep things as comfortable for him as possible, no matter what.

What is your ideal morning routine with your horses?

My ideal barn morning would be to have Torlando and Davidson out in their paddocks first thing, and Wizard would be on the list as the first horse for riding because he doesn’t turn out. That gives me a chance to get their stables back in order. I really love for them to come back to a perfect stall, washed walls, fresh bedding, and clean water.

What is your ideal evening routine with your horses?

A perfect evening would be having enough time to take the boys out for some hand grazing with my dog, Fish. So many days are too busy to just hang out leisurely in a field for long. But if I can head out with Wizard, Fish, and a good Audible book, I could be gone for hours.

How do you deal with a difficult horse with poor ground manners?

Bad ground manners are a pet peeve of mine and I really dislike when grooms aren’t reinforcing good behavior—training is from the ground up. Dancing in the crossties, bolting away at turnout, not yielding to pressure (and many more vices) all lead to accidents. For me, it makes them not fun to be around. We expect our horses to travel to many high-risk venues and it’s for everyone’s safety that they are well-mannered, or at least manageable.

Do you have any tricks for sensitive skin?

I do minimal clipping and minimal bathing and I always use gentle products. I clip and wash for shows, but if they have downtime at home, I only brush them when they’re truly dirty or sweaty. I do this with all of them and cannot remember the last time I had to deal with any skin problems.

What is your favorite treat to give the horses?

I love to share my food with my horses. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables; bananas, berries, melon, carrots, Cuties Mandarins. Wizard will eat anything and he really enjoys sharing my peanut butter and jellies. It’s fun to see their faces when they try something new and love it.

-Images courtesy of Holly Osman.