Horse care is an art, not a science, and for Georgina (Georgi) de Rham, the best way to hone her craft is to learn from those already at the top of the sport. Luckily, Katherine Strauss’s groom is getting the best education possible while installed at John Madden Sales in Cazenovia, New York, where she began working two years ago after graduating from Cornell University. A West Coast transplant, Georgi rode and groomed throughout her teen years before heading East to attend college. Today, she helps take care of Katherine’s string of horses, including her top mount, All In, while the rider travels between Wellington and New York City to attend high school.

This season, Georgi has already received accolades for her work, including the Equis Boutique Best Presented Under 25 Horse Award during week six at WEF. Here, Georgi shares a few things she’s learned from the team at John Madden Sales as well as her own philosophy for horse care and management.

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

Georgi de Rham: I am guilty of this mistake often, but I would say over complicating things and over protecting the horses. One thing I’ve learned working with the team at John Madden Sales is how simplicity and allowing horses to be horses is so important to their physical and mental well-being.

What is your claim to fame as a groom?

My “trick of the trade” is that I watch and listen to my coworkers! I am very fortunate to work in a top stable with very knowledgable and talented horse people who are far more experienced than me, so I learn a lot about how to take care of the horses by observing them at work and listening to what they have to say and the feedback they give me.

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

Assuming there was a good source of fresh water on the island, I would take hay, feed, a halter, a lunge line, and a hoof pick for All In. If there was no water on the island, I’d ditch the hoof pick and take a lot of fresh water!

What is your biggest splurge item for horse care?

I would probably say Back on Track blankets and wraps to help the horses’ muscles and tissues recover.

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

  1. Farrier’s Fix hoof oil, which I like to use as a sole paint at the end of the day when they are showing and jumping a lot.
  2. Castile soap for washing legs with sensitive skin or that are prone to boot rubs.
  3. Traumeel gel to rub down legs and sore muscles.
  4. Witch hazel for rubbing down legs and soothing any skin issues.
  5. Vetrolin Shine, because it detangles hair without leaving much residue or buildup.

What is your personal motto for horse care?

Put the horse first and always work around the horses as if the horseman you admire most in the world is standing right over your shoulder.

What is your ideal morning routine with your horses?

We try to keep the routine pretty consistent at home and at shows, so I’d say, feed them, give them hay and scrub and refill their water buckets, and then clean their stalls and depending on if we are at home or at a show, they go on the walker or go out, or get hand walked and grazed. Personally, especially when at shows, I like to arrive on the earlier side because I don’t like feeling rushed.

What is your ideal evening routine with your horses?

Again, we try to keep the routine consistent, so we aim to pick the stalls and give them hay and water around 2:30 p.m., and then sweep up, tidy the barn, and feed at 3 p.m. Sometimes that changes, of course, if a horse has to show around that time. When the whole team is together we usually take turns doing night check, and it is always very peaceful to check the horses at night.

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

One of my horses has had poor manners since I’ve known him, and I think that is probably partly my fault for not being stricter! For me, to improve a horse’s manners, I have to be very disciplined with myself and make sure I am being consistent in how I correct the horse and how I work around him or her. Being around them so much, it is easy for me to get too comfortable with them and let them get into my space a little too much here or there. And with some, if you give an inch, they take a mile! I find their manners improve when I set clear boundaries and am strict with myself about maintaining them.

Do you have any tricks for sensitive skin?

I was taught to avoid washing and bathing when possible, wash sensitive legs with Castile soap when necessary, use witch hazel to soothe the skin, clip with as little frequency as possible, and use baby powder under the boots or wherever the horse is prone to getting rubs.

What is your favorite treat to give the horses?

I actually don’t give my horses too many treats by hand! But I do like to give them carrots by hand and also in their feed buckets. I also find they like Oats ‘n Honey granola bars, bananas, pears, and of course, apples!

-Photo credits from left: Blue Moon Images, courtesy of Georgi de Rham; The Book LLC courtesy of Katherine Strauss.