Tricks of The Trade

Sally Robertson with at the Mitsubishi Badminton International Horse Trials

Sally Robertson with at the Mitsubishi Badminton International Horse Trials

This article was originally published by the online blog Noelle Floyd Style "Tricks of The Trade" by Nina Fedrizzil | May 4, 2017 Please see link for article and photos.

A love of horses has literally been Sally Robertson’s ticket to the world, and when you’ve worked for top names on three continents, you can bet you learn a thing or two. Born in Hamilton, New Zealand, Sally began grooming at age 15 before moving to Australia to work for show jumper Chris Chugg.  “I hated school,” Sally says, “but I loved horses. It seemed like a no-brainer.”

Two years later, Sally returned to New Zealand to groom for eventer Donna Smith, whose affiliations with Karen and David O’Connor eventually led her to the United States. There, she managed Sarah Kozumplik’s barn for six years, and eventually began working for Clark Montgomery, who she’s groomed for on both sides of the Atlantic. Her freelance work over the years eventually brought her back to the States from the U.K., and to Caroline Martin’s barn. Through it all, Sally says, her locations may have changed, but the drive that first inspired her to embark on this career hasn’t.

“There are so many amazing horses and people that come into our lives [in this job], and you are always learning. There’s variety in your work each day so you don’t get bored,” she says. “And, we get to have our dogs come with us!”

Here are Sally Robertson’s tricks of the trade.

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

Basic horsemanship.

What is your claim to fame as a groom?

Probably that I use one rubber band per braid.

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

1. Well Rupert, my dog, as I miss him too much when I have to leave him.
2. Red wine. Since I’m on an island, I’m hoping it’s a mini-vacation.
3. Another groom/friend so I don’t get lonely—preferably ‘Irish Sara’ [Sherman] as I don’t get to see her much these days.
4. Grain for “Paddy” (aka Spring Easy), as he loves his food.
5. Probably a hoof pick and farrier tools—there’s nothing worse than not being able to pull a sprung shoe.

What is your biggest splurge item for horse care?

Our Activo-med blanket.

What are your top five favorite horse care products?

  1. Equicare Flysect Super-7 fly spray. It works the best, especially on the overseas horses that hate the bugs over here.
  2. Stubben saddle soap
  3. Simichrome brass polish
  4. Mane ‘n Tail Spray ‘n Braid
  5. Cowboy Magic Shine In Yellow Out shampoo

What is your personal motto for horse care?

Attention to detail. Keep things as simple as possible, but always remember that our horses rely on us for everything. So, if we want them to be happy and perform at their best, we need to cater to them as individuals.

What is your ideal morning routine with your horses?

As most of ours are turned out at night, they all come in and have breakfast. We try to keep this time quiet for them and always try to stick to the same time and routine. As we bring them in, they all get a quick go-over to make sure there are no cuts or sprung shoes, etc.

What is your ideal evening routine with your horses?

Similar to morning. We try to feed at the same time every day—horses like a routine. Then, a quick groom and spray with witch hazel, rugs on, and they’re turned out.

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

I have been lucky enough to be in some great situations which have taught me a lot when dealing with difficult horses here in the States and the U.K., as well as in New Zealand. These have given me the chance to learn about proper horsemanship; patience and being consistent is probably the most important. When all else fails, I call Irish Sara.

Do you have any tricks for sensitive skin?

Making sure they are kept as clean as possible—you can’t beat a good curry and brush. Being in Florida, we have to bathe a lot, but I try not to use anything too abrasive, as stripping them of their natural oils doesn’t help. I always make sure their head and legs get a good towel dry and that they are dry before they get turned out. And, of course, a spray with witch hazel before they go out.

What is your favorite treat to give the horses?

I’m a big treat person (as is Caroline, so that works well:) as long as it doesn’t turn them into brats! We normally have carrots, but I do love Mrs. Pastures and have yet to come across a horse or dog that doesn’t like them.

-All photos courtesy of Sally Robertson.