The FEI recognised the International Grooms Association on day two of the Sports Forum ©FEI

The second day of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Sports Forum commenced with the official signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the FEI and the International Grooms Association (IGA). 

The IGA aims to support grooms all over the world, give them representation and career recognition as well as improve their working conditions across the FEI’s disciplines.

It also provides guidance on employment rules, a toolkit for grooms working freelance, a job board and many others. 

A section on the IGA website will be dedicated to well-being, International Grooms Minds, ensuring that all the grooms receive a solid emotional support during their day-to-day work.

"Today’s signing of the MoU is the culmination of many years of discussion and planning and marks the start of a new era for international grooms," FEI President Ingmar De Vos said.

"This is a journey which began in 2017 with the first meeting of the FEI Grooms Working Group, and started to take shape at last year’s Sports Forum when the community provided its full support for the creation of the IGA. 

"What we see today is the result of a great deal of hard work and persistence and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the FEI Grooms Working Group and Lucy Katan for her vision and leadership in creating this important organisation.

"The IGA has laid the foundations for the grooms’ community to grow, evolve and have a strong voice in the long-term development of equestrian sport and I count on grooms, as well as National Federations, athletes, organisers, officials and owners to make this a success."

In 2015, FEI Solidarity created an educational course for grooms, which consists of three in-person sessions and one practical assessment.

The IGA will now collaborate with FEI to provide grooms with relevant information on anti-doping, biosecurity and general stable management.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Lucy Katan, founding director of the International Grooms Association, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the FEI Sports Forum today ©FEI
FEI President Ingmar De Vos and Lucy Katan, founding director of the International Grooms Association, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) during the FEI Sports Forum today ©FEI

"This is the moment in time that finally gives the international grooms a voice within the FEI and at competitions," said Lucy Katan, herself a former international groom.

"The goal is for the IGA to become the voice of international grooms, while recognising all the work goes into keeping the equine athletes of our sport happy, healthy and performing at their best.

"While we want Organising Committees to raise their commitment to improving working conditions, we hope that grooms will provide feedback on their work experiences through a ‘Grooms Report’, so that improvements can be made to their working conditions at events. 

"This is a real opportunity for grooms to constructively and collaboratively be heard and play a key role in their profession and this industry."

Each FEI discipline will also have between four to six representatives working within the industry to guide new grooms.

"The career of a groom should be seen as integral to the success of any equestrian team and to equestrian sport," said chair of the Grooms Consultative Group, former groom, and former FEI Executive Board member Frank Kemperman.

Kemperman further added that an athlete is nothing without his horse, but a good horse is nothing without an "exceptional groom." 

Today's Sports Forum also hosted sessions on FEI event standards, as well as sessions on the full revisions of the FEI veterinary regulations, FEI eventing, dressage and Para dressage rules.

Delegates called for better systems of access control at FEI events and the need to use technology in order to create a more efficient accreditation system. 

The veterinary session brought up that vaccination alone is not enough to combat EHV-1 outbreaks and that effort from the entire community is crucial. 

Meanwhile, the Eventing Committee proposed the reduction of the timeframe of athlete categorisation from eight to four years and to adjust the number of minimum eligibility requirements needed.

During the dressage and Para dressage session, a more progressive structure of events were presented, aiming to encourage National Federations to hold competitions at every level.

The Sports Forum came to an end with a special centenary celebration. 

Grooms from all over the world can now become an IGA member through the association’s official website.