||Groom Elite Program Goes International,
Underway in South Africa
April Glaspie, the United States
Consul General from Cape Town, South Africa, contacted Susan O'Hara in
early 2002 about the Groom Elite Program, requesting information on the
possibility of running the program in Cape Town, South Africa. As a result
of that and subsequent communications, the groom training program developed
by O’Hara and the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership (THP) has officially
become international. A Groom Elite course is currently underway in Cape
The Groom's School "Groom Elite" training course in Cape Town,
South Africa, has 11 students. All of the students are full-time working
grooms. Nominated by their trainers and chosen from an increasingly long
list of aspirants, the grooms meet for eight hours a week for three months.
Theory is taught in the classroom, a donated converted container, and
practical instruction takes place in trainers' yards. On the average,
the students are in their early thirties, from the Xhosa tribe (Nelson's
Mandela's tribe), and have come to Cape Town to seek employment. They
have traveled many miles from the extremely impoverished rural areas of
eastern South Africa, the former "Bantustans" of Ciskei and
Boarding now with acquaintances in a shantytown near the racetrack,
the students have had little, if any, formal schooling. They have no previous
experience with horses.
The course aims at providing the opportunity for the grooms to build
a profession in horse racing. By learning the basics of “The Elite
Program” of stable care, bedding, feed, shoeing, veterinary care,
tack use and repair and the like, successful students can reasonably aspire
to moving up the ladder to Jockey Club certification as "Stable Employees"
and even to qualify ultimately as certified Assistant Trainers. The fact
that they could be certified as "Groom Elites" is a step along
on the way.
The Cape Town Groom’s School is funded by a registered charitable
trust headed by John Freeman, a leading South African bloodstock agent.
The Deputy Chairman is April Glaspie. Management support is entirely voluntary
and comes from a wide range of Thoroughbred owners, trainers and racing
The course is directed by a highly qualified English expert in equine
management. On October 15, 22003, the grooms will be tested by Groom Elite
President and THP Director Susan O'Hara and hopefully become "Certified