Karina MacDuff & Lillie Keenan. ph: Tori Repole for NF.
Twenty-four-year-old Karina MacDuff has been voted the 2017 NoelleFloyd.com Groom of the Year, leading a group of elite grooms that represent a trade essential to the success of the sport. Denise Moriarty, Sean Lynch, Malin Henlov and Mikey Rodriguez were also nominated.
Recognizing grooms alongside riders is a small gesture towards the individuals that keep the horses coming to the ring in one piece and in top turnout. At the top level, having a capable groom is as important as having a winning horse. Without one, it’s difficult to produce the other.
MacDuff is originally from Canada. She grew up riding and started working in stable yards. Initially working as a rider, she discovered that she actually preferred grooming to competing, and worked her way up as a groom. She has been working for the USA’s Lillie Keenan for just over a year and a half. During that time Keenan has stepped up solidly as an international rider, making appearances on Nations Cup teams and competing in some of the world’s most difficult grand prix competitions.
“Having Karina standing at the ingate affords both me and my horses the confidence required to compete at the highest level,” Keenan commented. “What makes Karina the best groom is that she takes pride in her work, and brings intelligence and heart to the day-to-day of her exacting career. Because of my school schedule, I have to entrust her totally with the care of my animals that sometimes has to go unseen by me. I trust her with my own life, and those of my horses. I know in my heart that I would not be where I am today in the sport without Karina.”
That’s a big endorsement from Keenan, but it speaks to the way of life that both Keenan, and MacDuff live and breathe. “At times it gets stressful, but it’s kind of a good stress,” says MacDuff. “I’ve learned that hard work pays off, and that being part of a team is really rewarding.”