Emily King’s Groom Becca Nicholson Talks Ground Manners, Smarter Feeding & Sunscreen

Emily King’s Groom Becca Nicholson Talks Ground Manners, Smarter Feeding & Sunscreen

Time was, riding industry jobs were applied for largely in person and shared by word of mouth. But Becca Nicholson applied for her position at King Eventing in idyllic Devon, U.K., in an utterly modern way: on a whim after seeing Emily King’s posting on social media last year. “I wasn’t really expecting to be considered for the position with me living so far north, so I was pretty stunned when I was offered the job,” Becca explains.

Though she had previous experience grooming for an amateur event rider in Durham while studying for her degree, Becca gave it up after graduation to pursue a “proper” office job. But the romance of her 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. didn’t last long. “I soon realized that my heart and passion is with the horses,” she says.

Thankfully, it all worked out for the best, and Becca is happily utilizing her horsemanship skills and know-how on the string over at King Eventing. And now, she’s sharing them with Nöelle Floyd.

Related: Hang On to Your Hat: An Insider's Guide to Eventing In 2018

Nöellefloyd.com: What is a common horse care mistake you see that you would like corrected?

Becca Nicholson: I’m a true believer in only feeding depending on workload and the horse “type” (i.e. breed, behavior, age, discipline/purpose etc). We obviously love our horses and want to shower them with the best feed and treats. However, I see on a regular basis how people have gone completely overboard with this. It’s crazy to see people feeding their horse, which does next to no work, three feedings a day—or an overweight children’s first pony getting pumped with sugary/fatty feeds because it’s “lazy”. Overfeeding can lead to many problems, not only in the horse’s physical appearance but also in their mentality and general health. Fat rolls and flat backs causing saddles to fit incorrectly, or roll around; flighty/fizzy ponies; laminitis…. The list is endless!

What is your claim to fame as a groom?

I’m not sure I have one! Although, Mary [King] and Em’s amazing sponsor, Smart Grooming, did share my trot up/turn out prep once using their products… does that count?!

(*Editor’s note: That TOTALLY counts!)

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. A Bucas fly rug to keep those pesky flies away!
  2. Forever Living Aloe Sunscreen – “Dre” (Dargun) suffers terribly from sunburn on his pink nose.
  3. Baileys Tasty Treats – Dre loves them!
  4. Power Phaser fly spray – It is seriously the best fly spray I’ve ever used.
  5. A headcollar (plus lead rope) – otherwise, he’d keep wandering off to explore!

What is your biggest splurge item for horse care?

Probably hoof oil. Although it’s not the most expensive product out there, we go through gallons. The cost certainly tallies up over the season!

What are your favorite horse care products?

  • Smart Grooming Equi Shave whisker razors. They gently take the whiskers closer to the skin—plus they’re better and easier than using clippers/trimmers on noses… especially for those that are sensitive/clipper shy.
  • Smart Grooming Quarter Marking spray. Holds quarter marks in perfectly, even allowing me to put a rug over them.
  • Smart Grooming Polar White spray. A lot of our horses have white legs and obviously, poo down them. Without this, I’d be washing legs non-stop! You simply spray on it and wipe it off—quick and easy!
  • Good old baby oil! It creates a lovely shine to noses, eyes, tails and quarter marks, and it’s suitable for sensitive skin.
  • Smart Grooming Super Groomer. Our horses go out every day and like any other horse, they LOVE rolling in mud. The super groomer makes my life making the horses immaculate so much easier!
What is your personal motto for horse care?

Every day is a “school day” because, let’s face it, working with horses really is. No matter how good or experienced you become, you can and will always learn something new.

What is your ideal morning routine with your horses?

At home, Mary or Em will feed between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., as I don’t live on-site. So, when I get there at 7:30 a.m., I can open up, start mucking out, and begin getting horses ready to be exercised. By this point, the horses will have had sufficient time to digest their breakfast. Morning jobs are generally done by 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., and all the horses are exercised by midday.

At shows, this routine can differ depending on discipline times, or when Mary and Em would like to ride, meaning they could be fed slightly earlier. However, we try to keep the routine as much the same as we possibly can.

What is your ideal evening routine with your horses?

At home, we generally finish at 5 p.m., at which point, the horses are happily in their stables with their haylage. Mary and Em will then give them their evening feeds at 6 p.m. and do a final check. After that, the horses are left to rest and sleep until the next morning.

At shows, the routine is similar. The horses are given ad-lib haylage throughout the day, but still fed their evening feeds at 6 p.m., riding times dependent. Then, I’ll go back to the stables around 9 p.m. to check that they’re happy and comfortable for the night—[making sure] they’ve eaten their feeds, checking body temperatures, and topping up waters.

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

Patience and respect above all. If you have a young, nervous horse, the majority of the time, you need to have a lot of patience before being firm. Some of the time, you just have to act as though there is nothing wrong and continue with the task at hand. Plus, making everything asked as obvious as possible and rewarding when completed, therefore gaining their trust, confidence, and earning their respect. However, if a horse is plain rude and bolshy, it’s best to be assertive and firm to allow the horse to understand boundaries, gain some manners, and overall respect. At the end of the day, you can’t have a half-ton animal trying to walk all over you!

Do you have any tricks for sensitive skin?

We have some lovely products from Forever Living, all with aloe. Their moisturizer is perfect for dry/flaky skin. The sun cream is great to protect from sunburn, plus, the aloe in it helps if they’ve already gone a bit red! Their aloe vera gel is great for any aggravated bites or sore skin patches. (I sometimes pinch the products for myself!)

What is your favorite treat to give the horses?

I prefer giving carrots or apples—anything natural. However, the Baileys Tasty Treats are great. The horses love them, plus they’re low in starch and sugar, but high in fiber, making them a pretty healthy treat.

-All photos courtesy of Becca Nicholson.