Esther Bukkems hails from the Netherlands and has groomed for top American show jumper Jessica Springsteen since 2015. We asked Esther about her horses, her routine, and some of her favorite products to work with on the international show jumping circuit. Read on to discover her best tips and tricks of the trade and check out Issue 14 of NOËLLE FLOYD Magazine for Esther’s account of what it’s really like to choose grooming as a career.
NoelleFloyd.com: What is your claim to fame as a groom (a.k.a. your personal trick of the trade)?
Esther Bukkems: To make the horses feel at home wherever they are in the world. There’s people who go to a show and all of a sudden start putting 12 more blankets on a horse or puts boots here and there and the horses are just like, “What’s going on?” Keep it simple. Keep them comfortable. That was my biggest thing I’ve learned and it makes sense. If you don’t do it at home, I don’t see why something should change at a show.
NF: What is a common horse care mistake you see that you would like corrected?
EB: Grooms washing horses’ heads with the hose when horses don’t like it.
NF: If you were stuck on an island and you could only take five things with your top horse, what would you take and why?
EB: Food; I always need some food to keep my horses healthy and happy. Water buckets. Quic Silver to keep Cynar nice and clean because you never know who could show up. Halter so I can hold on to him. Lunge line to keep him fit.
NF: What is your biggest splurge item for horse care?
EB: A Likit to keep the horses busy and happy.
NF: What are your top five favorite horse care products and why?
EB: Firstly, green spot remover, and you can ask Cynar why I need that. Secondly, Traumeel, to keep the horses feeling good. Thirdly, epsom salt to take any soreness out of the feet. Fourthly, fly spray. My horses like the flies just as much as I do, which is not very much. Lastly, show sheen to keep their tails and coats shiny.
NF: What is your favorite grooming tool?
EB: For brushes I use the curry comb glove with the little balls on it. Just because a normal curry comb doesn’t get to all their curves. This one you can shape your hand to their body, even their face. Not many people really brush the horse’s face, and they all get dirt sticking there just beside their nose bone.
NF: What product do you use to bathe the horses?
EB: When I’m in Florida, I use a dishwasher soap. I don’t use it a lot because some of them dry out eventually if you keep using it. After riding, they have a lot of sand on their legs, so that’s definitely my go-to product in Florida.
NF: What is your personal motto for horse care?
EB: Trust the horses that they will trust you.
NF: What is your ideal morning routine with your horses?
EB: Feed, muck out the stalls, refresh the horses’ water buckets, and get the stable organized while they have their breakfast and then take the horses out to graze.
NF: What is your ideal evening routine with your horses?
EB: I always try to feed the horses at the same time, wherever I am in the world. And that is hay at 16:00 and their grain at 17:00. In the evening, I go back between 21:00 and 23:00 to check if they’re all right, warm enough, and have enough water.
NF: How do you deal with a difficult horse with poor ground manners?
EB: I try to gain their trust first so you can correct them when needed but in a way that they won’t become scared of you and they won’t continue with their bad behavior.
NF: Do you have any tricks for sensitive skin?
EB: Equifit AG Silver CleanTalc max. And use a towel to make sure the legs stay really dry. I also feed my horses in Florida a spoonful of coconut oil because it keeps their skin smooth and is a good prevention. There’s a few that don’t like it, but it’s only a small spoon so they don’t taste it that much. I learned that trick from a vet, actually.
NF: What kind of supplements do you like?
EB: We use a lot of Platinum Performance. You can see the horses’ coats change in a week time. Our horses are almost never dull since they’ve been on Platinum Performance; they have really good coats.
NF: What is your favorite treat to give the horses?
EB: Apples. I feel like the horses really enjoy a fresh apple.
NF: What’s the most important item in your ring bag?
EB: I always have latex bandages and scissors to cut them with. You can literally use latex bandages for anything. If your martingale starts breaking a little bit, just wrap that around. Or if their bit is too sharp, wrap it around their bit, or their curb chain.
NF: How do you stay balanced and motivated with a demanding job?
EB: Try to have a good sleep and don’t drive home from a show when you’re too tired.
All photos by Lucio Landa.