For the past eight years, Danny Ingratta has been a familiar face at Millar Brooke Farm — home to Canada's royal show jumping family, Ian, Jonathon, and Amy Millar. But the Canadian didn’t always have a career as a groom in mind — in fact, he somewhat fell into it.
After graduating from the University of Guelph, where he studied animal biology, a good friend called and asked if Danny wanted to head to Florida for the winter and groom. His response: “Sure! Who wouldn’t want to go to Florida in the winter and hang out with horses!” Now a seasoned team member of the Millar support staff, Danny is traveling the world primarily as Amy’s right-hand man and groom.
Although the days are tiresome caring for the sport’s hard-working equine athletes, Danny says, “There is nothing better than listening to the Canadian anthem being played when the horse you’ve taken care has won the class.”
So what tips and tricks has Danny developed over the years working as a key member of Team Millar? We got the inside scoop:
NoelleFloyd.com: Did you have experience with horses before becoming a groom?
Danny Ingratta: I took riding lessons from a young age and spent a lot of time at my aunt and uncle’s hobby farm with horses. I then got my own horse and did a lot of the Western disciplines, doing local shows, and just having fun with my horse. At University of Guelph I was very involved with the equestrian club and helped organize the lesson program as well as intercollegiate shows. During that time I also worked at the Ontario Veterinary College in the large animal hospital.
NF: What is your claim to fame as a groom aka your personal trick of the trade?
DI: To always have a smile on my face. Happy groom, happy horse, happy rider. If you aren’t having more good days than bad days, you need to make a change. We do this job because we love it. If we didn’t then we wouldn't be able to put the time and effort into it. At the end of the day, a great groom will do absolutely anything for their horse.
Amy has learned a thing or two from her dad, aka Captain Canada, and so can you.
NF: What is a common horse care mistake you see that you would like corrected?
DI: Not keeping a horse in a program.
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?
DI: Other than the essentials like food and water (or a water filter), I would take a hoof pick, body brush, mane and tail brush, wraps and bandages, and lunge line.
NF: What is your biggest splurge item for horse care?
DI: Good wraps and bandages and good liniment.
NF: What are your top five favorite horse care products and why?
DI: A metal curb comb does wonders when used properly. A mane and tail comb is essential to have. Absorbine hoof oil keeps the hooves clean and looking sharp. Perfect Products Regen-x EQ improves hoof quality and maintains a healthy hoof. Huggies baby wipes have multi-purpose usage.
NF: Do you value routine when it comes to horse care?
DI: A horse’s routine is very important. As we travel from place to place, it is essential to keep the horses in a similar routine.
Happy groom, happy horse, happy rider.
NF: How do you deal with a difficult horse with poor ground manners?
DI: Being a large human, normally I can just use my size to help deal with a difficult horse. I also use repetition and set boundaries very quickly, which are enforced every time.
NF: Do you have any tricks for sensitive skin?
DI: Less bathing is your friend, within reason.
NF: What’s the most important item in your ring bag?
DI: My towel is the most important item in my ring bag. I normally have two of them in it.
Meet Phillip Duttons’s longtime groom, Emma Ford.
NF: How do you stay balanced and motivated with a demanding job?
DI: I try to have an outlet that’s not horses. I like to dance so that helps me.
NF: What is your favorite treat to give the horses?
NF: What is your personal motto for horse care?
DI: KISS (keep it simple, stupid). Don’t over complicate things. Go back to the basics. Hoof pick and a brush and then build.
Read this next: Tricks of the Trade with Jessica Springsteen’s Groom Esther Bukkems
Photography by Shannon Brinkman for NoelleFloyd.com.