An interview with an international competition groom Tinja Hurula

I know this is something different to what I normally share on my blog, but I thought it was about time to add a new feature and expand the blog to include interviews with people who I think have interesting stories to tell! Tinja is a gem of a girl, whose positive attitude and love of horses inspires me and I'm so lucky to class her as a friend of mine! Tinja and I have been talking ever since last summer when I stayed at my brother's yard in Germany for 6 weeks whilst we waited for the sale of our house over here to be completed and I thought it would be a great feature to shed some light on the work she is doing. So I thought I’d catch up with her and find out more about what it's like being an international competition groom and share it with you guys! ⬇️
Tinja and Rossi after the GP Special class which Henri and Rossi won 🏆
Q: Tell us all about yourself and how you ended up working for Henri as a groom?
"I'm Tinja, I'm 25 year old and originally from Turku, in Finland. I've been working at various stables for about 10 years. I came from Finland to Krefeld in Germany thanks to being inspired by a friend, and after a year I ended up moving to come work for Henri at Gut Bertingloh."
Q: How do you prepare for a long trip with a horse which includes the horse having to fly?
"For a long journey to a competition that we have to fly to, I prepare pretty much the same way as for any other competition. However, there are a few things you need to bring with you in the plane that you don't need when the horse isn't flying. For example, things such as a brush, a rug and boots for the horse, a bucket as well as a spare head collar and lead rope! They must be packed in case the tack locker is delayed in arriving at the competition site. For the flight it's also good to pack a large hay net and mash for the horse."

Q: Do you have any top bits of kit, or things you couldn’t cope without at a competition?
"The saddle and the bridle 🙈 The grooming kit has to contain all the care products well as everything you need for plaiting the horses!"
Q: What is your daily routine like at a competition?
"At competitions I always go to the stables first thing in the morning normally at 6am to feed the horse/horses and change their waters. Either I muck out the stables whilst the horses eat, or then I have my own breakfast whilst the horses are eating and then I muck out the stables. After mucking out, I groom the horses and then go hand walk them for 20-30 minutes per horse. Once the horse is walked, I put on the massage rug. Of course this varies depending on the program of the day, but normally I feed the horses again at around 11.30am, and often I hand walk them a the second time after they've eaten. When Henri wants to ride, I get the horse ready, and whilst I'm grooming I use the magnetic rug again. The horses given their evening feeds at 4.30pm and during this time I muck out the stable for the second time and then get the horses ready for the night (e.g put on night bandages). I go back to do a final check between 9-10pm, where I check their waters and give a little more hay. However, much of this depends on what is the program of the day in terms of riding and other events, but I always try to get the horse out of the stable for three times a day and try to feed them at a quiet time so they get the peace to rest properly too."

Q: What is the routine like on the actual day of the competition?
"On the actual day of the competition, the routine is pretty much the same as any other day but obviously it includes getting the competition tack ready and preparing the horse which takes more time. Earlier on in the day, I stitch the number onto the saddle pad, I make sure that the bridle is exceptionally clean and I get all the stuff I need later on together and sorted. Most often I want to plait the horse ready with plenty of time to spare, after which I walk them a few rounds around the stable areas and then put them back in the stable to give them a moment to rest before the rider arrives. After the test, I untack and groom the horse and put all the stuff I've used back in their place. After this, the day continues normally like any other day."
Q: What has been the best competition experience so far? And the worst, why?
"Hmm, it's difficult to choose! Maybe it wasn't the best experience, but competitions at places like Tryon and Doha are places that I would never get to go to otherwise! 🙈 Doha was a very well organised show and I got so much out of this experience, so that's probably been the best competition experience so far. And I made so many new friends there who I'm going to miss! If I had to chose a worst then probably the competition at Le Mans, there's always been really bad weather there 😅"

Q: Which do you prefer - the big competitions far away where have to fly to (like the competition at Doha) or smaller competitions closer to home?
"Both have their own good and bad parts, but I would say that any competition is still a competition so I always enjoy them!"
The competition indoor arena at the CHI 5* Al Shaqab in Doha
Q: When you get back home, how do you get back to normal? What does a horse do (eg walking / turn out / aqua trainer)?
"When we come back from a competition, the horse has a few easier days. Walking for the first days and then usually for a couple of days after that it's just light riding until they feel back to normal. For myself, I empty the tack locker, do the laundry, etc. and clean and wash the lorry."

Q: What are the best and worst parts of going to competitions?
"The best thing about competitions is when the horse is feeling well and is happy, as well as of course when the rider and horse do well in their tests! Another definite highlight about going to competitions is when you make new friends on these trips. I don't think there is a worst part, because I always enjoy the competition as long as the horse I'm looking after feels good!"
Tinja at the WEG 2018 in Tryon
A massive thank you to Tinja for doing this interview, it's been fun to find out more about how they prep for competitions and what the day to day routine is! Let me know what you thought and if you'd like more of these interview blog posts! 

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