Furnishes an insider's glimpse of the close relationship that exists between horses and the grooms that care for them, following a year in the lives of three grooms, all working with champion thoroughbreds, while describing the horses, their owners and riders, stable lore, and the multibillion-dollar industry of equestrian sport. 25,000 first printing.
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A groom to a horse is "what the combined services of physical therapist, manager, counselor, assistant, and chaperone would be to an NBA star," says Nusser, formerly a groom, who follows three grooms in the rarefied, high-stakes world of horse breeding and competition. Kenneth Burns has for years been handling Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, one of the highest paid stud stallions at the exclusive Lane's End farm in Kentucky. Nusser explores the realities of the profession, at times in too much detail: e.g., A.P. Indy's fee is $300,000, and he is "booked to almost a hundred mares for a breeding season that starts in February and ends in July." In 1996, one study valued the horse industry at $25.3 billion, close to the film industry. Grooms, however, don't often make much money and work six- or even seven-day weeks. While Kenneth Burns views his work as a job, Samantha Burton, the center of the book and groom for an Olympic gold medalist in a competition called Three-Day Eventing, understands the gestalt of horses: "Sam is no more able to articulate why she loves her horses than most people are able to articulate why they love their children." Brooke Lowe is a groom who burns out, realizing that she'd rather teach and ride. Nusser interweaves the history of horse domestication, speculating on the myth of centaurs and the horse's prey-driven sensitivities. For those in the horse world, this book will add to the lore and knowledge; for the general reader, however, the book only briefly raises disturbing questions about privilege and the human-horse relationship without answering them.
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In horse competitions on TV, the prancing steeds appear with their shining coats and their impeccably groomed manes and tails. The riders of these horses claim the spotlight, but what about the grooms who prepare them for their moments of fame? Overworked and underpaid, professional grooms are the backbone of any equine sport. Working daily with their charges, the grooms form incredibly close relationships with the horses in their care. They also have to learn the quirks of riders, owners, and the stables they work for, the strengths and weaknesses of their fellow grooms, and the intricacies of the horses' tack, equipment, and vehicles. This unique look at a world that most readers, even those with horses of their own, know little about will be a welcome addition to the horsey collection and will be sought out by fans of Jane Smiley and Laura Hillenbrand. Nancy Bent
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