The winners of the 2007 Kuster BEF Groom Award were:
1st - Jenny Ellis - travelling groom for International Dressage rider Richard Davison and several International Show Jumpers (Jenny and Richard are pictured right)
2nd - Kelly Bell - groom for Park End livery & Eventing yard
3rd - Kate Lawrance - groom for International Show Jumper Di Lampard
And, for the first time, the Awards also recognised the best newcomer in the industry - a prize which was awarded to Rachel Henning for her work at the ILPH (International League for the Protection of Horses).
Jenny and Rachel both received their awards at Olympia, the London International Horse Show during the evening performance on 19 December. They scooped the top spots following a shortlist selection via nominations, followed by a judging day where they were interviewed by racing commentator Richard Pitman and International dressage rider Sandy Phillips.
Jenny, 47, from Ashbourne in Derbyshire has worked with horses for more than 30 years, both as veterinary nurse and groom, and has also been instrumental in supporting and developing other younger, less experienced grooms. She made it through to the shortlist thanks to nominations from International Dressage rider Richard Davison, International Show Jumper John Whitaker and Para - Equestrian Dressage rider Simon Laurens - all of whom were full of praise for the work Jenny did for them and the support she showed her colleagues.
As Richard commented; 'Jenny is wonderful with horses and so experienced in all aspects of horsemanship. She remains very encouraging to younger, less experienced grooms and has worked very hard to raise the status of grooms within the industry - she is fully deserving of this accolade.'
Jenny's expert skills have also been recognised by the World Class programme where she has supported the development of more inexperienced grooms. She was also the official stable manager for the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany.
Rachel, 24, has worked at the ILPH Hall Farm in Norfolk for two years and joined with no equestrian experience whatsoever - but she made the switch from Tesco to horses very easily. Today, along with her usual yard duties, and despite having no previous computer experience, Rachel also ensures the databases are updated, including the horses' veterinary, dental and farriery records.
Her nominator Sue Hodgkins, centre manager of the ILPH Hall Farm, commented; 'Rachel is one of our greatest assets. We have never employed a groom with no experience before and now we invite almost everyone for a trial - we wouldn't want another Rachel to slip through the net. She's one in a million!'
'We were particularly impressed by Rachel and her swift transformation from a Tesco check out girl to an accomplished groom and member of ILPH staff,' said Richard Pitman.
Second placed Kelly Bell, 27, has worked at Park End, a livery/event yard, for ten years where as Head Girl she is responsible for the day to day running of the yard - from schooling the horses to travelling to various events. Her nominator Charlotte Ridley, who owns Park End, commented; 'Kelly is my reliable Head Girl who always ensures the horses are turned out immaculately - so much so that my fellow competitors are trying to pinch her!'
Third placed Kate Lawrance, 28, has worked at Spring Farm in Oakham, a show jumping yard, for less than a year. Running the Spring Farm team, Kate's duties range from driving the lorries to carrying out prescribed physiotherapy on horses that require it. She was nominated by horse owner David Hill and Di Lampard who said: 'I had no hesitation to nominate Kate, because she is 100 percent dedicated to her horses - they and their welfare come before everything else. She is thoroughly reliable and always cheerful, no matter what happens.'
Jenny won £1,000 of holiday vouchers, plus the Smash Hit Bronze Trophy which she will get to keep for a year, while Kelly and Kate received cheques for £300 and £200 respectively. Rachel was presented with a unique print by artist Tim Nathan.