Groom Elite Program
In year 2003, the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation was delighted to join Oak Tree Racing Association, California Thoroughbred Trainers, and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association as major contributors in implementing the Groom Elite Program at Santa Anita. This pilot program, the first to take place in California, was created by the Texas Horsemen´s Association, with the idea of providing high-standard professional development of horse racing industry grooms.
Beginning in February at two days per week over a five-week period, students participated in a comprehensive curriculum encompassing the following topics: horse behavior & grooming, height, weight, and fatness, conformation, the horse's mouth, hay, digestion & feeding, front & rear foot, leg examination, and bandaging. The majority of the curriculum was administered by Dr. Reid McLellan, trainer and former professor and director of an award winning equine program at Louisiana Tech.
Daily course instruction was verbally translated in Spanish to the primarily Hispanic students by CTT Deacon Arnie Lopez. The course could not have succeeded without the added assistance provided by CHRB track veterinarian Dr. William Bell, conducting Pre-Race and Test Barn Activities instruction; Trainer Danny Velasquez, Equipment & Tacking Up; Veterinarian Hector Prida, Health Check & Colic Awareness; and track Fire Marshall Mike Mieser, Shed Row Safety instruction.
Through a bit of pessimistic thinking, it was anticipated that class attendance would near fifty, however, to the surprise of the class coordinators, first day attendance was over sixty students and second day attendance numbered into the seventies. The class was downsized to approximately sixty-five students thereafter to ensure that the lessons would not become diluted. Names of workers cut from the class were stored and will be placed at the top of the list for any planned future courses.
The Groom Elite Program was an absolute success. The California class was the largest that the program creators have seen to date. The students ranged from industry newcomers to veteran grooms of over 40 years, each extolling the excellent course material and instruction and expressing deep appreciation to the program sponsors for generously making the course available to them. Special mention goes to student Juan Banaga, the 56-year-old night watchman for trainer Jim Cassidy, who scored highest in the 2003 class. California has much to boast about as Banaga also received the all-time highest test score for students nationwide, which has inspired him to pursue his dream of becoming an equine veterinarian.
The Edwin J. Gregson Foundation is very proud to have been a part of this well received program and will strive to continue to offer in similar programs in the future that benefit California backstretch personnel and their family members.