Everyone wants to know the secret behind the success of eventing’s golden couple Tim and Jonelle Price. There are so many things that come into play but one of the key factors surely has to be their team of grooms – and more specifically head girl Lucy Miles and her second- in-command Holly Fitzgerald.
The two are a tight unit – not unlike their bosses in their single-minded focus and dedication to their four-legged charges. There’s a rule at Mere Farm – each groom can pick three favourites but none can cross over with another groom. With up to 34 horses in work at peak times, there are plenty to go around the six-strong multi-national team.
Lucy pulls rank when it comes to dibs on horses, with Wesko her “ultimate” favourite followed somewhat closely by Ringwood Sky Boy and Classic Moet. She was at WEG 2014, the Rio Olympic Games and all the 4* competitions this year.
Holly’s favourite trio are Cooley Showtime, Cekatinka and Escona M but she’s quick to add she loves Lucy’s trio too. “Wesko is everyone’s favourite!”
Lucy covered Burghley with Tim while Holly was with Jonelle at Badminton for her victory.
The former has been with the Prices for four years but her Kiwi connection goes way back. She used to work for Joe Giannamore which led her to Jock Paget between 2010 and 2013 followed by a short stint with Clarke Johnstone and to the Prices where she has been for the best part of four years.
“I had a bit of a break after Rio and just wanted to do something different so worked for (team vet) Christiana (Ober) but I just missed grooming,” said the 34-year-old.
And this year has been a real cracker. “I never thought we would win three 4*s this year,” says Lucy. “It has been awesome. Looking after the horses is the best part of my job. You get to see them compete and do well. Molly and Ozzie may be underdogs but you know they have the biggest hearts. All are such easy horses and they have a nice life at Mere Farm . . . they’re treated like horses there.”
Lucy “doesn’t really ride” apart from a bit of hacking with her favourite horse when she feels the need.
Holly hails from Motueka and has been in her “dream job” since February 2017. The 24-year-old was more of a showjumper when she joined the team but admits she may try her hand at eventing when she heads home to New Zealand in December.
“I have had horses all my life and when I saw the job advertised I thought I would give it a go,” says Holly. “I didn’t even know if they would reply but it turned out they were in Motueka and suggested we should meet for a coffee.”
She got the job on the spot and it has been a blast. “This is my first big championship and I am so excited to be here,” she said. “When I first arrived, it was quite overwhelming – you see all these horses and riders who you admire . . . they’re your idols but you get to know they are just like everyone else and you aren’t so star-struck.”
She’s sad to be leaving later this year but somewhat excited for what the future could hold.
“It has been such fun working with Tim and Jonelle and such great horses.”
Both have very clear goals for WEG – double gold and a silver. “That’s the aim,” pipes up Lucy with plenty of agreement from Holly. “We don’t mind which way it goes . . . really.”
The two women say Tim and Jonelle are great bosses.
“They look after us and always look out for us too,” says Lucy. “It is a very happy place to work.”
By Diana Dobson, NZ team media liaison