New Zealand’s Olympic Eventers may be the ones in the spot lights, but quietly in the background are an extremely integral part of the team . . . the grooms.
Kerryn Edmans (Jonelle Price and Grovine de Reve), Lucy Miles (Tim Price and Vitali), Hannah McLean (Jesse Campbell and Diachello) and Rosie Thomas (Bundy Philpott and Tresca NZPH) are all massively excited for the opportunity. It is the first Olympic Games for Hannah and Rosie, but Kerryn will be heading to her second Games and Lucy her third.
Lucy Miles first started working for Tim and Jonelle in 2014 but took a year off when she had her son George in July 2019. Since October she has been back with Team Price for three days a week as yard manager alongside Kerryn the head girl.The 36-year-old Brit’s connection with New Zealand started in 2010 when she took a job with Jock Paget when he moved to the UK. She worked for him for three years and attended the London 2012 Olympic Games with he and Clifton Promise.
In 2016 she groomed for Jonelle and Faerie Dianimo at the Rio Olympic Games but this time is switching to Tim and Vitali.
“I love working with the horses on the ground,” she says. “They are like humans and all have their different personalities. Given that we have quite a big yard, we also have quite a few different personalities! As I have been here a while, I have been able to see most of the horses progress up through the grades.”
And there have been plenty of highlights over the years. “I was lucky enough to groom for our amazing 2018 season when we won three 5*. It is now nice to see horses like Vitali and Grovine de Reve come up to the top level and be just as good as the other top level horses on the yard.” She knows heat and humidity will be the challenge in Tokyo. “Our horses are not really used to it but we do have two fab horses who I think will cope fine. Looking at the facilities, it looks like they will be catered for wonderfully.”
The preparation has been smooth and she counts her lucky stars Kerryn is also in the team. “We are very lucky to be from the same yard so it is nice to have both of us getting excited and sorting everything out. We do love packing our trunks together! Hopefully between the two of us we won’t forget anything.”
On a more serious note, she says there is plenty of benefit in the two knowing each other’s horses so well. “We travelled to Kentucky with Hannah and Diachello, so have been able to get to know them too which is great for the team.” Lucy says Vitali comes across as shy initially but once you get to know him he comes right out of his shell. “He is very easy. He loves going in the field with his friends and just chilling out for the day after he has been worked.”
It’s a family thing for 26-year-old Kiwi Kerryn Edmans. She moved from Hanmer Springs to England in 2013 to work for the Prices, leaving in 2016 to work for team vet Christiana Ober and returning to Tim and Jonelle’s in 2020. Kerryn’s mother Michelle used to work for Tim when he was in New Zealand in 2002 so she has grown up knowing the world no.2 ranked eventer.
“While I was growing up they had always made passing jokes and comments about getting me to come over to work for them but I never imagined I would be here for this long,” says Kerryn.
In 2016 she went to the Rio Games with Tim and Ringwood Sky Boy. “I am looking forward to another Games but the lead up is always very intense and full on, along with running the rest of the yard before we go away.” She adores working with the horses daily and watching them develop, change and improve. “You get a real sense of pride watching them come up through the ranks.”
Kerryn is very happy to have her good mate Lucy with her in Tokyo. “I have a really good working partnership with Lucy. She used to be the head girl here, so between us we know the place pretty well. I think we work well together to keep the place running smoothly for Tim and Jonelle.”
The heat at the recent 5* in Luhmuhlen was a good trial for the crew. “It wasn’t quite as hot as it could be but was a total eye-opener for me to see how we and the horses will cope,” she said. She has turned into a gym-goer to prepare herself for the Games.
Grovine de Reve will be Kerryn’s charge at Tokyo. “He’s Frank the Tank to me,” she says. “He is a funny dude who loves life and begin busy. He will likely spend most of the time dragging me around but he is pretty easy to look after and has gone from strength to strength with Jonelle which is awesome.”
Hannah is grooming for Jesse Campbell and Diachello. She’s originally from Christchurch but spent a lot of time in Auckland . . . that said, she still claims the Crusaders as her home team. The opening ceremony at the Games was her 29th birthday. It was her mum who introduced her to horses and she progressed from borrowing neighbouring ponies to a riding school in Auckland and competing.
After uni, where she trained as an accountant, she worked at racing yards before becoming a working pupil for Donna and Elise Edwards-Smith. “That’s where I caught the eventing bug!”
In 2020 after working in accounting and equine insurance she decided to head to the UK and work full time with horses. “It’s always been a dream, it just took me a while to actually have the guts to make the move. “Luckily I landed a job with Jesse and Georgie just as the UK COVID lockdown hit and I have been here ever since, becoming head groom at the end of the year.”
Hannah says it is very surreal to be heading to her first Olympic Games. “I am not sure if excited is the right word to describe the feeling at the moment . . . I think it is a bit of excitement mixed with nerves and stress! “It really is a dream to groom for team New Zealand. It feels like a home away from home. Coming over to the UK I never imagined being able to travel to groom at Kentucky, let alone the Olympic Games. It has been an unreal adventure so far and I can’t wait to get to Tokyo,” she says.
Hannah describes Danny (Diachello) as the “sweetest, kindest” horse who is a real gentle giant. “I couldn’t have an easier horse to look after and travel – he really is a groom’s dream.”
In preparation for the heat in Tokyo she has been putting extra rugs on Danny at night and galloping him in exercise sheets. “Personally I have been wearing an extra few layers to muck out in the morning. I am pretty lucky that our line of work keeps us nice and fit without doing too much else as I run out of hours in the day.”
She was very appreciative that Team Price grooms Lucy and Kerryn had taken her under their wings. “It makes life so much easier when you can pick the brains of people who are so knowledgeable.”
Rosie Thomas started working for Bundy in January 2020. While she didn’t have much of a horsey background growing up, she started riding at 13 and just figured it out from there. The 19-year-old hails from Masterton but now lives in Cambridge.
“I am excited but at the moment I am also definitely very nervous,” she says. “My favourite part of the job is the shows – I just love seeing all the effort everyone puts in behind the scenes to make sure it all comes together.” She’s not sure whether it will be the heat of COVID that provides the biggest challenge for everyone in Tokyo. “I have been practicing my plaits in my spare time to make sure they are good enough!”
Tresca NZPH – or Pete to his mates – is “an absolute, honest gentleman with a very kind soul”.
The countdown is well and truly on!
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison