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Ask the Groom: Working for Phillip

“I’m a HUGE Phillip Dutton fan, and I’m so excited you’re back at his barn! He always has the most impressive horses on course, and I’ve always wondered what they’re like in the barn. Can you tell me a bit about the personalities of the horses in Phillip’s barn now?” Ally P. from Mt. Kisco, NY

I’m happy to be back in the barn trying to do ten things at once! I’ve obviously always loved the horses, but it wasn’t until I left True Prospect for a short while that I truly appreciated how much those horses meant to me personally. Being back in the thick of it, hanging out with Phillip’s top five horses on a daily basis, and making sure their every need is taken care of is who I am.

Currently Phillip has five advanced horses that will hopefully get to a three- or four-star event. Get to know the gang:


He came to Phillip in January of 2012. He is Irish both in breed and personality! He loves his turnout, although he has a passion for digging. This can get a little annoying at shows where he digs to China on a daily basis when he is in tented stalls. He does enjoy people being around him and completely falls asleep when he gets his body work done. He is quick to tell you where he likes and dislikes to be groomed, and he is not one who totally enjoys a shower. When it comes to work, he goes straight to business and tries his best. He is very quirky about dogs; very often my dog, Charlie, will come to see me while I’m grooming Atlas, who has a pretty good aim with his front leg and tries take to him out!

Fernhill Fugitive (Jack)

I consider Jack to be the baby-faced pony of the group! He has this fluffy “fro” like forelock that I hate to pull because it just gives him a really cute look. He is the greenest at the advance level, and hopefully this year he will prove he has what it takes to be a big time horse. He is really easy to deal with in the barn but loves to hang out in the field alongside his neighboring pasture buddies. If you had to give him a human personality, he would be the boy at school that has a few close friends and quietly gets on with his work. The girls love to ride him at the barn, although he is known to have a spook and spin in him, so I always tell them not to take his quiet attitude for granted! I’m looking forward to seeing what this year holds for Jack.

William Penn (Penn)

Penn is a big Irish horse that came to Phillip in December of 2010. When we first met, I was immediately impressed with his own sense of personal space. He had been in quarantine for nearly two weeks due to another horse being sick. I was very prepared for him to come out of his stall like a fire breathing dragon; however, he was a gentleman and walked to his paddock without drama! He has an extremely kind eye and just wants to please although there are times he gets a little confused about what is being asked of him. I think of him as that popular kid in school that everybody wants to be friends with although the girls would only see him as a friend and nothing more!

Mighty Nice (Happy)

There are not too many people that do not recognize Happy’s face, he has one of those expressions that makes me smile every time I go and get him from the paddock in the morning. He is always at the gate—either chewing the lead rope or pawing—telling me to hurry up because he is starving! When he was in the UK, prior to the Olympics, he couldn’t have as much turn out as usual, which he would remind me about when I would fetch him from the field and he would walk in on hind legs. You couldn’t get after him as he would just be worse. Right or wrong, I would just laugh at him until he decided all the fun was done, and by then he would walk on a long lead quietly to the barn. Some people might say I shouldn’t let him behave like that, but when you truly know your horse you know when they are aiming to be really bad or when they are just having a good time. Everybody falls in love with this horse when they meet him because he is either in your pockets or nibbling your clothes. Once tacked up, he goes straight to work and loves to show off. In Aiken, he is turned out next to Atlas. It always gives me amusement as I watch them interact. They both know they are pretty special horses, and they like to tease each other across the fence. When shipping, I have to split him and Atlas up because they are like spoiled kids who don’t have enough things to entertain them.

Mr. Medicott (Cave)

I am still getting to know Cave, but Max (his groom when Karen rode him) assured me that I would fall in love with the red head. She wasn’t wrong. What’s interesting about Cave compared to the other advanced horses is you can just read on his face that he has been there and done that. The others still have so much to experience, but Cave has done so much that he could share with them all. I shouldn’t have to say much else when I say that Phillip comes off the horse everyday with a smile. For those who don’t know Phillip well, he is a quiet man that gets on and rides his however many horses a day he needs to without much to be said. However, ask him how the ride went with Cave and a big smile comes on his face!
In the barn he is a sweetheart who loves his daily carrot and his grooming routine. I took him to a jumper show the other day with the other boys. It was the first show outing for all of them, and while the others where all excited and getting fussy in the trailer, Cave would just look at them and then go back to eating his from his hay net. I truly believe if he could talk, he would have told the others to get a grip and grow up—it’s just a show!

I hope you have enjoyed this insight into some of the boys. It’s always a fun and easy topic to talk about (I just hope I don’t sound too much like that mother with their first newborn). None of them are perfect, but in my eyes all their quirks and funny mannerisms are what make them a special upper-level horse.

Emma Ford

Emma Ford is one of the most respected grooms in US Eventing. Born and raised in the UK, Emma came to the US in 1998 to groom for top eventer Adrienne Iorio. After seven years with Adrienne, Emma moved to True Prospect Farm to work with five-time Olympian and 13-time USEA Leading Rider of the Year, Phillip Dutton. During her tenure with Phillip, Emma cared for many famous equine athletes including Connaught, TruLuck, Woodburn, and Mystery Whisper. She’s groomed at Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, cared for horses at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, 2007 Pan Am Games, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and groomed at Rolex Kentucky and Fair Hill International every year since 2001. And now she’s here to help you! Submit your grooming questions and Emma just may be able to teach you a few of her tricks!

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