The Plaid Horse Questionnaire with Katie Williams

At WEF 2020 with Tomi Yofre and Kavalli di Magico. Photo by Mackenzie Clark.

From the magazine

Occupation: Manager for Teddi Pritzker, former freelance groom
Hometown: Rochester, NY

As a horsewoman, I am most proud of being able to understand my horses without words. I have been lucky enough to catch some
ailments (both life-threatening and non-life threatening) very early because I could tell my horses were just “sad.” Being able to understand their moods is definitely something of which I am proud. To me, this is the basis of understanding each horse as an individual, which is most important.

I think the biggest misconception about our sport is you have to be a rider or trainer to have a successful career. There are many more vital roles in this industry. Grooming is essential to our equine athletes. Grooms manage the horses’ day from the moment they eat breakfast to the moment they receive their night-check hay and blanket change. Grooms are some of the best horsemen. Grooms spend each day learning how to improve the life of the horse, the best seat in the classroom is by your horse’s side.

Women in our sport are tough. Women and men compete equally, in the ring and out, which is the beauty of our sport. This sport is hard; it’s physical, expensive, and demanding. Tough women thrive in our sport. And in turn, they make excellent role models for young, tough girls.

With Acer K winning the Maclay Finals in 2019. Photo by Mackenzie Clark.

Something I say ten times a day is GOOD MORNING! I think it is really important in our industry to have a positive attitude and starting the day off with a “good morning” is a good start. Positivity is key. I’ll admit, some mornings are just mornings and not good ones, but we must strive for great mornings! I also say “good morning” at all hours of the day, and it always lightens the mood when things aren’t going to plan or the day is stressful and longer than imagined!

My favorite horse book is the Heartland series. I was obsessed with those books in middle school. I would make my dad take me to Barnes & Noble the first day each one was released.

The most difficult part of life with horses is it is far from ‘normal.’ Those of us who are in the industry for life are unique, which is why we can adapt to the lifestyle. But burnout is real. It is very important to take a break and be normal, see your family, see your friends, go to that concert you’ve been wanting to go to, travel for yourself, attend a lifelong friend’s wedding. Even if it is just a week, pushing the reset button changes everything. Then you can jump back in with renewed energy and appreciation.

My favorite part about being a groom is caring for my horses as if they were my own children. I feed, bathe, and clean up after them. I watch with pride as they compete. I love having my own string of horses to care for; they are my little family. I think the most rewarding part of being a groom is when they look for you as soon as they come out of the ring.

One of the most important tasks in maintaining the well-being of horses is to respect their mental state. If they are anxious or nervous, it’s important to be a patient and a calm influence. If they love to hand walk and graze at a show, give them plenty of time to relax in the sun. If they need alone time, it’s important not to be overbearing and fussy. When preparing them to show, I like to build in enough time to give them their space and not rush. When they have a big job to do, I try to not cause any extra stress.

My favorite grooming tool is the Epona Glossy Groomer. It is a super flexible and soft curry comb. The horses love it, and I find it very comfortable to curry them for a long time. It really helps in making them shine!

One thing in horse care I wish more people would focus on is properly fitting equipment. Walking around a horse show, you can find all sorts of ill-fitting tack. It is extremely important that the saddle fits properly, and it is very easy to ask a saddle seller to come check it out. With all the special half pads and risers, it is also easy to make it more comfortable for your horse. Boots, bits, bridles, martingale length, and girths are just as important when it comes to proper fit.

At the FEI World Cup Finals in 2023 with Hunter Holloway and Pepita con Spita. Photo by USAJumping.

One of my favorite horse show memories is a most recent one. I freelance-groomed for Hunter Holloway for FEI World Cup Finals in Omaha this year. I had met Hunter and Dylan last fall, and we became very good friends. To be asked to help them at this championship was an honor, and for Hunter and Pepita to finish 3rd overall was such a surreal experience. I’m so proud of Hunter and Pepita, they are truly a very special duo.

One horse that is special to me is Team de Coquerie. He’s my heart horse. He has a heart of gold, the cheekiest personality, is the size of a pony, and he ran my world. I would take him for walks down the canal or through the woods like a dog, and he’d pick up sticks. He was my best travel buddy, I could always depend on him in a new place. Teamy had a fan club everywhere he went. He was an extremely talented and fast little guy—he took me to my first Nations Cup! He is happily retired now, and I went to visit him last fall.

My Motto is teamwork makes the dream work. Success doesn’t come on its own. A good rider knows that the team they have is essential to their success, a great rider acknowledges the team for their joint success.

With Team de Coquerie. Photo by Nicole Schultz.