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The life of a groom is where all the great trainers started. Tom Bass, William Lee, John T. Hook - all started out in the Grand Barn on the Boulevard, usually at young ages, learning to care for horses and how they were trained. When they showed skill at training, they would work their way up to training and showing these horses for the stables. This interview, tapping the unique insight of Tom Usnick, is perhaps the only written history from someone who has been a groom at the Big Barn.
“Every groom had six horses on his string,” said Usnick. “A lot of times you’d clean their stalls out in the
morning, and get one or two worked before lunch. Then you’d work the other four that afternoon. And those
six horses were your responsibility as far as their care.”
It was the grooms’ job to keep the horses coming for the trainers, who worked them outside on the sawdust
and cinder tracks.