Backstage with Marta Masocco
Right now, Martha is well on her way to Friends Arena in Stockholm, driving a 12-meter long horse trailer. All year long she is one of the most important people in “the Philippaerts circus.” Meet Nicola Philippaerts' show groom, Marta Masocco!
By: Celine Mee Storrvik / Translation: Morten Hofgaard Jørstad
Hi Marta! How are you, and where are you right now?
Hi! We are on our way to Stockholm for Sweden International Horse Show. We just left Malmö. It's freezing cold, but cozy inside the trailer.
Sounds good. So, do you drive that giant Philippaerts trailer on your own?
Yes, I have my driver's license for both big truck and trailer. Generally, I drive the 12-meter monster alone. But for longer trips and big events it's more cost-effective and safer with two drivers. When Nicola and Olivier attend various competitions, we often team up with the team of Bertram Allen, or someone from Verlooy Stables.
Where do you sleep when you’re on the road?
The trailer has a section with a bed and everything else I need. A little bit like camping.
How would you describe everyday life as a show groom?
It’s 24/7 no matter what. It’s privation and satisfaction. Hate and love. Sounds dramatic, but it's true. The strong love and passion you feel for the horses and the job brings you to kind of hate it because you have to give it all of yourself. And all your time and private life.
And what does a typical day look like in the stables in Belgium?
Busy and crazy! I call it a Circus. With so many horses and people involved, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. My everyday life is about being flexible alongside with sticking as much as possible to regular routines for the horses. A typical day looks like this:
At 7AM we give the horses their breakfast. Then it’s time to clean boxes before each team is ready to take the horses our for some stretching. Walks in the woods, time in the Aquatrainer, training with their riders or other team members, or fresh air in the fields. By noon we have usually taken out all the horses for a session or an activity. Then the horses get lunch before we have ours. Someone of us goes home while others meet in the office for coffee, talk and laughter. The afternoon is almost the same as the morning. We try to be ready with all training and stall work until 4:30PM. At 5:30PM it’s dinner time for the horses.
However, flexibility as mentioned is an important keyword, and unforeseen things often happens during a day allowing time schedules to be pushed. There may be additional exercises, clients, clinics, veterinarians, blacksmiths etc. But, that’s the life in the stables. It will always be like that as we work with living animals.
What do you think is the biggest misconception of being a groom?
That it's just fun ... And that our job doesn’t make a difference.
What is the one thing you always bring to competitions?
A vacuum cleaner from Dyson. Especially during the indoor season, it makes life so much easier.
When did you start riding yourself?
I've always had horses around me. I started riding when I was around 5 years old, in the yard of my aunt’s summer house. She has this amazing place nearby the Garda Lake where the whole family gathers during the summer. My mum also had a big riding school near Varese where I continued riding and competing at amateur level until I was around 15 years old.
Do you get to ride Nicola's horses?
Yes. Before shows there is mostly easy exercises when we arrive before Nicola. Especially when I travel with the younger or scared horses, I try to get a chance to ride them inside the arena. In that way they can get used to the surroundings before competition day.
How would you describe Nicola in three words?
Lazy, smiling and polite 😂😂😂No, I'm kidding of course. He is targeted, ambitious and a real horseman.
What's the best thing about him? ... And what's the most annoying?
The best is the trust he has in my knowledge. He lets me organize my daily life the way I see fit because he trusts me. The most annoying is that he never put back stuff where he found it. And yes. I have a hint of OCD when it comes to structure and tidiness. He often thinks I'm both demanding and annoying.
Which is your favorite horse right now?
Overall during my Philippaerts adventure, I have to say I have a very special place in my heart for Forever Darco ter Linden, Zilverstar T and Harley vd Bisschop. After Harley went, I actually have no favorite. Chilli Willi is the favorite of our Swedish groom Julia, so I do not feel he needs to be even more pampered. Right now, we also have more mares and I have to say I prefer stallions or geldings. Less drama. Haha.
In what way?
You know, us ladies tend to be a little more demanding and moodier. Typically, they do not cope with others in the trailer, do not tolerate seeing the neighbor and generally just being more dramatic. The mares we have now are easy to handle in the daily routine, but not so much in traveling and socializing.
How many travel days do you have in a year?
A lot! I guess we have around 45 competitions in a year, so there goes 45 weekends. In addition, a minimum of one day driving back and forth.
What’s on your Spotify list right now?
I always listen to the radio when driving. Best frequency is in Spain and Holland. Worst in France and Italy. Right now, I'm in love with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga!
What is your best advice to people who travel with horses?
Try to keep it simple and basic. Overall, they are still horses!
Thank you very much, Marta. Hope to see you in Stockholm, and good luck with the classes of the weekend!