HORSE SENSE (HS): Congrats on the Aga Khan win! You had us shouting in the office! When did you first start working for Cian and Kilkenny and how did you get the job?
Johanna Berg (JB): Thank you, it means a lot to all of us! I started working for Cian exactly four years ago this month. I was looking to leave my previous job and got in contact with Cian since I always had been interested in the way he and his team works and have really enjoyed every day since.
HS: Tell us all the things about Kilkenny that a groom knows best.
JB: Kilkenny is by far the most intelligent horse I’ve ever met. There is so much character to him and sometimes he’s almost too clever! He loves to work almost as much as he loves food and treats. He’s a very active and attentive horse and there are few things that happen in his surroundings that he doesn’t see. But most of all he loves attention. Ear scratches, getting groomed, going for walks or grazing - you name it. He’s a great character!
HS: How did you prepare Kilkenny for the Aga Khan?
JB: The preparations for this year’s Aga Khan were mainly about fitness. He was worked twice a day in the weeks leading up to the Cup so as to ensure that he was at peak fitness.
HS: Does Kilkenny have physiotherapy or equine sports massage treatments?
JB: We have a great support team for the horses here at Karlswood. Normally we have a physio coming along to the major shows. She’s been with us for a long period of time so she knows the horses well and can help them with their specific needs before and after they have jumped.
HS: What’s your regular routine with Kilkenny at home and how does that differ at shows?
JB: At home in Karlswood he would normally be the first one ridden in the morning and also the first one to go for a hack in the afternoon. In between riding, he would spend plenty of time out in the paddock. We try to change the routine as little as possible between shows and when he’s at home in terms of sticking with the same feeding schedule and riding routines as far as possible. When there’s classes that start early or late you might need to change things around, an hour here or an hour there, but we try to stick as close to the home routines as much as possible.
HS: What does Kilkenny eat?
JB: Kilkenny is fed the Racehorse Mix from Gain.
HS: The whole of Ireland wants to know how you get him so white?
JB: I think I’ve been lucky! He’s pretty good to me and it’s only the odd time he would have a small stain on himself. The only thing is that I make sure to wash his tail once a week so the yellow never gets a chance to stick.
HS: What are your top products to use on Kilkenny’s tack and also on him?
JB: Stübben is a great saddle soap that we use daily in the yard. In today’s market there are so many sprays and shampoos at your disposal it’s easy to forget about the most basic grooming. In my opinion you get the best coat with a bit of elbow grease. Keep it simple and you’ll get a nice coat and a happy horse - two for the price of one!
HS: What are the plans for Kilkenny now?
JB: For now he’s having a few easy weeks which include hacking around Karlswood and time in the paddock. Cian is in Florida this week working and when he returns, I’m sure he’ll have a show plan mapped out for us!
HS: Top tips for future grooms?
JB: Always be keen to learn new things. There’s never only one way to do something, other people might have a better way to deal with the same problem, so it’s important to always be open to new ideas.
HS: What’s the secret to a happy horse?
JB: I think it all depends on the individual, but in the case of Kilkenny Polo mints never do any harm!