Look and Feel Great (Grooming)
Making sure your horse is well-groomed is an important part of looking after them.
Not only does it make them look beautiful for shows and competitions, it also encourages the natural oils in the skin which keep your horse's hair healthy - and it gives you a chance to check them over for any cuts and scrapes. Here we've put together a guide to get you started.
How to groom your horse?
Step 1: Tying your horse
The best way to tie your horse while grooming is by using a halter and lead rope, with a quick release knot so that you can untie them with a quick pull of the loose end if you need to. Do this outside if safe to do so, to reduce dust inside the stable.
Step 2: Picking out the hooves
You should pick out your horse's hooves before and after each time you take them out. Using a hoof pick, work from the heel of the foot forward to the toe, removing with care any rocks, pebbles or objects stuck in the foot or shoe. Make sure you avoid the "frog" - the softer V-shaped part of the foot - as this is very sensitive!
Step 3: Brushing your horse
You'll need a rubber curry brush, a dandy brush and a body brush to groom your horse's coat thoroughly. Start with the curry brush, which is soft and thick enough to loosen any dirt and remove any hair if your horse is shedding its coat. Work in small circular motions around the body from the neck and barrel to the rump, avoiding any bony areas and any cuts or scrapes.
If you have a particularly hairy horse you should then move on to the dandy brush, a more hard-bristled brush which will take off the dirt loosened by the curry brush. Work in short flicking motions in the direction of hair growth. This brush is a little rough, so avoid using it around the face, ears and stomach, and don't use it on very long hair like the mane and tail - you'll come to these later.
Finally, the body brush is a softer brush which can be used on all areas of your horse, so brush the face and then work from the neck along to the rump. This is just designed to remove any leftover surface dust.
Step 4: Brushing the mane and tail
First, work through the long hair with your fingers to get any major tangles out - taking care to act cautiously and talk soothingly to your horse throughout the process. Then hold the hair and use a soft brush through the ends and up to the base, taking one small section at a time.
Grooming is more than a way to keep your horse clean, it also provides the ideal opportunity to check your horse for injury, assess condition and can be a great way to bond too. If you’re grooming your horse for any of the reasons above, it pays to have the correct kit to do a really top job. Most grooming kits are made up of the following brushes…
Body brushes can be used on summer coats and clipped horses as they’re soft…even if your horse has had his coat removed! The bristles are shorter and softer than dandy brushes and can be used to remove dust, scurf and dirt from the horse’s coat. Smaller body brushes can also be used on the face.
Dandy brushes are made from sturdy bristles that are ideal for brushing dried on mud away from a horse’s coat. As the bristles are harder than body brushes, horses with sensitive, fine coats and should be avoided. There are some longer, softer bristle versions that can be used on finer coats, which help to ‘flick’ dust away from the coat. Care should also be taken when used on horses’ legs to remove mud as overzealous brushing can bruise finer legs.
Mane and tail combs and brushes are, as the name suggests, designed for manes and tails. The brushes look a lot like hair brushes, but often have broader, tilted heads to allow you to brush more of the mane or tail quickly. Ideal for use with a conditioning spray or detangler spray.
Sweat scrapers helps to remove excess ‘wet’ from the coat, usually after washing. This helps the horse to dry.
Hoof pick is a must-have, to help keep your horse’s hooves clean and healthy. There are a few variations from the most basic to ones with brushes to flick loose dirt away.
Rubber, metal and plastic curry combs may have similar names, but they have different jobs. Rubber curry combs are great for removing mud from a coat, but are also ideal for the spring and summer when the horse loses his winter coat. Plastic curry comes can be used in a similar way, but the hard plastic bristles can be uncomfortable for sensitive skin, although they’re more robust if your horse has caked himself in mud! Metal curry combs should never be used on a horse- their purpose is to clean the body brush of loose hair between strokes.
Sponges are very handy to have in a grooming kit as they’re the perfect way to clean around the eyes, nose…and any other area! Make sure you label which sponge cleans which area as cleaning the horse’s eyes with something that’s been used for his nose is far from ideal.
Many people add other products to their grooming kits too, depending on their needs and the time of year, for example…
Bot knifes are really valuable in the summer months, to remove bot eggs from the legs.
Grooming blocks can be used when the horse is moulting, to remove loose hair.
Polishing mitts and stable rubbers remove surface dust and give the coat and shine, ready for any show ring.
Water brushes are a great way to dampen a mane, tail or coat. This can be pre-plaiting or before a tail bandage is applied. A water brush can also be used to spot treat stable stains.