Grooming is such an important part of providing adequate horse care and your stabled horse should have a thorough groom at least once a day with an additional tidy up after riding if applicable.
Horse’s that live out need a slightly different approach. They rely on their coats for warmth and protection and therefore as an owner you must be careful not to over-groom your horse if they live out. This is not a situation where you will be pulling out the grooming kit frequently. Grooming can remove essential oils and grease that act as a barrier against the elements, something a horse that lives out relies on to stay protected, comfy, and warm.
Horses that live in and are stabled require much more maintenance in regards to horse care. You need to ensure your horse has a daily grooming routine, ideally around the same time each day. So why do I need to groom my horse I hear you say?
Why do I need to groom a horse?
- Improves your horse’s skin and coat condition as well as their overall appearance. Don’t ever expect not to turn up at the barn one morning and for your horse to be poo stain free! Grooming kit definitely required!
- Cleans areas where riding tack may come into with. If you put a saddle on a horse who has a dry muddy back, this isn’t going to be very comfortable for them
- A good opportunity to give your horse a health check and identify any lumps, bumps, cuts, bruises and swelling. Therefore decreasing health issues – Horse veterinary care can be expensive so a thorough groom is important
- Helps to form a bond between you and your horse. A way for you to build trust and gain their respect, which in turn can help with safer handling in general
- To stimulate circulation. By giving your horse a thorough groom you are providing your horse with a full pamper experience. It massages the large muscles groups and increases blood flow to the surface of the skin
So now we’ve looked at the why. Let’s look at the different types of grooming options on offer to your horse?
Types of Grooming
- Brushing Off – there are two main reasons for brushing a horse off. The first is, what is classed as the final quick groom of the day, that’s gets your horse set for a night in the stable. The second is for a horse that lives out. Remember I mentioned that a horse that lives out would not need so much grooming? Well a quick brush off to make your horse comfortable and presentable for riding is ideal for a grass kept horse.
- Quartering – This is classed as the first groom of the day for a stable kept horse. It is vital for keeping your horse happy, healthy, clean and ailment free. Full details of this type of groom are detailed further below.
- Strapping – This is known as a ‘full’ groom of a stable kept horse. It is usually carried out after exercise when the pores of the skin are open, allowing more dirt and grease to be removed. Strapping can take up to an hour and will involve all of the steps as Quartering in addition to banging and wisping – (see this video)
So what do I need to groom?
There are many pieces of a grooming kit that be purchased. The main ones you would be looking for are:
- Head Collar / Halter and Lead Rope
- Body Brush
- Dandy Brush
- Rubber Curry Comb
- Plastic Curry Comb
- Mane and Tail Comb
- X 3 Sponges
- Metal Curry Comb (only for cleaning your other brushes)
- Sweat Scraper (for removing excessive water in your horses fur)
We’re now going to take a look at the process of grooming, in step by step instructions and will look specifically at ‘quartering’ which is likely to be the first groom of your horse’s day.
1. Tie your horse
Always remember, it’s safety first when it comes to horse care. You want to ensure before you start grooming that you have your grooming kit to hand and your horse is tied up securely. Trying to pick out hooves with a hoof pick whilst your horse is wandering around doing their own thing is not only difficult to accomplish, but not very safe for either of you. Using a head collar ‘aka halter’ and lead rope with a quick release knot is always the best way.
Make sure that you are not tying your horse directly to a solid object such as a tie ring or gate. If your horse were to spook at something or try to move away quickly, they wouldn’t be able to free themselves and could end up breaking their necks!
Always attach the lead rope to bailing twine and then attach that to the solid object. That way if an emergency situation occurred the twine would snap when your horse pulled. Take a look at this video for a complete visual of how to do this – (see video here)
2. Hoof Picking
The very first step with any type of groom is to pick out your horses feet. Horses have a tendency to pick up lots of mud, bedding and stones in the soles of their hooves, which can be uncomfortable and sore if left there. Always use a hoof pick for this job and make sure you are aware of your horse’s body language for safety, as you put yourself in a vulnerable position when picking out feet. Horses are known to kick out with both their front and back legs so when picking up the hooves be sure to run your hands down the front of their back legs and the back of their front legs to avoid getting your arm snapped off if they were to kick out.
Remove any stones, mud, and debris from the hoof wall gently with the hoof pick, moving from heel to toe, and do not use the hoof pick at the center of the hoof, known as the frog (the V shape). Picking out horses hooves with a hoof pick takes practice and believe it or not you can potentially do a lot of damage to their feet if you are not careful. Check out this great video out that gives a detailed instruction of how to pick out a horses hooves and use the hoof pick correctly – (see video here)
3. Remove Loose Hair
When removing loose hair on your horse’s body, Rubber Curry Combs are usually the best choice. Since they are made of rubber you can really get stuck in to all that dirt and grime on your horses coat and it works as a massaging tool that a lot of horses really love. Since this is something most horses do like, it can be a great bonding tool as well as the start of getting your horse spotlessly clean. The curry comb should be used in a circular motion on the main part of your horses body (ideally not the face, legs, mane or tail) and if used correctly can stimulate the natural oils of the hair roots, resulting in a super shiny coat.
Don’t be afraid to have a good go at this and get stuck in, your horse will more than likely be lapping this up. Take a look at this video that explains this step further – (see video here)
4. Brushing Legs
Dandy brushes (otherwise known as hard brushes) are a great way to clean up your horse’s legs, particularly for those very hairy horses with thick feathers. Your horse’s legs tend to get very muddy and dirty, particularly after a trip to the field and a dandy brush is ideal to clean off that mud and dirt thanks the long thick bristles. A Dandy brush has very hard thick bristles and is great for brushing legs, but not so ideal for using over the main parts of the body which are likely to be too sensitive for these types of brushes.
Always use a dandy brush in a downwards movement and face yourself to the horse rather than their behind so you can monitor their body language and sensitivity levels. Check this quick video on how to properly use a dandy brush on your horse – (see video here)
5. Body Brushing
The Body Brush (otherwise known as the soft brush) can be used all over your horse’s body to remove loose hair, mud, grease and dust. Once you have used the rubber curry comb and dandy brush on the main parts of your horse’s body and legs, you can really finish off these areas by giving your horse a thorough going over with the body brush.
The body brush can also be used on your horses face and other sensitive areas thanks to its soft bristles, and smaller versions of body brushes are sold specifically for your horse’s face, which is helpful for going around your horse’s eyes and ears. The body brush leaves your horse with a nice all round finish, removing any excess hairs and leaving the coat shiny and smooth. Take a look at this video for more info about using the body brush on your horse – (see video here)
6. Cleaning Eyes, Nose and Dock
Cleaning your horse’s eyes, nose and dock often get forgotten during a grooming session. They are one of the most important areas to clean. Your horse’s eyes and nose can often get dry, crusty, boogers (sorry not nice, but true) that need to be cleaned up. The best way to tackle this is with a good old trusty sponge. Try to use separate sponges for each to avoid any cross contamination and take a gentle approach. Many horses are not keen on any grooming or cleaning of their face. One bad experience can last them a lifetime, making this process much more difficult for you.
You can try to clean a horse’s dock and tail with a sponge (a different one again from the one you used for the eyes and nose). Or get rid of stable stains with a water brush, but the most successful and thorough way is by washing the tail completely. The dock can be cleaned with horse shampoo and then hosed down afterwards for the ultimate deep clean. Horse Shampoo can also help condition your horse’s locks, making it much easier to brush. You can even use a bucket of water to dip the tail into if you find this easier, but it will not fully clean the dock area. Check out this great tail washing instructional video – (see video here)
7. Mane and Tail
There are various pieces of grooming kit that can be used to brush the mane and tail. A plastic curry comb is often a good option for horses with very thick, coarse hair. A mane and tail comb provides a more precise tidy up for horses with much finer hair. A body brush allows for a good brush but is still gentle enough on your horse’s mane and tail to prevent hairs being pulled out. When brushing the mane, brush a few sections of hair at a time. If the hair is really thick then start pushing it all to the non-usual side and brushing it back again.
When brushing the tail, always stand to the side of the horse. It is not a good idea to stand directly behind them, in case they kick out. Before brushing the tail, make sure it has fully dried before attempting to start. Although a good go of the horse shampoo beforehand can work wonders for a smooth and silky mane and tail . Work through the tail with the body brush or plastic curry comb in sections as you did for the mane.
It is a wise idea for very thin tails to just work through the tangles with your fingers. Brushing can instigate further hair loss. With very thick tails, that are hard to brush through, it is wise to invest in a horse detangler spray. Over brushing the mane or tail unnecessarily can be disastrous. Once it’s gone, it’s quite often gone. It can take a long time to grow back, if at all.
7. Finishing Touches
There are some finishing touches some horse owners like to make at the end of a grooming session depending on the circumstances. For instance, in the summer months it’s necessary to fly spray your horse to give them relief from flies, biting insects and constant pests. Horses can become quite agitated with flies and biting insects. If they get bitten by a biggie, you will most certainly know about it, especially if you happen to be riding!
This is particularly important when turning your horse out to graze, as they tend to get plagued even more frequently. Give your horse a good spray all over. You can even buy fly gels nowadays for horses that are not keen on sprays.
Plaiting might also figure in your horse grooming routine if you are going to a show or competition. It helps to keep your horse’s mane and tail out the way whilst they are competing. If I must say, makes them look super handsome! Plaiting can be fiddly and takes a lot of time to perfect, but when you get it right, it looks awesome!
Take a look at this cool tail plaiting video for inspiration! (see video here)
Final Grooming Thoughts
- Safety around horses is a must. Keep your grooming area tidy and free from hazards. Always tie your horse up before taking part in grooming activities for the safety of both you and your horse.
- Be careful not to over groom a horse that lives out (one that isn’t stabled). They rely on the grease and dirt in their coats for protection against the elements.
- If you are unsure or feeling uneasy about picking out a horses hooves, always ask for help from an experienced person. You can do a lifetimes worth of damage to a horses hoof if you get it wrong and leave yourself in an unsafe situation.
- Never use hard brushes such as, a dandy brush, plastic or metal curry comb on sensitive parts of the horse’s body. If in doubt, opt for a body brush.
- Avoid over brushing your horses mane and tail. They don’t tend to grow back very quickly, I repeat, they don’t grow back very quickly!