Stephanie is a graduate Pony Clubber, a rock climber, hiker, poet, writing tutor, belly dancer, yoga student, and gymnastics teacher.
Horses love to roll in the dirt, mud, and whatever else they can get into. Grooming should be a part of your daily care routine, as it allows you to check the horse for cuts and other injuries, and it's a wonderful way to spend time with your horse. Always groom your horse before you ride him, especially around the girth and saddle area. Dirt between the horse's skin and the tack can cause girth rubs and saddle sores.
Horse Grooming Supplies You'll Need
A basic grooming kit includes the following:
- hoof pick
- body brush
- soft brush (finishing brush)
- mane and tail comb
- curry comb
Many riders also carry:
- hoof oil
- mane and tail detangler
- sweat scraper
- a shedding brush
5 Steps to Grooming a Horse
Make sure that your horse is safely secured in cross ties, in a safe, clean aisle. Make sure that your grooming kit is far off to the side, and that nothing else is on the ground around the horse's feet.
For each step, start at the horse's neck and move down the body. Begin on the left, and then brush the right side.
1. Use the curry comb to work the dirt and loose hair to the top of the coat.
- Press the curry comb gently in a circular motion.
- Do not use the curry comb on the bony parts of the horse, such as the face or legs.
2. Use the body brush to remove the dirt and excess hair.
- Drag the brush in the direction of the hair.
- With short, quick strokes, catch the dirt, and then at the end of the stoke, turn the brush so that the bristles flick the dirt into the air.
- You can use this brush over most of the horse's body, but some sensitive horses may not like this brush used on their legs or face.
3. Use the soft brush, or finishing brush, to remove any leftover dust from the horse's coat.
- You can use a soft brush on any part of the horse.
- Use it the same as the body brush; follow the direction of the horse's hair with short, quick strokes.
4. Comb the horse's mane and tail.
- Most riders don't comb the horse's mane and tail every time they groom the horse, although it's not a bad idea. If you put off combing the mane and tail, it just takes longer the next time you do comb the mane and tail!
- Always start at the end of the hair and work your way to the roots.
- Never stand directly behind the horse to brush out his tail. Stand next to his rump and bring the tail over to the side to brush it.
- Plastic combs cause less breakage of the hair, but they do not last as long as the metal combs.
5. Pick the horse's feet.
- Picking the horse's feet is one of the most important steps of grooming a horse. See below for how to pick a horse's feet.
How to Pick the Horse's Feet
Because the bottom of the hoof is concave, stones can become trapped and cause bruising on the horse's sole. A stone bruise can cause lameness in the horse, and can sometimes cause abscesses and other problems in the foot.
- To pick the hoof (front legs), stand next to the horse's leg, facing the horse's hindquarters.
- With the hoof pick in one hand, firmly run your thumb and forefinger along each side of the tendons in the forearm.
- Give the horse a verbal command such as "up," and as the horse relaxes his leg, wrap your hands around the front of the fetlock to support the leg.
- Use the hoof pick to remove any dirt or rocks from the hoof. The triangular shape in the center of the foot is called the frog, do not jab this with the hoof pick! Carefully work around the frog.
- Brush the rest of the dirt down to the sole of the hoof.
- Gently lower the hoof back down to the ground.
Repeat on the hooves.
It may be difficult to convince your horse to pick up the hoof. Ask for assistance before getting frustrated, especially with a stubborn pony!
- Many horses are uncomfortable when you brush beneath their belly. As long as you thoroughly brush the girth area, you don't need to brush the horse's stomach every time. However, there are times when will be caked mud under his belly, or he is shedding, and you'll want to carefully brush the area. Watch his back legs closely as you do this, because you may be surprised how flexible your horse is with his back legs!
- Walk in front of the horse, instead of behind the horse.
Horse Grooming Tips for Show Day
In the May 2005 issue of Horse & Rider magazine, we gave you an all-inclusive show-day checklist to help you get organized and ward off those pre-show jitters. We included a comprehensive list of grooming supplies you'll need to keep your horse looking his best on show day. Now that you have all your grooming tools, follow these tips from the pros to make your horse shine in the show ring:
Show-day shine starts at home, not at the show. Use these pros
Mane and Tail
On the morning of your show, apply Mane 'n Tail shampoo and conditioner to your horse's mane and tail. After his mane and tail are wet, use a comb, rather than a brush, to prevent hair breakage. Then braid his tail and put it in a tube sock to keep it clean. Right before your class, apply a spray-on coat conditioner for extra shine and brush his tail vigorously.
Matt Mills, Matt Mills Reining Horses, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Face and Ears
The day before your show, clip your horse's nose, eyes, ears, chin and bridle path. On show day, check and trim any stray hairs and thoroughly bathe him. (Enhance your horse's light or white coat and/or markings with a product like Quic Silver shampoo.) Then wipe baby oil over his ear, nose and eye areas to add shine. Just before entering the arena, run a clean rag over his face to remove any dirt or sweat.
Andrea Fappani, Fappani Performance Horses, Temecula, Calif.
A beautiful coat starts at home, not at a show. Excellent nutrition and regular deworming make for a healthy coat. After every workout, bathe him with Healing Tree Private Reserve Tea Tree shampoo, then apply a leave-on rinse: 2 tablespoons each of Healing Tree Private Reserve Tea Tree conditioner and Vetrolin liniment mixed into a half-gallon bucket of warm water. At shows, repeat this process, adding a silicone-based finishing product, such as Cowboy Magic Detangler & Shine for extra shine.
Mary Jane Brown, Diamond B Training, Newberg, Ore.
Feet and Legs
One week before a show, bathe your horse with an equine shampoo. Then clip his legs--this lead time will allow any clipper irritation to heal. On the morning of your show, use a sanding block on each hoof to create an even surface. Then use black SuperShine Hoof Polish, even on light hooves--it really makes white markings stand out. After the polish dries, apply Hoof Polish Enhancer, a clear lacquer that seals the color.
Rusty Green, Rusty Green Quarter Horses, Richmond, Ind.
A week before showing, wash your horse's white legs and large white markings with Pro Steps Brilliance shampoo. Three days before a show, clip the white markings on his legs and face as close to the skin as possible. One day before a show, bathe him the morning of a show, bathe him again to ensure he's perfectly clean. While he's still damp, apply Pro Stepps finishing spray on his legs and body. (Avoid applying this product to your horse's face--it could irritate his eyes.) Wait until he's completely dry and then apply baby powder--the kind with cornstarch--on his legs to enhance whiteness. Apply polo wraps from his knees to his coronet bands and don't remove them until you reach the in-gate.
Mike Hachtel, Esouela Ranch, Helenville, Wisc.
Must-Have Grooming Essentials
"Your grooming kit should not be overflowing you can keep it really simple and really easy," says Gude as she outlines what every horse owner should have in their horse grooming kit.
Whether you corral your products in a bucket, a small toolbox, a backpack, a work apron or a handled box with different compartments, essential grooming tools include:
- Hoof pick (with a brush on the end)
- Rubber curry comb or pair of grooming gloves
- Body brush (based on your horse's preference)
- Human hairbrush (or similar)
- Washcloths/grooming rags
- Equine coat conditioner
- Equine hair detangler
- Equine dry shampoo
- Curved scraper with rubber edge
And finally, remember that adding a skin and coat supplement to their feeding program can help promote a healthy, shiny coat.
Let's run through the grooming tools list and see how a professional groom makes smart choices.
The Soft brush also known as the Body brush can be used on all areas of the horse due to its softer bristles. This brush is used to finish off your horse's coat and give it a softened, shiny feel. It’s also great for brushing out the mane and the tail.
You need to use this brush in long, smooth strokes, starting at the head and working your way along the body and down the legs. Use quicker sweeping motions on the lower leg to remove dirt where it was too sensitive for the Hard brush. It’s also useful to use along the bridge of the nose and the cheeks but be careful to avoid the end of the nose and the eyes as these are all very sensitive areas. Some people prefer to use a separate brush for the face, which is just a smaller version, called a Face brush.