Grooming a horse is a rite of passage for new riders. Not only is it an important part of bonding with your horse, but it’s a care routine that all riders should know how to carry out; knowing how to inspect and clean your horse regularly ensures that they are fit and healthy. It’s especially important when you want your horse to be ready and relaxed before a big event.
How often should I groom my horse?
You may get varying answers depending on who you ask. Once per week is good enough to keep most horses feeling happy and healthy. Some riders like to groom their horse before each ride to ensure they are relaxed and comfortable before heading out. It also depends on other factors, such as what season it is or how stable your horse is.
For instance, in the winter, it’s best not to over-groom your horse, as it can strip their skin of natural essential oils and the waterproofing abilities of their skin that protect them in the cold climate. Also, if your horse lives in an outside environment with a herd rather than in a stable, you might have to groom your horse a lot less frequently, as horses in herds like to groom each other as part of a social ritual.
If you plan on eventing or show jumping, you might need a more thorough bathing and styling routine, which we’ll cover in a future post,
Horse Grooming Kit
A short-toothed comb is often made of rubber or plastic to “curry” or rub the horse to loosen hair, dust, and debris, as well as stimulate blood flow and the production of natural oils.
They are usually used in circular or quick, k-short motions in the direction of the hairs. It is used all over the horse's body except the head and the legs.
- Dandy brush
A longer, stiffer, bristled brush that removes the debris brought up by the curry comb. Often made with plastic bristles or natural fibers such as rice stems. It is used all over the horse's body except the head and the legs.
- Body brush
Soft-bristled brush that removes grease from the horse’s coat, as well as soothing its muscles. It is made with natural fibers such as goathair, horsehair boar bristles, or soft synthetic fibers.
Used in long sweeping strokes to smooth the coat, and rubbed intermittently with a metal curry comb so the dust doesn't find its way back to the coat. It can be used all over the body. Smaller versions can be used more carefully on the horse’s face.
- Metal curry comb
They are chiefly used to clear the other grooming brushes.
- Mane brush/comb
It is used on the horse’s mane to clear out tangles and sometimes even to style it. The comb works for horses with shorter manes because of its wide teeth, while a mane brush similar to a human brush is better suited to longer-maned horses.
They are used to wet down the horse and wash large areas of the body and legs, as well as to clean the more delicate areas of a horse and even to clean wounds. Dampen the sponge and apply in small, gentle motions for delicate areas and broader motions for larger areas. A separate sponge can be used for the dock and groin areas.
- Hoof pick
- Stable Rubber
Step by Step
Tie up your horse to a post or beam, preferably a point that is higher than its withers, so it stays in one place. A quick-release knot such as the highwayman’s hitch should be used so that in case of an emergency, the horse is able to free itself easily.
Clean the Hooves. To do this, you must first lift its leg by standing at its side, facing the opposite direction to the horse adjacent to the leg you want to lift. Run your hand down its foreleg until you are cupping the hoof, and slowly lean in, which should cause it to lift its foot. You can also try gently squeezing the sloping part between the hoof and the fetlock. Next, gently run the pick back to front around the fleshy V, inside the shoe, or (if barefooted) around the edge of the bottom of the hoof. This is also a good time to check for injuries, infections (like thrush), or cracks.
Curry the horse beginning on the left side using circular motions, working from ear to tail (avoiding the head, mane, tail, and lower legs) with gentle pressure to loosen any dirt. Take care as you go over any bony areas, such as the shoulders, hips, and legs. If the horse flattens its ears or swishes its tail, that means it is indicating discomfort, so please feel free to let me know. Also, you can use this time to check for any cuts or abrasions.
Brush away with the dandy brush with short flicking motions to whisk away the debris. Follow the same areas and guidelines as the curry comb, following the direction of hair growth.
Body brushing adds a nice, luxurious shine and can be used on the head, face, and legs. Use long sweeping strokes in the direction of hair growth to smooth down hairs and shorter sweeping strokes on the lower legs.
Sensitive Areas such as the eyes, ears, and muzzle require a damp sponge or stable rubber and a gentle hand. You can use a separate one for the under-the-tail area (dock). This is also a good time to check for eye infections, excessive tearing, swelling, or redness, and check the ears for dirt.
Comb the mane and tail by carefully detangling, beginning with your fingers, then going in with the comb, starting from the bottom upwards. Avoid tugging. When combing the tail, be sure to stand to the side, clear of the kicking range.
And that’s it! This is a great basic hygiene routine that any good rider should be able to execute. Happy riding!