Grooming is an essential and very important element of a horse’s overall health. A regular grooming routine ensures that your horse is able to maintain their immunity to certain diseases as grooming enhances the condition of their skin. So how do you go about grooming your horse? This is my step-by-step guide on how to groom a horse properly.
How to groom a horse properly?
Before getting started and grooming your horse, the first thing you need to do is ensure they have a comfortable but loose-fitting halter on with a lead rein. This provides you with better control of the horse when grooming. Tie your horse loosely to a ring or pole in a convenient spot. Ensure that the know-how to tie your horse using a safety release knot that can be easily undone.
Once you have tied your horse securely, these are my recommend steps for a thorough grooming routine:
- Loosen excess dirt and mud: this is done using a curry comb in circular motions. The comb sits in the palm of your hand and will allow you to apply the necessary pressure to loosen and remove any dirt on the horse’s coat. This also removes any dead skin from your horse’s coat and promotes better skin health and hair condition.
- Remove dirt and mud: now that all surface dirt is loosened from your horse’s coat, it’s time to remove it using a body brush that has hard bristles. Start from the top of your horse’s neck and use long strokes down the next and from top to bottom along your horse’s entire body. Make sure to avoid your horse’s body’s more sensitive areas with this hard bristle brush, such as their face, lower legs, and underbelly.
- Focus on more sensitive areas: with most of the dirt removed from the horse’s body, use a soft bristle body brush to remove all first in sensitive areas. Brush their face, around their ears, and down their legs, including around their fetlocks. Make sure not to forget brushing between their front legs and along their underbelly.
- Wipe the face: use a clean, damp cloth to wipe around your horse’s ears, eyes, and nose. Make sure to use gentle strokes for this part of the body. If you are grooming a few horses, thoroughly clean the cloth as the same cloth can spread bacteria between horses. Make sure also to wash your cloth between grooming days.
- Now for the mane and tail: the first step is to remove any large knots using your fingers. Take a portion of the hair in one hand at a time and use your other hand to brush below where you are holding. This prevents any discomfort to your horse from pulling on their hair. Make sure to keep your arm pressed against your horse (especially when grooming their tail) to ensure they know you are there. You could make sure of a detangling spray if your horse’s hair is challenging to remove the knots from. This also gives the horse’s mane and tail additional shine.
Note: never stand directly behind a horse as there is always a risk of being kicked.
- Now for the Hooves: to clean underneath your horse’s hooves, you need to lift your horse’s legs. Horses used to be groomed will usually lift their leg as you run your hand down their legs. If they don’t, you can prompt them to do so by gently squeezing the back of their tendon.
Once they have lifted their foot, support their left by cupping the front of the hoof in your hand. Use a hoof pick to remove and pick out any dirt and small stones. Make sure to do this in a downwards motion.
- And finally, the spray: depending on where you live and time of year, there may be many flies around which irritate your horse. Using fly spray after your horse has been groomed will prevent this and allow your horse to graze in the field or rest in their stable without the need to stomp and kick out to remove flies.
Horse Grooming Tips and Tricks
Now that we have covered the basic steps to follow, here are my top 10 tips and tricks to take your grooming routine to the next level.
- Nutrition first: while grooming every day will certainly improve the condition of your horse’s coat, nutrition is the key to a shiny and healthy coat. If your horse has a dull coat, it could mean they lack essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6. Adding ⅙ of a cup of oil to your horse’s diet every day will improve their coat and its shine.
- Don’t cut corners: putting in the hard work and time into grooming is the key to a well turned out horse, especially before a show. Grooming can be quite a workout, and you can expect to break a sweat possibly. It will all be worth it when your horse is in tip-top condition.
- Limit bathing your horse: although this may seem like a counterintuitive tip, washing your horse’s coat often can dull the shine. When you bathe your horse, make sure to do so using a good quality shampoo and conditioner.
- Provide shade: horses with darker coats are prone to their coats fading if they spend extended periods of time in the sun. Make sure to provide shade for your horse to graze underneath, or consider putting a light blanket on your horse when they are out in the field.
- Start from the top: when using a curry comb and body brush, make sure to start from the front and top of your horse and work your way down and along. This will make the most of your efforts in removing dirt.
- Keep your brushes clean: grooming brushes get dirty often and quickly. One grooming session of a dirty horse can leave them muddy and dusty. Clean your brushes between every few grooming sessions to ensure the best results. If you are grooming a particularly dirty horse, make sure to clean your brushes straight afterward.
- Baby powder for white accents: if your horse has white socks or stocks, dust them with baby powder to get them sparkling white. This also leaves your horse smelling amazing.
- Remove sweat: after exercise, sweat build up on your horse’s face can cause fungal hair loss. After sweating, it’s important to use a wet sponge to remove all sweat from the hair on their face. After working hard, your horse will also appreciate the cooling down.
- Use mane mouse: if you are training a mane to lie to one side or are braiding a mane for a show, mane mouse goes a long way to keep smaller hairs in place and hold more stubborn hair on the side you would like it.
- Let them roll: perhaps an unexpected tip on a grooming list, but it is important to let your horse roll in the dirt from time to time. Not only does this allow your horse the opportunity to relax and unwind, but dust and dirt are good for a horse’s coat from time to time.
How often should you groom a horse?
Daily grooming for your horse is recommended. When this is not possible, grooming at least three times a week is required to keep a horse’s coat in good condition. Regular grooming also allows you to closely examine your horse’s coat’s condition and ensure that you pick up any skin irritations, swelling, or possible cuts or grazes on their legs.
What do you use to groom a horse?
There is a varied array of brushes and tools you will need to groom your horse. These include:
- A curry comb: these brushes are commonly made of rubber and are oval in shape. Some may be made of metal. If using these, be sure to be gentle when grooming your horse, specifically across the ribs and other more bony areas of the horse’s body.
- A body brush: this brush has relatively hard bristles as it is used to remove the dust dislodged by the curry comb.
- A dandy brush: this brush is softer than a body brush and is used on more sensitive parts of the horse’s body such as the face, ears, legs, and underbelly.
- Mane and tail comb: these combs come in various shapes and sizes, from small steel combs to brushes similar to those used on dogs.
- Hoof pick: this is a hooked tool that is most commonly made of steel and is used to remove dirt and small stones from underneath a horse’s hooves.
- Cloth: every grooming kit needs a few clean clothes to wipe the horse’s face, particularly around the horse’s nose and mouth.
How do you groom a horse for show?
When preparing for a horse show, where you would like your horse to look its best, several grooming techniques are used to be show-ready. These include:
Plaiting: depending on what kind of show you are going to, you may need to braid your horse’s mane and tail. A horse’s tail is plaited using a French plait and, with a bit of practice, is fairly easy to master. A horse’s mane can either be pulled (a method of shortening your horse’s mane), or braided and rolled up into small balls along the neck.
Trimming: for a polished look, it’s important to trim the hair around your horse’s ears, chin, and around the bridle path. You can do this using clippers or scissors. This trimming can take a bit of practice, particularly under the chin, so make sure to do so before show day.
Washing: give your horse a full wash down one week before the show. Washing them can make their coat quite fluffy and so it’s best not to leave this step for the day before the show. You can do this using horse’s shampoo and a sponge to lather the soap and then rinse them off. On show day, after grooming your horse, apply baby powder to all their white markings to ensure they show up as sparkling white.
How long does it take to groom a horse?
The time it takes to groom a horse will depend on how dirty they are. The length of the horse’s hair and the color of their coat also greatly impact how easy it is to get them clean. While white and gray horses are beautiful, it can take much longer to get them looking clean.
If you groom your horse regularly, it takes approximately 20 minutes to groom them from start to finish. If you are prepping for an upcoming horse show, your grooming may take slightly longer as you will need to include trimming, clipping, and washing into your routine.
Why is it important to groom a horse?
The main reason grooming is so important is that it promotes and enhances a horse’s skin and coat. Grooming removes dead skin cells and dirt, which can cause skin irritations. It is also an opportunity for the groomer to closely inspect the horse and identify any issues, irritations, or small cuts and grazes.
While grooming has these practical benefits, it is also a wonderful opportunity for you to bond with your horse. Spending this quiet time in each other’s company allows you to become comfortable around one another and give you insights into any quirks or likes/dislikes your horse may have when it comes to being handled.