In many disciplines, grooming is an important part of competition. But it’s even more important as part of your horse’s daily routine. Grooming provides valuable insight into what mood he’s in prior to riding, and gives you the opportunity to check for any sore or tender spots. It’s also a nice chance to “touch base” with each other before you mount up.
Here are some tips to make grooming your equine friend not only efficient but a wonderful bonding experience as well.
1. Invest in quality tools. Although the initial cost is much higher, good tools can last years with the right care.
2. Size and design is important. If the tool is not comfortable for you to use, chances are your grooming sessions will become short and infrequent. Some brands are designed for a woman’s hand.
3. Understand that each horse is an individual. Some enjoy a stiffer brush and pressure while others require softer bristles and a light touch.
4. Be careful with the mane and tail. Try to avoid breaking these specialized hairs with rough handling as it can take years for them to grow back to that length. Don’t over-wash. I wash my horse’s tail and mane with shampoo about once a month but don’t use any conditioner or products that might attract dust.
5. Find a routine that works for you and your horse and stick to it. What becomes a habit is efficient and soothing to both horse and human.
6. After riding, if weather permits, hose your horse off. It gets rid of the sweat that attracts flies and can make the horse itchy. I use water with no shampoo so I don’t strip the good body oils from the coat. During the colder winter months, you may want to wash off the legs only, and use the rubber curry and brush to keep the coat clean. A damp wash cloth works well to wipe off the face, eyes and behind the ears where horses often sweat.
7. Spring shedding requires extra support. To help your horse shed his winter coat, give him a bath, wait until he is half dry and then proceed with the rubber curry and brush. The dampness in the coat helps loosen the hairs better than when the coat is dry. Within a few weeks you’ll find your horse is cooler and has shed a good deal of his long winter hairs.
8. Keep your tools clean. Clean brushes monthly with a very mild dish soap, rinse really well and place them bristle side down to dry completely. Because the brushes will be touching your horse, be sure to use a mild or natural soap product. You should also consider washing saddle pads and leg wraps on a weekly basis.
Developing a good grooming routine will serve both you and your horse well. While a beautiful, healthy coat begins on the inside with good nutrition, grooming maximizes its potential and provides wonderful emotional benefits for both horse and rider.
For basic grooming tools and techniques, see chart below.