Basic Horse Grooming for the Beginner

Keeping your horse clean and comfortable is crucial to the health of your animal. Lets face it, unless you are a rough and tumble five year old, being dirty and mud caked is uncomfortable. Having tangled hair and toenails embedded with pebbles and poop can be downright painful! In this article I will outline the basic grooming tools you will need to avoid having your horse or pony suffer any of these situations. There are also many household items you can use to keep your equine friend looking fabulous and feeling spiffy!

Step 1. Safety should always be your main concern. Horses are large animals, they are strong and being prey animals have a strong “fight or flight”, instinct. You should make sure your horse has been trained to tie. Your horse should be accustomed to being tied to a safe and securely fixed structure. Cross tying is ideal. Cross tying consists of having a lead clipped to either side of the cheek rings on the horses halter. Each tie is fixed to a post on either side of the horses head.

Always use a safety knot, so you can quickly release your horse in case of an emergency.

Step 2. Have all of your grooming tools close by and out of range of the horses hooves, so they may not step on them.
Step 3. The first tool you will use is the curry comb. These are usually round and come in plastic, rubber, or metal. They have pronounced teeth for loosening caked on dirt or mud. When used correctly, they also offer itch relief and massage the skin underneath your horses coat. They should be used in a circular motion and with some pressure. Never use them where there is pronounced bone. They should never be used on the face or legs. I prefer to use rubber. There is more give to the comb, there is less chance of hurting your horse, and the massage effect on the skin is greater.

Step 4. After you have loosened the dirt and dandruff on the coat, the next brush you should use is a stiff bristle brush. These brushes are also called dandy brushes. They are usually oblong and have a handle to slip on your hand. These brushes can be used to loosen dirt on the legs and face. When dealing with these areas be very gentle, and make sure your horse is accustomed to having these parts of his body handled. When using to loosen dirt, use in a circular or scrubbing motion. When using on the body, use short flicking strokes to whisk away dandruff, dust, and loose dirt.

Step 5. After you have removed all loose particles on the coat, a soft long bristle brush is used. These brushes are usually a long oval shape to fit the hand. They are sometimes called face brushes. These brushes are for the more sensitive parts of your horse, and are also used to bring a shine on the coat. Use in long sweeps along your horses body. These brushes help to spread the oils that the curry and the dandy brush brought out. They are also very effective on the face. They are so soft you can even run them over your horses muzzle and inside the ear.

Step 6. Main and tail comb. These combs are made of plastic, rubber, or metal. I prefer rubber, or plastic. These combs should have wide, large spaced teeth. A horses main and tail are their crowning glory, and take a long time to grow out. You should take care not to pull any hair out when grooming these areas. I like to spray a detangler through the main and tail. You can use brands you find at your local feed or tack store. I use whatever is on sale at the grocery store, or rob the bathroom and use my childrens! They are often just as effective and a fraction of the price. After thouroughly dousing the tail with detangler, grab a handful and begin picking the knots out. This is tedious work and can take a very long time, depending on the length and thicknes of the tail. When working on the tail, stand to the side of the horse and gentley pull the tail to the side with you. You should never stand directely behind the animal, no matter how well mannered. After you have picked all of the knots out you can either hand comb the tail or gentely pull a comb through it. I always hand comb. Repeat these steps on the main, and forelock.

Step 7. The hooves. I will explain how to clean out a horses hoof. You, however, should not attempt to perform this task without having your farrier, or an experienced horse person physically show you how to lift the leg and clean the hoof. The hoof pick is probably one of the most important pieces of equipment you will use to keep your horse healthy. Damaged mis treated hooves lead to lameness, and even death if a serious illness or injury occurs. Regular upkeep by a farrier is imperative.
The hoof picks I choose are usually stainless steel. They have a pick shape to one side and a small stiff brush attached to the other side of the hook. The pick is uses to remove rocks, dirt, and manure. The brush is to flick the loose dirt off of the sole, and to brush off the horses frog. When you lift the hoof, look at the bottom.

There is a triangle shaped, protruding growth in the middle of the sole. This is called the frog, and contains many nerve endings. You should never stick your pick into this area. Clean it with a brush. You can easily quick your horse. This means to injur the frog causing pain and lameness. The rest of the hoof has very little nerve endings. Push the pick under the impacted dirt and pull down. Never pull the pick towards you. You can loosen embedded rocks this way also. If a rock is so embedded that you cannot remove it, call your farrier.

Step 8. A damp cloth can be used to clean any crustiness out of your horses eyes or notrils. To shine your horse, use a fabric softener sheet. Run it all over your horse for a smooth shiny coat. Caution: never use the sheet on the area which will be under saddle. Even more important, if you are riding bareback, never run the sheet over the back or sides. The sheet can make the coat very slippery! There are many coat conditioners and shiners at your local feed or tack store. I have found the low cost products usually work as well as the more expensive. Unless you are performing in a horse show or some sort of exhibition, coat shiners are not very important, and can sometimes cause dust to stick to the coat. They are usually applied directley before entering the arena at a show.

Now that your horse is clean, you are ready to ride! Even if your aren’t riding, if your horse is a pasture ornament or a companion horse, daily grooming is essential.

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