One of the most important aspects of caring for your horse is maintaining a grooming routine.
Proper grooming directly improves your horse's health. When you keep a grooming schedule, your horse's skin and coat will look healthy and clean.
Allowing dirt and mud to cake on your horse's hair can lead to skin issues and irritation, which can in turn lead to performance and behavioral issues.
With this in mind, let's start with our ultimate guide to horse grooming. You will learn how to groom your horse in order maintain a healthy coat, and what tools every equestrian needs in their grooming tool box.
Spring Horse Grooming
Spring grooming is incredibly important to maintaining your horse's health. With the remnants of their winter coat leaving the opportunity for dirt and bacteria to take hold and wreak havoc.
The practice of clipping, bathing, and brushing your horse is the way you can prevent this from happening.
Along with the removal of dirt and it's abundance of bacteria and pathogens, regular grooming will improve your horse's blood circulation and promote healthy oils.
While a long winter coat is important during the cold winter months, it must be appropriately handled come spring.
In fact, leaving your horse's coat long can lead to issues when they are worked in warmer temperatures. A horse with a long coat raises their body temperature quicker and cools down slower. Numerous horse's are stricken with heat exhaustion or worse every year.
Long hair additionally maintains moisture longer which creates the perfect environment for the growth and spread of bacteria.
Shedding your horse's winter coat
There are numerous tools and techniques available to groom away that long winter coat. Later in the article will go into detail on the tools.
Regardless of which tools you decide to use, spring grooming requires your attention. If your horse is left to shed naturally, the winter coat may remain for months after the last snow fall.
The most used method by horseman is taking a curry comb or shedding blade and brushing out your horses entire coat.
This method is very effective, but takes a significant amount of time. The time is often a positive as it allows you time to work with your horse and check for injuries.
At the beginning of spring, it is recommended that you brush out your horse daily. It can take multiple sessions before the winter coat will be completely removed.
Many choose instead to do a full body clipping to remove their horse's winter coat. This method requires a quality set of body clippers and a horse who is not afraid of the buzz of clippers.
While using body clippers is much faster than grooming by hand, you will still need to bathe and brush your horse to remove loose hairs from the coat.
Winter grooming comes with unique challenges. Depending on whether you work your horse in the winter or they spend the colder months out in the pasture, your grooming strategy will differ.
Horses who spend the majority of the winter outside require the natural oils of the coat to repel moisture and snow.
Because of this, it is not recommended to clip horses who spend their winters outside. Instead, maintaining a daily or bi-daily brushing schedule is best.
In addition to regular brushing, once a week take a bucket of warm water and using a clean cotton cloth, rub down your horse using a circular motion. Ensure you change the water as necessary as it will get dirty quickly.
Make sure to rinse the cloth frequently. This will remove the deep down dirt that accumulates deep down in your horses long, winter hair.
It is important to prevent mud and dirt from accumulating on your horse's coat.
Additionally, if you blanket your horse, it is incredibly important to keep the blankets clean and free from mud and dirt.
Working horses winter grooming
If you show your horses throughout the winter, you will instead maintain a grooming routine similar to your spring routine.
It is highly important to make sure your horse's coat does not get wet while being exposed to low temperatures.
With a clipped coat, the horse will not be able to repel water effectively and will not be able to maintain safe body temperatures.
Horse's who are clipped in the winter must be blanketed and kept very clean. It is also not recommended that they remain outside without access to cover overnight.
With the proper grooming schedule and attention to your horses body temperature, it is quite possible to maintain a short coat during the winter.
Horse Grooming Tools
Having a fully stocked groom kit is easy once you know what each of the tools is for. With the following gear you will be able to maintain a healthy coat on your horse year round.
Metal Curry Combs and Mud Brushes
Mud brushes are great if your horse is caked with dried mud. Coming with strong, stiff bristles, a mud brush is essential in every horse owner's grooming kit.
In addition to a mud brush, a metal curry comb does a good job of removing hardened mud. It is recommended to use a curry comb when the mud is less thick than when using a mud brush.
A mud brush (top) has stiff bristles (either natural fibers or synthetic) that are useful for removing thick or caked-on mud. Skip the mud brush if your horse isn’t overly dirty. Some people find a metal curry comb (bottom) useful for removing caked-on mud on fleshy areas of horses, such as the shoulder or hind quarters (rather than sensitive areas such as the legs and face), but many horse people reserve it for cleaning off brushes rather than horses.
Shedding Blades and Shedding Blocks
When removing long winter hair, there is no better tool than a shedding blade or shedding block.
Shedding blades come in numerous shapes and sizes but they all have some form of handle in which a serrated blade is embedded.
Shedding blocks are hand held stiff blocks with indentations that grab long hairs and remove them from the coat.
Rubber Curry Combs
Made with a stiff rubber, curry brushes are used in a circular motion on the horse's body. They help loosen and remove long hairs and dirt.
Because of the stiffness of the rubber, take care when using it on sensitive areas of your horse.
Once your horse is free of caked on dirt and long loose hairs, you will want to use a dandy brush to remove any remaining dirt and hairs left in the coat.
Dandy brushes come in a variety of types. Grab a few sizes so you can brush the main body in addition to your horse's legs.
A face brush is made of soft bristles, both natural and synthetic material, used to gently brush away dirt and loose hairs from your horse's face, around the eyes, and around the muzzle
Body Brush and Finishing Brush
Used once the majority of dirt is removed, a finishing brush is used to bring the horse's coat to a natural shine. Brush the direction the hair grows to finish off grooming the body of your horse.
Mane brushes are very similar to a human hair brush. Simply start at the bottom of the horses mane and work your way through the hair. Be careful to gently brush out any knots and dirt as to not break the hair.
Before using a tail brush, run your fingers through the tail, being careful to work out any large snarls. Then run the tail rake through the hairs until it is soft and snarl free.
No grooming guide would be complete without mentioning a hoof pick. Your horse's hoofs should be picked every time you groom them. Preventing lameness is an important part of grooming your horse. Owning a few quality hoof picks and learning how to properly use them will help you ensure your horse's feet remain healthy and injury free.