Best of all, your horse learns to enjoy, relax and bond with you. Coddling your horse during regular grooming sessions is therapeutic and strengthens your mutual bond.
Approach grooming as a pleasant task for both of you. If your horse is fidgety, do not get impatient with him, yank him around or yell at him; and never hit him – make this time pleasurable. Grooming is the perfect time to be kind, calm and collected – let your horse fall in love with you! And just like dog and cat boarding and training, you should also train your horse. This is to keep your horse healthy and strong.
It is during grooming time that you encourage the horse to “step over,” “move up,” or “pick up.” Manners taught in an authoritative but calm voice (using same words every time) translate into a happy horse and one that will not crowd or step on the groomer. Use the same commands, given clearly and calmly, each time you ask him to move. (It is the neatest thing when the horse holds up a foot even before he is asked to “pick up.”)
Always use the same safe location for grooming. Halter him and cross tie him at this grooming station each time he is groomed.
- Start with a curry brush, an oval-shaped rubber grooming tool with grooves. Use small circular motions, applying steady, comforting pressure, starting at the top of the neck and working down and across his body, under his belly and shanks, briskly working in tight circles. Do not use the curry on his legs since there is minimal soft tissue and the curry’s pressure is hurtful on his bones and joints. Complete one side of his body and then curry the other side.
- (If you prefer, curry and brush at the same time, using alternate strokes. This is a great time saving and effective method of grooming. To use curry and brush simultaneously, hold curry in one hand and a medium-bristle brush in the other, stroke first with the curry and follow over that stroke with the brush. Repeat curry and bristle-brush strokes over the entire horse; complete one side, then move to the other side.)
- Briskly stroke over the entire horse with a medium-bristled brush, starting at the neck. Complete brushing both sides of the horse. This effectively removes the loose dirt and hair that the curry brush lifts up from the hide.
- Put your attention to his head and face. Always use a small ultra-soft brush. Ease it over his face, avoiding the eyes. Draw his head closer to you, and coo, fuss and talk nonsense to him as you do this – your horse will simply adore you! Use a cloth to wipe around eyes, nostrils and mouth.
- Before you finish the head, check for eye matter or drainage and wipe. Handle and stroke his ears for 30 seconds, checking that there are no foreign objects or biting insects. If done routinely, you will promote his trust and, more importantly, prevent head shying.
- Brush his forelock and mane using a medium-bristle brush. If you are preserving every strand of hair in forelock and mane, then never brush. Use a wide tooth comb instead, being extremely careful NOT to pull or tear at the hair.
- Concentrate on his tail. If you are not concerned about tail length or some hair breakage, go ahead and brush the tail, using a medium-bristle brush. But if every hair is important, read The Old Gray Mare’s follow up article on tail care.
- Now is the best time to look closer at any cuts or bumps that you noticed during the curry and brushing session. Treat any cuts appropriately and apply salve as necessary.
- Divert your attention to his legs and hooves. Run your hands down your horse’s legs to feel for swelling, bumps and knots.
- Pick up each hoof in succession to pick out the soiled matter, noticing any cracks, abscesses or loose horse shoe nails. Cracks need to be taken care of quickly to prevent expansion and infection. Obviously, abscesses require immediate attention, possibly by your veterinarian.
- If you notice a foul or excessive odor in any hoof, apply a thrush medicine liberally, especially on the frog.
- Use a stiff-bristle hoof brush to briskly scrub the coronet band and outer hoof wall to promote blood flow. Twice a week, apply a hoof conditioner at the coronet band and top inch of the hoof. Once a week, treat the entire hoof with conditioner.
And 10. Almost done! – You’re now ready to use the finishing brush to give a final brushing over the horse’s coat and to give him the final “spit shine.” This will get off any remaining dust and lay the hairs down smoothly. Always use the brush in the hair growth direction. Apply coat shine spray, misting lightly starting at the top of the neck. Avoid overspray near eyes and ears. The final touch – take a plush towel and rub smoothly along hair growth.
You now have a horse that is shiny and sleek and relaxed. If you took your time and didn’t rush through this grooming session, and if you enjoyed this closeness with your horse, you will be relaxed as well. It’s a win-win for you and your horse!