Horse grooming is an enjoyable time shared with your horse. It is a time for bonding, checking for injuries, and getting a sense of his present state of well being. There are a variety of supplies available to make horse grooming an easy task. The preference is natural bristle brushes, which are made of either horsehair or wild boar. Synthetic brushes have a tendency to cause hair loss and breakage, especially of manes and tails.
For basic horse grooming, start with placing your horse in crossties or a location where he is comfortable and will not be disturbed. This should be a special time to enjoy each other without interruptions.
If your horse is shedding his winter coat or if he has dried mud on him, begin with a shedding blade. These blades are metal and have fine teeth to capture mud and shedding hair. Do not use shedding blades on the legs, face or other delicate areas of his body.
Begin removing the surface dirt by using a rubber curry or a rubber grooming glove. This should be done in a circular motion. Once the surface dirt is lifted, you can use a stiff dandy brush to further loosen and remove deep dirt and bring it to the surface. This brush should be used with a flicking motion.
If the season is cool and baths are not an option, a vacuum can be a great asset. Most horses will accept vacuuming if they are introduced to it properly. Begin by allowing your horse to familiarize himself with the sound of the motor. Next place your hand on your horse’s shoulder and put the vacuum on top of your hand so he can get the feel of the vibration without feeling the sucking experience. Once your horse is comfortable with the feel of the vacuum; you can introduce the vacuum directly, while reassuring him that this is normal and safe.
The next step in your horse grooming is to pick your horse’s feet. Using a hoof pick, clean out the "frog" beginning at the heel and moving away from you, toward the point of the V on the bottom of the foot. Cleaning your horse’s feet is an important exercise that will give you an opportunity to detect any injuries or cracks. Areas of heat might suggest an abscess, injury or the beginning some stage of lameness. While cleaning the foot, notice if there is any odor, as that will indicate he is developing thrush (fungus).
Manes, tails and forelocks have brushes and combs specifically designed for them. Some people prefer not brushing their horse’s tail as it can cause some breakage and split ends. They prefer hand picking and separating the tail manually. There are several conditioners, such as Show Sheen, which will detangle the tail and make it easier to work with. Manes are trimmed or left natural according to your discipline preference. Facial hairs are often shaved but it is important to recognize that horses rely on the stiff whiskers around their mouth as feelers.
Once these horse grooming steps are completed, use a soft bristle brush over his entire body. Use a small, very soft bush for his face. This step is considered polishing or finishing. Finally, use a sheepskin grooming mitt to bring out the shine in your horse’s coat and remove any marks from sweat or tack. You can also spray your mitt with Show Sheen for a finished look or fly spray to ensure his comfort.
Most horses thrive on the pleasant experience of horse grooming and like feeling clean. Brushing also activates their digestion so it promotes good health as well.