Horses are a lot like humans – they want to be clean, and the act of grooming oneself is refreshing. Think of how nice you feel after a relaxing bath or a hot shower. A good brushing – or a roll in the sand to get rid of sweat – makes a horse feel the same way.
As a responsible horse owner, you should groom your companion each day, preferably before and after being ridden or driven. You will remove the sweat and debris that comes with exercise, notice any skin conditions and generally make your horse feel good.
What you need
You will need more than a brush and hand towel to get your horse spick and span. To start with, grab a good curry comb. These round brushes have short, thick teeth on one side and a strap to hold your hand in place on the other. Curry combs loosen dirt, debris and shedding hair deep in your horse’s coat. They also provide a nice skin massage. Most combs are made of rubber, although there are metal options available. Horse Channel advises using metal curry combs for removing mud and winter hair – just be careful not to press too hard in the horse’s skin.
A dandy brush has stiff bristles and removes the dirt loosened by the curry comb. The stiffness of the bristles can irritate horses with sensitive skin, so use care throughout the brushing process. Body brushes have softer bristles and are used after the dandy brush. They remove any tiny debris particles and stimulate the coat, adding shine and massaging the horse’s skin. Small body brushes are sometimes called face brushes. In addition, you will need a grooming cloth for the final touches and a good hoof pick to remove anything stuck in your horse’s hooves.
There are also various high-quality horse products available that help you groom, like shampoos to increase softness and sprays to keep your horse’s skin healthy.
Brushing a horse
First, brush your horse in a circular motion with the curry comb to loosen any dirt. Equusite cautions that you should not use this comb on the horse’s face, back, shoulder or other bony areas, and you should be extremely gentle when brushing the legs. Next, take your dandy brush and flick it up and away from the horse’s coat, brushing the dirt and dust into the air. Smooth the hair flat again with the body brush, then gently take the mane comb to the horse’s mane. Some people use the mane comb on a horse’s tail, but Equusite notes that doing so makes the hair break more easily than a dandy brush. Once this is complete, run the grooming cloth over your horse’s body to provide a final polish.
Be careful when cleaning your horse’s hooves, especially if you have never had an instructor show you the process before. Gently run your hand down her leg, then softly squeeze the ankle and lift the foot. Scrape away from the body with the hoof pick, making sure to clean the hollow areas around the frog and sole.
If you’re in a hurry, you can give your horse a cowboy brushing. The term itself is common in western styles, explains The Horse, but the action works for all riders. To give a cowboy brushing, gently run your hand over the back and sides of your horse where the saddle sits, checking for debris. You should also check the horse’s belly where the saddle cinches together.
Bathing a horse
You do n0t need to bathe your horse as often as you brush her, but it is good to do so every once in a while. To get your horse squeaky clean, grab a hose, some shampoo, a large bucket – Horse Channel recommends 20 quarts – a large sponge and a sweat scraper. Choose a grassy or concrete area to bathe her, as standing on a dirt patch will get her feet muddy. Take the hose and starting getting your horse wet, starting at the feet and slowly moving upward. You can also start by sponging clean water on to her back.
“Most horses don’t like having water on their heads.”
Once the horse is wet, mix the horse shampoo with a bit of water and sponge one section of your horse at a time. Once you’ve finished cleaning a section, rinse it off and move to the next. Save the head for last – most horses dislike the sensation of having water on their face. You can wash the head and face without shampoo, but only use a tiny amount if you think it is necessary.
Run a sweat scraper over your horse’s body to remove the excess water, then dry her off with a clean towel and apply conditioner to her mane and tail. Walk your horse until her coat is fully dry, otherwise she might roll around in the dirt and ruin your hard work.
Grooming is an essential part of horse care and keeps your companion beautiful and ready to perform. Daily brushing is also great for socializing and provides a chance for you and your horse to spend time together.