Horse grooming isn’t prissy or just for girlie girls. It’s not about pretty. It’s about healthy. Just as you care for your body to maintain health and wellbeing, you yourself need to tend to the physical needs of your confined equine companion.
Horse grooming includes, but is not confined to the brushing and currying of the horse. Equine grooming is about the whole picture of cleaning and nurturing every part of a horse, literally from nose to tail.
Brushing and currying are time honored horse grooming techniques to clean the skin or dermis surface of the horse hide. Frequent, thorough, and stimulating brushings, done in the direction of the lay of the horse’s hair, will help him to attain, and maintain a shiny and healthy skin and hair coat.
The “brushing” part of horse grooming is most often comprised of three steps, depending upon the amount and type of “dirt” the horse is wearing each day. If he has rolled in the mud, or a dirty stall floor, currying will be the first step. Always start at or near the head and work backwards on the animal.
The curry comb is most often a steel, short, wide-toothed version of a brush, which will slice through the caked on mud, dislodging it from the hair coat. In the horse grooming process, the curry comb is followed by a stiff brush to get the loose and underlying dirt stuck to the skin coat removed from the horse.
The final stage is a soft brush that will work to pull out the natural oils from the hair follicles and add glow or sheen to the coat. The final two stages, stiff and soft brush, are the only two to be used on and around the head, including possibly a rag or towel. A cloth wipe over the entire body can further finish the sheen.
Forelock, mane, and tail are normally the next steps to tend to in horse grooming. Heavy plastic or metal strong and wide spread toothed comb, are the tools of choice here. Depending upon the thickness of your horse’s mane and tail hair, as well as the amount of dirt, you may want to consider a spray-on product to detangle and to keep from breaking off hair. If a commercial product isn’t handy, common products like fish oil or rust lubricants can be used.
Horse grooming isn’t all about clean for pretty, shiny and hair coat health. Before you saddle and tack up, all hair must be clean, lying flat, and free of debris, so that the saddle pad and head gear aren’t applied over dirty and clumped hide, which could cause sores and wounds.
Cleaning out the feet can be done at any point in the process that it works best for you to accommodate that part of horse grooming. If you are going to saddle and go ride next, then hoof cleaning is often the last thing that is done, sometimes done even after saddling and tacking up.
A good quality hook pick should be an item that you have in quantity in your barn, horse trailer, your saddle bags, or even in a special pocket stitched right onto your saddle.
Clean all loose debris out and away from your horse’s hook until you are down to bare, clean sole and frog. A good stiff brass bristled brush can be the last step in this processed. Start at the on-side front hoof, and work your way back and around until all four are done.
Uncleansed or poorly cleaned feet can cause an aborted ride due to injury or soreness. If you suspect additional lodging of dirt and/or rocks while riding, stop and clean out all four feet as often as necessary.
Horse grooming is the best time to inspect your horse for cuts, scrapes, bruising, bleeding, lameness, soreness, stiffness, or any signs of sickness or illness. Know the normal vital signs of a horse, and own the adequate equipment to test for: temperature, heart beat and breathing respirations. Keep vital signs cards in your first aid kit, your stall area, towing vehicle, horse trailer, and in your saddle bags or any pocket on your saddle.
Owning an adequate equine first aid kit is the best investment you will ever make in your horse’s safety and wellbeing. Consider it an investment that will pay for itself within the first year or so, and save you money to boot, keeping your horse available for work and pleasure.