Pro Horse Grooming Tips

Grooming a horse is like riding a bike really, we all know how to do it without even thinking about it. That said are we doing in the best way? Over the years I’ve learned some interesting facts and tips from the pros that I thought I’d pass on.

How do I get stubborn sweet stains out of my horse’s coat?

If you find that your horse’s coat has got sweet stains that you just can’t remove fear not. Mixing a little bit of apple cider vinegar with warm water will work wonders. Use a clean sponge to wipe the stains with the vinegar and water mix. You’ll be amazed at how well this works. Once you’ve removed the stain be sure to clean the area with plain warm water after to make sure you’ve removed all of the vinegar residues.

Can I use my shampoo on my horse?

Mane 'n Tail has been developed for both horse and human.
Mane ‘n Tail has been developed for both horse and human.

You may be surprised to know that yes you can although that said I wouldn’t recommend using off the shelf ‘salon’ shampoos on your horse. There are a few products, such as ‘Mane ’n Tail’ that are designed for both horse and human alike. Shampoos developed especially for horses can also be good for you too, this is because they work by swelling the hair which means it gets more nourishment which in turn helps it to grow faster.

How do I get my horse’s coat to really shine?

If you want to get your horse’s coat to really shine before a show then you may be surprised to know that baby wipes are the key. A quick wipe with one of these will lift the dullness out of your horse’s coat and give a great shine to it. Baby wipes are great for cleaning tack too so it’s always worth having a pack in your tack groom.

How do I get my horse’s sock really white?

Getting your horse’s socks really white is only half of the story here. You can use a blue shampoo to bring out the white color of them but using a black oil on the hooves will also make them shine as the contrast of colors will make the hooves look darker and the socks look whiter. If you’re competing under FEI rules though remember they don’t allow you to change the color of the hooves so use a clear polish instead. You can also add a little chalk or baby powder to the socks to bring out their whiteness.

Can I use shoe polish on my horse’s hooves?

Many years ago, before the invention of decent hoof oils and polishes, people would use shoe polish on the hooves. Some people do still use non-petroleum-based polishes to make the hooves really black. If you choose to do this though, keep in mind that if you’re going to show your horse under FEI rules then you’re not allowed to change the color of the hooves. You can however though use a clear shoe polish without breaking any rules. 

How often should I groom my horse?

During the summer you should groom your horse every day. This will not only help to keep his coat clean but will also reduce the chances of him itching and thus rubbing excessively against anything such as posts and gates.

In the winter though you should only groom your horse daily if he’s stabled. Horses kept at grass shouldn’t be groomed every day during the winter. Brushing him too much will remove essential oils and greases from his coat, it’s these oils and greases that help to keep his coat waterproof. That’s not to say you shouldn’t groom him at all but during the winter months, a quick brush down to remove mud will suffice. This even applies if you keep your horse rugged.

How do I use quarter markings?

A great example of a custom quarter marking design

Quarter markings have become very popular these days and are pretty easy to create, all you need is some water, a fine bristled brush or fine-toothed comb, and a little hair spray. You can create your own design or a pre-cut stencil but whichever option you go for wet your horse’s coat a little then brush his hair in a different direction to the natural one. Don’t worry if you make a mistake you can smooth it out after or if you’d prefer to start again. Once you’re happy with the design you can spray it with a little hair spray to help it stay in place. To remove the quarter markings just simply brush them out.

For extra impact, you can use special spray glitter or spray paint that has been designed for use on horses. This can be especially good if your horse has a light colored coat.

How do I clean my grooming kit?

I prefer to have a couple of grooming kits, one for day-to-day grooming and one for ‘show grooming’ but that said they both need to be kept clean. The best way to do this is to use a metal curry comb to remove as much dirt and hair from the brushes as you can. If your brushes are made of plastic then you can also wash them in a bit of warm water and shampoo, just make sure you rinse all of the shampoo out before you leave them to dry. If they’re wood or metal then you can still wash them in shampoo but only wash the bristles, don’t soak the whole brush. It’s important to keep your kit clean as it’ll not only last longer but if you’re grooming your horse with dirty brushes you won’t get him very clean.

Why do I need to groom my horses?

There are many reasons for grooming a horse and not all of them are for an atheistic reason. Yes once you’ve finished grooming your horse’s coat will be gleaming but there are other benefits too. You’ll also remove the mud that could cause chafing, especially around the saddle and bridle areas.

While grooming your horse you’ll be able to check him for cuts, swellings, and various other issues that may cause a problem as well as remove ticks and parasites from his coat. The act of grooming will itself also help the two of you bond as you’ll be spending time together in a mutually beneficial way. Grooming will help to improve your horse’s blood flow and circulation while at the same time reducing both of your stress levels. 

Much like stroking a dog, grooming a horse has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety by reducing the levels of cortisol, the stress-causing hormone, in the body.

Grooming kit essentials

There’s a multitude of different things you can have in your grooming kit and although they will all have their uses there’s actually only a handful of items you need really.

  • Hoof pick – You should be checking your horse’s hooves for debris and stones every day. In fact, if you only ever have one item in your grooming kit it should be a hoof pick. They’re so important I have them all over the place, hanging up outside the stable, in the feed room and tack room. I even carry a small folding one in my pocket whenever I’m at the stables or out riding.
  • Rubber or plastic curry comb – Great for removing loose hairs and caked on mud you should never use a curry comb on your horse’s legs, face or ears.
  • Metal curry comb – There are two types of metal curry comb, the standard flat one that should only be used for cleaning brushes (like the body and dandy brushes) and the circular version. Some people use the circular version on their horses but personally I think they’re too harsh – in my opinion a plastic curry is far better.
  • Dandy brush – Like the rubber or plastic curry, a dandy brush shouldn’t be used on your horse’s legs, face or ears. The dandy has stiffer bristles so is good for removing embedded dirt.
  • Body brush – The body brush is much softer than the dandy and can be used all over your horse, although you still need to be gentle around more sensitive areas such as the face. 
  • Sponges – You need two or three separate sponges for cleaning around your horse’s eyes, anus and genitals. Use a different warm damp sponge for each area and gently wipe them clean. If you find it difficult to have a constant supply of clean sponges you could always use baby wipes instead. Rather than having to keep them clean you can just throw them away after use.
  • Hoof oil & brush – As I mentioned in the article on caring for your horse’s hooves you should apply oil on a regular basis to help prevent them from drying out and cracking.

Other useful grooming items

  • Sweat scraper – This can be very useful if you’ve just washed your horse or if he’s sweaty. I like to have two, one for after washing my horses and one for removing sweat but if you don’t have two then just make sure you thoroughly clean it after you’ve used it to remove sweat. It’s very easy to use, just run the rubber ‘blade’ over your horse’s coat in the same direction as the fur. This will help to remove excess moisture from it.
  • Face brush – With much softer bristles than the body brush its soft enough to use on your horse’s face, although you must still be careful around his eyes.
  • Mane & tail comb – You don’t need to use a special comb to keep your horse’s mane and tail in order but if you want to plait them then these combs very useful and can help to divide sections before plaiting.
  • Scissors – Again these aren’t essential but can be very useful for trimming things like the feathers, mane and tail, or the fur around your horse’s ears.
Grooming mitts can be used on cats and dogs too
Grooming mitts can be used on cats and dogs too
  • Grooming mitt – A relatively new invention, grooming mitts can be a good idea if you have a very nervous horse. If they feel intimidated by brushes then using a mitt will give you a chance to groom him without stressing him at all. They can also use be good for those areas where it’s not quite so easy to get a brush.
  • Baby wipes – This sounds like a strange one your baby wipes are not only great for bringing out the shine in your horse’s coat, taming his mane/tail, and removing dusty stains from socks. They can also be used for cleaning things such as tack and boots.
  • Plaiting bands or thread – By no means essential they can be more useful than you might think though. Yes of course if you plait your horse’s mane/tail then you’ll need either bands or thread to keep them in place but you can also use the thread for quick minor repairs of clothing if you need to. The bands on the other hand can be used for most things any elastic band can be used for!
  • Hair spray – I like to keep some hair spray in my show grooming kit. I use it to keep plaits in order and flyaway hairs hidden as well as to hold my quarter marking designs in place. You don’t need to use much and after it can easily be brushed out too.

Conclusion

Not everybody enjoys grooming but hopefully, some of these tips will help you to get the most out of your grooming regimen and get your horse looking amazing!

Recommended products 

Over the years I use have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.

  • Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
  • Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

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