Grooming Your Horse
Grooming Basics | Brushing Your Horse | Bathing Your Horse | Caring for Your Horse's Feet
- Ideally, you should groom your horse daily and after exercise.
- Grooming helps keep your horse's skin and haircoat healthy and strengthens the bond between you and your horse.
- Use a leather halter and/or quick-release cross-ties while grooming your horse so that if he panics, you are both less likely to be hurt.
- Some horses enjoy bathing more than others. If your horse does not like to be bathed, consult your veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist about how to condition him to accept it.
- Thoroughly cleaning your horse's feet daily is an essential part of grooming.
Grooming does more than make your horse look good. Brushing, bathing, and clipping help keep your horse's skin and haircoat healthy. Ideally, you should groom your horse daily and after exercise. Although daily grooming is time consuming, the effort benefits both you and your horse by strengthening the bond between you and keeping you aware of your horse's overall health.
Groom your horse in an area that allows easy access to all parts of your horse. For bathing, choose an area that will not get muddy or slippery. Use a leather halter and/or quick-release cross-ties while grooming your horse so that if he panics, you are both less likely to be hurt.
Brushing Your Horse
Brushing your horse helps to remove dirt and loose, dead hair and to distribute essential oils through the haircoat.
You will need a variety of tools to do the job properly:
- Rubber curry comb
- Stiff-bristled (dandy) brush (if your horse has a long haircoat)
- Soft-bristled brush (works well for short haircoats)
- Grooming mitt
- Mane comb
- Terrycloth towel
It's a good idea to keep all your grooming tools in a carrier. If you have more than one horse, it is very important to use a separate set of grooming tools for each one to decrease the chance of spreading disease.
Horse owners have their own preferences regarding where to start grooming their horses. Some like to start with the head; others, with the feet. Follow whatever routine works for you and your horse. Wherever you start, use the brushes in the following order.
- Begin brushing by using the rubber curry comb to “scrub” your horse's neck and body. This loosens dead hair and dirt and spreads out skin oils. Do not use this comb on your horse's face or legs, where the skin is fragile. You can use the grooming mitt (gently) on your horse's legs and face.
- Next, brush the body and legs with the brush in the same direction as the hair, using a long, sweeping motion to remove the dirt and hair. If your horse's face needs to be brushed, use only a soft brush and gentle strokes. Some horses prefer a towel to clean their face.
- Finally, to make your horse shine, finish off by rubbing him down with the towel.
Also comb out your horse's mane, using a comb that does not break too many hairs. Comb or brush your horse's tail carefully, standing to one side. NEVER stand directly behind a horse.
Bathing Your Horse
Bathing is an important part of caring for your horse, but some horses enjoy bathing more than others. If your horse does not like to be bathed, consult your veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist about how to condition him to accept it.
Bathe your horse after brushing, on a warm day, in an area that will not get muddy or slippery (a shower stall is ideal; a rubber mat may be helpful). If you do not have a helper, tie your horse loosely to a post or railing with a quick-release knot. Use a bucket of water or a hose with a shower-type sprayer; if possible, use warm water. Shampoo is not always necessary, and shampooing can dry out your horse's skin. Ask your veterinarian about what kind of shampoo you should use for your horse and how often.
Make sure your horse sees and accepts what you are doing before you spray him, and never spray water directly in your horse's face. Use a damp sponge or cloth to clean your horse's face. Work from the ground up to get your horse wet all over and from the top down to rinse. To help your horse dry, use a sweat scraper or the side of your hand to squeeze water out of the hair coat, moving in the direction of hair growth. Then use towels to dry your horse further. Walking your horse until dry may help keep him from rolling in the dirt right after the bath.
Ask your veterinarian about the best way to care for your horse's hooves during and after bathing so that they do not become brittle.
Caring for Your Horse's Feet
Thoroughly cleaning your horse's feet daily is an essential part of grooming. Use a hoof pick and a brush to remove all dirt and other objects from your horse's feet. Consult your veterinarian or a farrier about other types of foot and hoof care your horse might need.