Last time we talked about why you should groom your horse, hopefully not too many readers needed over 400 words of convincing to spend some time with their partners! Today we’ll go over the basic steps of grooming that should NEVER be skipped.
- Pick your horse’s feet- You can find a hoof pick (this is my favorite) at any tack or feed store, you can even use a screwdriver in a pinch! Start at the heel, in one of the creases between the heel or shoe and the frog and run your pick along that crease. This is the easiest way to get packed mud, rocks, manure, shavings out of your horse’s foot. Be careful not to start in the middle of the foot or on top of the frog, this is a sensitive structure in the foot and the last thing you want is to accidentally stab your horse’s foot before you ride! I like to keep a hoof brush handy to brush out debris as I pick, this lets me know if there’s any more mud that I need to scrape out and can help make any bruising or discoloration of the sole easier to see. Make sure to get all the way down in the creases along the frog, this is a spot where horses can get an infection called “Thrush.” This is a common hoof problem, especially in more humid regions and can make your horse very sore if left untreated. The best part? Thrush usually is best treated by frequent hoof cleanings!!
- Curry comb your horse’s body, and use a softer curry for his face and legs- Make small, circular motions with the curry comb to loosen any debris, mud, and dirt/dander. There are a variety of combs available these days, from jelly curries, to the traditional rubber curry. My personal favorite is the grooming glove. This offers me the ability to really feel my horse’s body as I curry him, and feel for any swellings or cuts that may need to be addressed. This is a great time to note your horse’s reaction. Pinned ears and twitching while being curried can be a sign that you’re using too much pressure, or that he’s not feeling himself. While that in itself won’t tell you what’s wrong, it can alert you to be on the lookout for other potential symptoms that will either give you an idea of how to help him, or signal you to call the vet. Currying also has the added benefit of being a serious way to get your horse naturally shiny! No amount of coat supplements or topical products will make a difference if you don’t put in the elbow grease!
- Brush your horse with a dandy or soft brush or both- Some days your horse will only need a soft brush, some days he’ll need the stiffer dandy brush, and some he’ll need both! Regardless, you need to use something to brush off the dirt and stuff you just scrubbed up with the curry comb or grooming glove. Use quick, short, flicky (if that’s a word…) strokes to get the dirt, dust and dander off his coat and away from his body (and face, but be gentle!). This also offers you a chance to see where your horse is sore or sensitive. If a horse is sore, some with even react to the strokes of a soft brush. If your horse is reacting to the soft brush, this is a good sign that you need to take a day off from working and evaluate what is making him so sore.
- Last but not least, comb (don’t brush!) the mane, tail and forelock- I know a LOT of people who do not consider this a daily grooming chore (even I have a hard time with this when I’m strapped for time), but let me tell you why it’s important. Chances are at some point in time you’ve dealt with a tick, either on you or a dog or maybe even your horse; you probably also know that those buggers carry some pretty gnarly diseases. Combing your horse’s mane, tail and forelock daily can get them out of the hair if they haven’t finished their climb yet, or alert you that your horse has one embedded in his forehead, crest or dock. Even better, if you do it every day, it becomes easier and quicker to do…
- Good tasks to do at least weekly- Wipe your horse’s nose, eyes, and sensitive bits (if they will let you do so safely) with separate baby wipes or damp towels. “Curry” your horse with a slightly damp towel- very helpful in the winter time (use HOT water) to keep dirt and dust down, this also feels good on sore muscles! Wipe out your horse’s ears- use a damp towel and do this slowly and carefully so you don’t get any water in their ears, most horses (even ear-shy ones) learn to really enjoy this.
I hope this overview of daily grooming tasks helps you work out a good and efficient routine for you and your horses! Remember, the more frequently you groom, the easier it gets!!