Aqueos - Grooming Your Horse: 10 Things You'll Need
What are the benefits of grooming?
Grooming is a fantastic way to bond with your horse or pony. It provides them with a calming experience and it also gives you a good opportunity to give him or her a thorough check-over. Keep an eye out for any injuries, lumps, bumps, or other health problems such as lice or areas of skin irritation during the grooming session. Grooming can lower your horse’s heart rate, helping them to relax, improve circulation, and can also help to maintain muscle tone when done well.
What preparations do I need to make?
Start by making sure that your horse or pony is tied up safely and securely, with a quick-release knot. Ensure that the area you are working in is free from hazards, and is well-lit. You may also need to be sheltered from inclement weather depending upon the conditions and the time of year. Make sure that your horse’s coat is dry before you begin grooming, as grooming when he or she is wet can drive grease and dirt deeper into the coat and be detrimental to skin health. Your horse should ideally be groomed every day, but always before tacking up, to avoid rubs from the saddle or bridle and any other equipment such as boots.
What equipment will I need to perform a full groom?
Start by checking your horse or pony’s hooves for any chips or cracks. If shod, check that all shoes are present, and still correctly fitted, i.e. they have not become loose or twisted. Pick up each foot, in turn, to remove dirt and stones from the hoof using a hoof pick. Check for any stones which are lodged in the foot, especially small stones in the white line around the edge of the hoof if unshod. Use the opportunity to check for foreign bodies such as nails or screws in your horse or pony’s foot – this is a veterinary emergency which if gone unnoticed can be fatal. Be sure to work in a heel-to-toe direction with the hoof pick, starting by picking out the area to either side of the frog. Care should be taken in the cleft/central sulcus of the frog as this part of the foot is more sensitive than the sole. You may also need to use a stiff brush (+/- water) to remove the last of the dirt/debris in the hoof. You should pick your horse’s feet out at least once daily, even if you do not have time to perform a full groom.
Use a rubber curry comb in the palm of your hand, working in small circular motions to loosen hair, sweat, and mud, etc. from your horse or pony’s coat. Be careful when grooming over joints and bony prominences when using a curry comb, as these areas are more sensitive than others. As you groom, look out for any areas of swelling, or any minor injuries which may need attention.
Starting behind the ears and working in the direction of the hairs towards the tail, use the dandy brush in a short flicking motion all over the body to remove mud, sweat, and the loose hair which has been brought to the surface by curry combing. Do not use the dandy brush on any delicate areas such as the head or any clipped areas. If your horse or pony is very fine-haired or fine-skinned, you may also need to avoid using it in areas such as the armpits or inner thighs.
Suitable for all areas of the body, a body brush is used to remove grease from the coat. Again, start behind the ears and work all over the body towards the tail. You can use the body brush on the face unless you have a smaller face brush specifically for this purpose – see below. If your horse or pony is living outside 24/7 – especially if un-rugged – you may need to consider not using a body brush during grooming, as this will remove the grease from the coat which protects them from the cold and wet.
Plastic or metal curry combs should not be used directly on your horse but should be used to clean your body brush as you are grooming. Hold the metal or plastic curry comb in the opposite hand to the body brush. Every few strokes of the body brush on your horse or pony, use the curry comb to remove the hair and dust from the body brush.
A mane comb can be used to remove debris from your horse or pony’s mane and to detangle the hairs. Work in sections if the mane is very thick. Starting at the ends of the mane hairs and working towards the base of the mane will reduce breaking the hairs if there are lots of knots.
A face brush is similar to a body brush but as it is much smaller than a standard body brush, it makes it easier to groom around the delicate areas and contours of the face. Again, a face brush can be cleaned using a curry comb during grooming to keep it free from hair and dust.
Similar to the mane, it is important to avoid breaking the tail hairs as much as possible. Some horses have very thick tails which can be a real challenge to keep tangle and knot-free. You may need some mane and tail conditioner or detangling spray to help you if your horse or pony’s tail is very thick. Again, work in sections, and start at the ends of the tail, working up towards the dock.
The eyes and dock should be sponged clean during a full groom – but a separate sponge must be used on the different body parts. Having a different colour of sponge for the eyes and dock, and/or having them labelled is recommended.
A stable rubber or shammy cloth can be used for a final polish. Dampen the cloth or shammy with warm water and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then, starting at the head and working towards the tail, use the cloth or shammy to remove any final bits of dust and hairs to leave a shine.
If you find any concerning swellings, lumps, or areas of skin irritation when grooming your horse or pony, be sure to consult your veterinary surgeon at the earliest opportunity. You should clean your grooming kit regularly with a multi-purpose disinfectant, ideally between horses.This is especially important if there is any known skin disease such as parasites or bacterial/fungal infection.
Article written by Dr. Jessica Putnam BVMedSci(Hons) BVM BVS(Hons) MRCVS – February 2022