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How To Groom A Horse

Proper grooming of a horse minimizes potential problems

and maintains a tidy appearance. While working at a horse

barn in Orlando, Florida, I quickly learned the advantages

of a complete grooming session. Horses are high maintenance

animals that require much time and devotion. Three major areas must be tended to on a daily basis. The first is foot care. Cleaning out the hooves can prevent diseases, monitors the state of the horse’s shoes, and removes any foreign objects that may become lodged in the hoof. The second significant part of grooming is skin care. The third major area of grooming a horse is maintaining the mane and tail. A horse lacking care is likely to become sickly, lame, and unattractive.

The most important step in the grooming process is to

pick out the hooves. A hoof pick is normally made of plastic, and has a small metal pick on the end. Feet should be “picked out” at least twice a day as an absolute minimum. This helps to prevent many foot ailments like thrush, a fungal infection. Attentiveness allows equestrians to monitor the quality of the horse’s shoes. By removing any objects imbedded in the hoof and watching the condition of the shoes it eliminates any discomfort to the horse. To clean the front foot, stand at the horse’s shoulder facing his rump. Lift up the foot by running the hand that is closest to the horse down the back of the leg to the foot. To pick out the hoof, hold the hoof pick in the free hand and place it in the groove between the frog and the corner of the shoe. The frog is a v-shaped cushion in the center of the hoof that is designed to absorb shock. Pull the hoof pick down the front of the hoof, and be sure to clean around the edge of the hoof by the shoe. Cleaning around the edge is similar, always work from the back of the foot to the front. When finished, lower the leg back to the floor. To clean the back feet stand at the horse’s hips, facing away from the horse’s head. Follow the advice given for the front feet, and be sure to gently lower the leg down to the ground when finished. By doing this, it prevents the horse from creating a stomping habit that may injure him or others. While foot care is important to maintain agility, skin care is equally as vital to prevent irritation.

Brushing is an essential part of horse care. Regular

brushing helps to stimulate circulation and prevents common skin problems like dandruff and fungus growth by removing mud, grime, and hay from the coat. It establishes a practical routine to check for cuts, scrapes, or lumps that the horse may have. The customary technique of brushing is to continually follow the direction that the hair lies in, never brush against the coat. It is also a prudent idea to observe the horse’s body language. A horse that is perturbed will swish his tail, lay his ears back, and grind his teeth. The three brushes used are the curry-comb, dandy brush, and the body brush. The curry-comb is a rubber, oval shaped brush with small, raised teeth. It can be employed all over the body, but take care when using it on the face and legs. The dandy brush is a coarse textured general-purpose brush that is used on the body and neck. It is rather abrasive to use on the fine skinned animal’s legs, and should not be used on the face at all. The body brush is comparable to the dandy, but is softer which allows it to be used on the entire body. Commence with the curry-comb, using a circular motion that gently tousles the hair. Work across the body, down to the belly and finally to the legs. As with cleaning the feet, when brushing the front legs, stand at the shoulder facing the rump. When brushing the hind legs, stand at the hips facing away from the horse’s head. Following the curry-comb, use the dandy brush to smooth the hair back into place following the direction that the hair lies in. Do not use the dandy brush on the face. The body brush is used in the same manner as the dandy brush to remove any excess dust off the coat and can be used to brush the face, mane, and tail.

The third area of grooming is to maintain the mane and

tail. The length of the mane is a preference to each owner.

Some prefer the long and natural length while others prefer to keep the mane cut short. A short mane is easier to maintain than a long tangled mane. The mane will pull out effortlessly if the horse is warm and is recommended to do on a hot day or after exercise. It does not cause a lot of pain to the horse; I always think it is like plucking eyebrows. Many horses fidget, so it may be ideal to have someone assist in keeping the horse’s head motionless. Always remove the hair from the underside of the mane, and never use scissors. Lay the mane over to the wrong side and comb it through to eliminate any knots. Next lay the mane back over to the side it lays naturally, and comb through again to remove any last snarls. Stand back and look to see where the hair is the longest, and start there. Initiating with the longest hair, take hold of several of the long hairs and backcomb the hair until a few strands are left. With a sharp tug, remove the hair. Work along the mane and take out the longest hairs. Comb through the mane again and stand back to see if it is even and the length desired. Always do a little at a time and then leave for a few days to see how the mane settles. To brush the tail, stand at the horse’s hip and gently stroke down the middle of the rump to the tail. This lets the horse know that there is someone by his rump and reduces the risk of a defensive kick. As with other activities around the horse, mind his body language at all times. Raise the tail and move it away from the horse, using the body brush and fingers to comb through the tail from the bottom to the top. Working from the bottom to the top will avoid putting knots together in a cluster. Use the fingers to remove any hay, straw, or wood shavings that may be tangled in. When completed, gently lower the tail back to position, pat the rump to remind him someone is still there, and walk towards the horse’s head.

A horse that is not regularly groomed can be at risk from skin conditions and foot infections. Brushing and cleaning out the feet are important daily tasks. With a proper grooming schedule, owners can monitor condition of horseshoes, avoid lameness, prevent skin diseases, and treat cuts. Benjamin Franklin gave a significant instance of a horse that was neglected.

“For the want of a nail, the shoe was loose; for the want of a shoe, the horse was loose; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail.”


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