February 01, 2022 13 min read
Grooming your horse every day isn’t just an arbitrary activity, it’s crucial for your horse’s health and happiness. If you don’t groom your horse on a regular basis, they could develop painful and itchy skin conditions like rain rot.
Rain rot is caused by a bacteria that lives on the horse’s skin. When excess moisture is introduced, such as during rainy weather, this bacteria becomes active and causes raised lesions to form on your horse’s skin. When these itchy bumps are removed, bald patches are left behind. Regular bathing and grooming helps to prevent this uncomfortable skin condition from occurring by removing any dirt and mud that may trap moisture against your horse’s skin and cause the bacteria to flare up.
Another skin condition that can occur if you do not groom your horse on a regular basis is scratches. Scratches, also called pastern dermatitis, is a fungal or bacterial infection of the skin that most often develops on the horse’s fetlocks or pasterns. While there are many different causes of scratches, it most commonly occurs when bacteria and fungi find their way into openings in the horse’s skin. This results in oily bumpy lesions, bald patches, and, in particularly bad cases, swelling of the legs and lameness. Regular horse grooming prevents scratches by keeping their pasterns and fetlocks clear of bacteria and fungi spores. It also increases blood circulation to promote healthy skin which will act as a strong barrier against any dermatitis-causing bacteria.
Your horse’s skin isn’t the only thing at risk for problems due to poor grooming practices- your horse’s hooves can develop serious health problems as well. For example, irregular hoof picking can result in the growth of thrush in your horse’s frogs and soles. While thrush is very common and not generally harmful if caught early, it can cause serious problems if it is allowed to progress deep into the hoof. Many different strains of bacteria, and even some fungi, can cause this condition, which is characterized by a bad smell and a dark substance on the affected area of the hoof. Some types of thrush are particularly aggressive, working their way deeper into the hoof and destroying the frog to expose very sensitive and raw internal tissue. Picking your horse’s hooves on a regular basis keeps them free of dirt and manure which can harbor this bacteria.
Besides preventing health conditions, grooming your horse every day is a great way to evaluate them for signs of illness or injury. During the grooming process, you will systematically care for every part of your horse– from their ears to their tail and everything in between. Horse grooming ensures that your hands and eyes are carefully looking over every part of their body. This way, you’ll notice if there are signs of swelling that aren’t usually there or if they’ve injured themselves while playing in the pasture. Grooming your horse every day ensures that you know what is considered “normal” for your horse, so you’ll be able to pick up on when something is wrong almost immediately.
Standing still, responding to commands, and tolerating human touch are essential skills for every horse to know. Daily grooming gives you the perfect opportunity to work on these skills with your horse. When you’re grooming them, they’ll have to stand patiently while you move around them and pull on their mane, pick their hooves, and curry their coat. They’ll also have to listen and respond appropriately when you ask them to move from side to side or lift up their hooves for picking. Practicing these skills on a daily basis sets your horse up to become a solid citizen of the horse world. These valuable life skills will ensure that your horse will be treasured in every barn they live in.
Have you ever watched a herd of horses interact with each other? Oftentimes a pair of close friends will spend some time grooming each other with their lips and teeth. This is a bonding activity for the herd and it feels good for both horses- kind of like when a close friend or partner gives you a massage or rubs your back. Grooming your horse mimics this activity and helps you and your horse bond and feel closer to each other. Similar to petting your dog or cat, grooming can be a relaxing and fun activity for you and your horse.
Last but not least, grooming your horse is a great warm-up for your time in the saddle. It gets your heart pumping and starts warming up your muscles. Similar to stretching, warming up with low impact exercise can help to prevent muscle pulls and tears, and help you have a more successful ride.
Before you get started, it’s important to have all the right tools within close reach.
Keep in mind, brushes can carry bacteria from horse to horse. Each horse should have their very own grooming kit to avoid spreading health conditions like rain rot.
To start, your horse grooming kit will need a hoof pick to help you clean out your horse’s hooves. There are a few different types of hoof picks, but which one you choose is based on your personal preference. Some picks have a metal hook on one side and a stiff brush on the other so you can scrape out the dirt and then get all the little debris out with the brush. Other picks are very simplistic with just a metal hook and a handle. Try a few different kinds so you can find out which one you like best.
Next, you’ll need to add a curry comb to your grooming kit. These round, circular brushes have soft rubber spokes and look similar to a hand-held back massager you might see at health stores. Curry combs are used to get deep into the horse’s coat and really scrub out all the dirt and mud that might be hiding in between the hairs. There are many different types of curry combs out there. You may have to try a few to figure out which ones work best for you and feel best for your horse.
For example, the TuffRider Ergonomic Curry Comb is very easy for you to hold and has large rubber spokes that are very effective at getting out mud. But if these large spokes are too harsh on your horse’s skin, then you can try the TuffRider Wonder Horse Grooming Glove.
This glove has two different sides to it: one with medium-sized rubber spokes and another with very soft flexible pieces of rubber. With this style of curry comb, you’ll have two different options in one comb to test your horse’s preferences.
The hard brush is used to sweep off all the dirt the curry comb brought to the surface. This brush has stiff bristles made from either plastic, horse hair, or natural fibers. While some equestrians claim that horse hair brushes do a better job, other riders prefer to use the plastic bristles. Whichever one you choose- you’re not wrong! Again, it all comes down to personal preference.
Our hard brush pick is the new Equestria Legends Caliente Brush.
This horse grooming body brush has a medium stiff center and a soft outer edge, so it won’t be too harsh on your horse’s skin. The medium stiff union fiber center stimulates the coat, while the softer tampico-fiber border brushes away dust and dirt.
The backing is made of a kiln-dried, double-lacquered curved-back hardwood block.
After using a hard brush of your choice, you’ll need a soft brush to gently sweep away any remaining dust and add a nice shine to your horse’s freshly-groomed coat.
The Equestria Legends Finishing Brush is a good choice for a soft brush. The natural tampico fiber brush works to evenly distribute the natural oils of your horse’s hair coat while removing any minute dust fibers that are still left on the hair.
The curved hardwood back of the brush is designed to fit comfortably in the rider’s hand.
Some equestrians use a face brush every time they groom, while others don’t even have one in their grooming kit. Because the face is such a sensitive area, it’s a good idea to get brushes designed specifically for the delicate skin and structures near the eyes and nose. Many face brushes are simply small, extra soft, finishing brushes. But if your horse likes to roll in the mud (whose horse doesn’t?), it’s a good idea to get a small extra soft face brush with rubber bristles.
For example, TuffRider has a Rubber Face Brush that’s perfect for gently currying off any caked on mud or dirt around your horse’s head.
This soft oval-shaped brush has flexible, small rubber bristles on one side that will gently remove any mud- similar to a curry comb. If you follow it with the TuffRider Face Brush with Wooden Grip, your horse’s face will soon be shining just like the rest of their hair coat.
We can’t forget about their mane and tail! Depending on the time of year, your horse’s tail could be dragged through mud and dirt, and acts as the perfect catch-all for brambles, twigs, and burrs. Because of all the debris that often becomes trapped in our horse’s tails, it’s important to use a detangler every time you brush their tail. Otherwise, you’ll be pulling out a lot of hair with all the dirt and knots!
We recommend the Cowboy Magic Detangler and Shine Gel. This extra slick goo is very easily worked through your horse’s tail. Apply a small amount at the bottom of the tail and start to comb from the bottom up, slowly working your way towards the top of the tail. This detangler lasts for quite a while and helps to keep your horse’s tail knot-free.
Having a good body spray on hand is useful for many different reasons. Not only will it add a beautiful shine to your horse’s coat and help to keep the dust off, but it’s a particularly useful tool to have on hand during the winter months.
Over the winter, the dry air and heavy blankets create the perfect storm for one nasty little surprise- static shock. Static can quickly make a nice grooming session turn into a particularly tense situation. Spraying your horse down with a body spray before grooming your horse, adds just enough moisture to the coat to reduce any static shocks that might occur.
Plus, if you use the EqClusive Pro Glow spray, you’ll actually be nourishing your horse’s hair coat.This product provides a protective cover against moisture loss within the hair shaft and includes D-panthenol and aloe extract in order to prevent dandruff and reduce any itching.
If you’re just getting into the horse world and are still learning, you can buy the basic tools that you’ll need for horse grooming in a set.
If you're looking for an all-in-one grooming set, check out the Equestria Sport Grooming Kit.
This kit has everything you'll need to groom your horse, including a body brush, face brush, jelly curry and hoof pick.
When grooming your horse, it’s important to remember that they have very sensitive skin and can feel something as small and light as a fly land on their back. Just like humans, each horse may have different preferences in the brushes you use on their skin. Some may be okay with a good tough curry comb so you can really use some elbow grease and get all the dirt out. Other horses may prefer a softer curry comb with flexible bristles that is gentler on their skin.
Remember, grooming time is bonding time for you and your horse. You want it to be enjoyable for both of you! Don’t be afraid to try different brushes to see which ones your horse prefers.
When shopping for brushes, read reviews or test them on your own skin to see what they feel like. If they feel good on your skin, then your horse is more likely to enjoy them. However, don’t forget that they also need to be effective! We can’t use a soft brush all the time– or your horse would never get completely clean.
You may also need to vary your horse grooming technique. For example, you may be able to really scrub at the dirt on a sturdy Quarter Horse, but have to be a little more gentle on a Thoroughbred or Arabian.
Before you start grooming your horse, be sure to have them in a safe location such as on crossties or in a stall.
The very first brush you’ll use when grooming your horse is the curry comb. Take your favorite curry comb and move in small circular patterns from the horse’s neck to their tail. Be sure to be very thorough. Go over their chest, legs, and belly.
Pay particularly close attention to the areas where your saddle pad, girth, and other tack will go. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to walk with a small pebble in your shoe. Even the smallest piece of debris can throw off your gate and make your feet hurt after a while. This is similar to how your horse will feel if there’s a clod of dirt stuck under your saddle.
Remember to be gentle when using your curry comb. Curry especially lightly on sensitive areas, such as the underbelly and back.
After you’ve thoroughly curried both sides of your horse, you can move on to the hard brush. Unlike the curry comb, which we move in a circular pattern, you’ll use the hard brush to make short sweeping motions. Always go in the same direction as the horse’s hair coat. Start at the horse’s neck, just behind their ears, and move slowly towards their tail. Just like with the curry comb, be very thorough and cover all areas of the horse’s body. Don’t be afraid to do them more than once!
You may have to soften your movements and brush more lightly on the horse’s underbelly and back. Every horse has different areas of the body that are sensitive to them. Pay close attention when brushing your horse, and watch for any flinching of the muscles or pinned ears.
The soft brush is like the icing on the cake! The curry comb loosened any caked-on mud and moved all of the dirt that was trapped underneath the surface. The hard brush swept all of that dirt off of the horse. The soft brush is here for the finishing touches and to add a nice shine to your horse’s coat by distributing all the natural oils brought to the surface by the curry comb and the hard brush.
Start at your horse’s neck and brush slowly towards your horse’s tail, still being just as thorough as with your previous two brushes. You’ll use similar motions to the hard brush, but you’ll want to elongate your sweeping movement to glide over the horse’s coat.
Once you’ve finished both sides, your horse’s coat should appear dirt and dust free with a nice shine. If the coat is looking a little lackluster, now is a good time to use your body spray to add a little gleam to your horse’s coat. Remember, many sprays can make your horse’s back slippery so be very careful where you apply it. Be sure to avoid your saddle and girth areas. You don’t need a lot!
If your horse is particularly staticky, spray them down before you start brushing to avoid shocking them with your hands or brushes.
Now that you’ve brushed your horse from neck to tail, it’s time to pull out the face brushes. If there’s any visible dirt or mud, use a rubber face brush to gently loosen and bring the dirt to the surface. Follow that up with the soft bristle face brush, using short sweeping motions. Be careful not to brush any dirt into your horse’s eyes or make sudden, unexpected movements around their face.
Next, we need to clean out your horse’s hooves. This particular step can be a little difficult – not all horse’s are polite about picking up their feet! If you’re having trouble, enlist the help of a trainer or experienced barn friend.
Start by standing at the shoulder of the horse and face their tail. Hold the hoof pick in your hand that is farthest from the horse and run your hand closest to the horse down the inside of the leg and to the fetlock. If your horse is well-trained, they should pick up their hoof and offer it to you when you reach their fetlock. They may need a small pull to remind them what you would like them to do.
Once they have lifted their hoof, use the “hook” side of the hoof pick to start by the back of the frog and pull down. You’ll need to be pretty firm to get out all the packed-in dirt. Be mindful of where the frog is and try to stay in the grooves that run alongside it. Once you’ve gotten that area all cleared out use the brush or side of the hoof pick to scrape out any remaining dirt.
You’re almost ready to ride! This last step is only on an as needed basis, so there may be times when you can start tacking up as soon as you’ve completed steps one through five.
If you’ve ever brushed a horse’s tail before, then you know that they tend to lose a lot of tail hair in the detangling process. If you brush your horse’s tail everyday, they can lose more hair than they grow and will develop a thin tail over time. Try to stick to brushing out their mane and tail roughly once a week. This will ensure that their tails don’t get too tangled and they will still have a beautiful-looking tail. If you find you need to do it more often, forego the brush and just use your fingers to carefully and gently detangle the hair.
To start, squeeze a small amount of detangler onto the bottom of your horse’s tail. If you’re using a spray-in detangler, liberally spray the entirety of the horse’s tail, but focus on the lower half. Begin at the bottom of your horse’s tail and work your way up to the top with your comb or brush. Use your fingers to detangle any knots to cut down on hair loss. When you’ve reached the top, be sure to notice any dandruff or itching on your horse’s tailbone. If you see a lot of build-up on the tailbone, then it’s probably time for your horse to have a bath.
Congratulations! You’ve finished grooming your horse and are ready to tack up and ride.
Not every horse grooming task needs to be completed every day! Some things even shouldn’t be done on a daily basis. Here’s your daily, weekly, and monthly checklist to ensure you’re keeping up with your horse’s needs.
Whether you’re brand new to horses or you’ve been riding for decades, Breeches.com has all of the grooming equipment you need. From curry combs to clippers, we strive to stock exactly what you’re looking for.
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