Grooming is one of the pillars of Horse Wellness.
With the right tools & techniques, you will enjoy the grooming process, bond with your horse & get results!
Below some basic horse grooming techniques and a description of tools I use and recommend.
Currying - The first step in daily grooming is currying the horses coat to bring dirt and dust to the surface, so that you can brush it off. Use circular motions and work from head to hindquarters. Be extra careful not to cause the horse discomfort on bony areas such as certain parts of the shoulder and hip. Every horse is different! What one might like, can be too much or too little for the other! An energetic currying might feel like a good scratch to one horse but cause another discomfort. Tool: Any rubber curry comb will do. I personally prefer the Oster massage curry. Very sensitive horses will prefer a rubber curry mitt. NEVER use a metal curry comb, and please stay away from plastic curry combs, they can develop sharp edges by cracking and scratch the surface of your horses skin.
Brushing with a flicky brush - A flicky or dandy brush can be any medium stiff brush, which is used to bring additional dirt up fromthe surface of the skin and 'flick' it off the horse. Use flicking hand movements and short strokes, work from head to hindquarters, include upper part of legs. Repeat until all dirt is removed from the horses coat, then follow with one set of long strokes over the entire body. You can use some muscle here! Remember, your aim is to bring up and flick off the dirt. Don't just stay on the surface of the coat. You also aim to distribute the oil on the root of the horse's hair all over the coat. This will add to his shine. The secret here: elbow grease! Tool: Any medium stiff brush, I personally prefer a good quality dandy brush with natural bristles like rice or cactus root. A plastic bristle brush will cause static and reapply the dirt to the horse.
Brushing with a finishing brush - Now it's time to get the horses coat shining! All the dirt should now be removed and you can just brush energetically from head to hindquarters to smoothen the hair, remove fine dust and get that coat glowing by distributing natural skin oils all over the hair. Use long even strokes. Tool: A smooth natural bristle finishing brush. Head and Face - Carefully brush head and face with the flicky brush. If your horse is sensitive, just use the Finishing brush and remove caked on mud by scratching with your fingers, if needed. Finish the head and face with a soft face brush. Use a clean sponge with clean clear water to wipe out eyes and nostrils. Be careful to reserve this sponge for the face only and to keep it clean or infection might occur. Brush the ears with the soft face brush. Tool: Your flicky or finishing brush, a soft face brush - I prefer a goat hair brush - and a small clean sponge and clean water.
Ears - Place some cotton ball in the bottom of your horse's ears before cleaning the inside of ears in order to prevent mud, dirt or mites from descending down the ear canal while you are cleaning the ear. If you horse does not like this, be patient and entice him with a snack. He'll soon learn to tolerate the soft cotton ball. Use a soft, moist sponge or wash cloth to clean out the ear. If mites are present, use a bit of M-T-G (a grooming product available in the US which contains sulfur) on a paper towel to convince the mites that it's time to go! Brush the outside of the ear carefully with a soft brush. Tool: Cotton ball, soft sponge or washcloth, possibly some M-T-G, soft brush.
This is what you need to clean the horse's ear.
Here we see the grime caused by little mites.
We now insert a cotton ball into the horse's ear to prevent dirt from falling into the ear canal while we clean the ear.
Mane and Tail - Spray a bit of detangler on the mane and tail, then brush the mane carefully from the tips of the hair up to the roots, always holding on to the hair, in order not to pull any hair out. Use a simple blow drying brush. If your horse has a long mane and you'd like to prevent tangling, put the mane into simple 'pig tails' while the horse is turned out (see image). The tail must NEVER be brushed or combed until it was thoroughly hand-combed (read the Grooming Guidelines for reasons). Use your fingers to separate hair. Once the tail is completely groomed by hand, you can use a mane and tail brush. Brush the very top of the tail hair right under the crup with your mane brush and massage the tail lightly from top to bottom. Use a sponge that is especially reserved for this area and wipe under the tail and around the anus area. Tool: A mane and tail brush, some spray detangler, a sponge and clear water, if desired an 'Afro' comb and some rubber bands, if needed.
Legs - Use a stiff bristle brush to remove all dirt from the lower legs. Feel for any lumps, heat or unusual swelling while you are handling the legs. Tool: A stiff brush.
And now the feet...Cleaning the hoof - Clean the outside of the hoof with a sponge and water, using a stiff brush to remove caked on mud, if necessary. Pick feet from frog to front and brush off dirt with a stiff hoof brush. Tool: Stiff hoof brush, hoof pick, sponge and water.
Hoof Conditioning - Once the hoof has completely dried, apply a good natural hoof conditioner to the OUTSIDE of the hoof and around the coronet to encourage health and growth. Do this about 2-3 times per week. Products that contain mineral oils (petroleum jelly etc) must be avoided, since they linger on the surface of the hoof and prevent the hoof from 'breathing'. Never apply hoof conditioner to the bottom of the hoof, since you do not want the bottom to become soft and soggy. This can encourage the conditions in which THRUSH thrives! Tool: Natural hoof conditioner (olive oil works fine!).
And what about...Chestnuts - Chestnuts are normal, healthy growths found on most horse's legs and appear on the front legs of a horse above the knee, or on the back legs of a horse below the hock. They can be a bit unsightly and therefore should be trimmed or peeled during th enormal grooming process. To keep them smooth and easy to peel off, keep applying a rich body creme frequently. Thus the horny substance will stay soft and can be peeled off easily. If your horse already has large chestnuts (see image), carefully trim them off with a razor blade - ONLY if your horse will stand still for this painless procedure - and be sure to stay above the skin surface. Going forward, you will then be able to keep them soft and peel off. Tool: Any rich body creme (for humans) and a razor blade, if needed.
Now step back and take a good look at your horse. Pretty good looking?
Stepping it up a notch... For that extra wonderful look and that little extra care you can now
smooth the horses coat with a clean towel, apply coat conditioner or coat glow (avoid saddle area), apply natural fly spray and rub the horses muzzle with a dab of canola oil (DO NOT USE VASELINE!).