Anyone who has dreamt of owning a horse knows part of its appeal is its majestic beauty. Handsome, tall, and thoroughly charming, horses can certainly capture the hearts of all genders and all ages.
Still, their beauty is not just something that is simply one chance upon. Like all pet animals, horses demand certain grooming requirements. To maintain its exquisite mane and sturdy stance, a horse must be groomed regularly, and may we say, even lovingly. Learn new ways of keeping your animals looking A+ with our tips below!
Basics of Horse Grooming
Experts have said that daily horse grooming can allow an owner to spot early on the health issues that a horse may have, from fevers to cuts. Regular grooming is also required to allow the natural oils of the horse to shine and exude the exquisite beauty its mane is born with. Moreover, grooming helps improve a horse’s blood circulation and maintain or better its muscle mass. Proper horse grooming is not just for vanity’s sake, but for its overall behavior and health as well.
How does one start? First is to prepare the best materials for horse grooming. It is recommended to keep a kit that you can carry every time you need to groom your four-legged pal. This kit usually includes different brushes and combs, scrapers, and sponges, to name a few. This article will help you identify the importance of each device for your horse’s hygiene and well-being.
Once you have a kit ready, you can now easily schedule the grooming sessions for your horse. Some only groom their horse once or twice a month, others, more sparingly, depending on the season and environment they reside in. Know that each horse has different needs, so better to research further on how often your pet needs one.
Cleaning Your Horse’s Hooves
Like our feet, the horse’s hooves would need tender loving care to help them stay active. Unlike our feet, however, the horse’s feet and hooves may be more tedious to clean. With the right tricks, it doesn’t have to be!
First, keep your horse tied in a secured and comfortable place like crossties. These are safer as they keep you away from posts and walls you could get knocked into if your horse acts up. Remember that grooming requires trust from both the owner and the horse. Try to feel if your horse is comfortable in lifting their leg.
Some people use verbal cues to help them get to do this. Others pinch lightly just above the pastern joint, along the tendon at the back. The horse should pick its leg up, allowing you to support the hoof in one hand.
Once you have the hoof on your hand, use the hoof pick to clear out dirt or any other debris. Clean it from heel to toe, paying attention to the cleft around the frog. A stiff brush, which some hoof picks have attached, is nice for removing the bits of dirt and chaff.
Clean off the sole and pick gently around the area of the hoof just to the inside of the hoof wall. This is the white line which you should clean with care and detail. This can be a good spot for things like grit and small stones, which can lead to seedy toes or white line disease.
If your horse is wearing shoes, trace around the inside of the shoe to check for and remove any dirt. You should also look for:
- Risen clinches. This is a sign the shoe is loosening, probably because it's been in place for several weeks; he can injure himself if the risen clinches on one foot brush the inside of the other leg.
- A sprung or shifted shoe. If the shoe is pulled away and perhaps even bent, it is sprung. If it's moved to one side or the other, it's shifted. In either case, the nails in the problem shoe can press on sensitive hoof structures when he places weight on the foot.
Once the foot is clean, gently set your horse’s hoof down on the ground. Avoid letting your horse do it on its own as doing it yourself can save your toes from getting stepped on.
Meanwhile, when you pick out the hooves, look for signs of:
- Thrush. The first clue to this bacterial condition is a foul smell and dark ooze from the cleft of the frog. This is usually caused by prolonged standing in manure, mud, or other wet, filthy conditions.
- Puncture. If a nail or other object pierces your horse's sole and then falls out, the entry wound will probably be invisible by the time you pick his feet and you'll be unaware of it until it causes an abscess.
- Cracks. Some cracks are superficial; others can worsen, involving sensitive hoof structures, without appropriate shoeing.
- Abscess. If your horse's digital pulse feels stronger than usual or his foot is warmer than usual, the cause could be an abscess inside the hoof from a badly placed shoeing nail, a bruise, or an overlooked sole puncture.
The hooves need to be picked and cleaned every day to keep them healthy and free of dirt. You can get them either with or without the brush – but having the brush helps get the last bit of dirt away from them. You may also want to have your pick with a scraper as it can help you to remove dirt and debris that is not as hard as the metal piece.
Grooming Your Horse's Body
If you want to bathe your horse, it’s better to brush their big bodies instead. It’s also one of the most soothing and enjoyable activities one may do with his or her horse. Not only will you be able to keep your horse clean, but you can also bond with your riding partner, too.
As mentioned in our complete guide to horse grooming, you can have several brushes for different needs. For example, a curry comb is used to loosen hair and dirt. You may comb the horse's coat in circular motions in the opposite direction of the hair growth. You can start working from ear to tail without currying the head, mane, tail, and lower legs.
Meanwhile, a hard brush or dandy brush is a hard-bristled brush used to take off the hair and dirt brought to the surface by the curry comb. Start along the neck and work your way down and along the body using short straight flicking motions to flick off the debris.
And then there’s the soft body brush, which perhaps may be the most versatile tool you can have in your arsenal. Since it has soft bristles, you may use it in almost any part of your horse’s body.
Grooming Your Horse’s Face
Using a hard-bristle brush or curry comb will be too rough on your horse’s face. So instead, in cleaning a horse’s face, take a finishing brush, damp sponge, or washcloth. Simply wipe your horse's eyes and clean out his nose while taking special care to avoid the nostrils, ears, eyes, and mouth. When brushing the horse’s face, do it in small, circular, and flicking motions to relax it.
Keeping the Teeth Clean
You can use different tools and ways to clean a horse’s teeth.
The most common and simple method to do so is by brushing them thoroughly. Take a big toothbrush and rub it gently on the teeth until all the leftover food particles and yellowish stains go away.
You may also use baking soda as it helps a lot in removing the yellow and brown stains from teeth. Make sure to use the baking soda that is used in cooking because the other one can prove dangerous.
If tartar is starting to settle on its teeth and the marks are not disappearing, take a rubber covered mouth plate for opening the mouth. Then, take some cotton balls or pads and dip them in lemon juice. Cover the teeth with these cotton pads for about fifteen minutes.
Conditioning the Mane and Tail
Taking care of and maintaining a horse’s mane and tail requires extra work. There are certainly some things you can do to encourage healthy hair growth, but keep in mind that not every horse is born to grow thick and shiny manes and tails.
The most basic level of care for the main and tail is by shampooing them regularly and ensuring you get to the roots of the hair. A lot of dirt can get stuck at skin level, and that can lead to skin problems and itching, so make sure you give a thorough scrubbing. Remember that rinsing is just as important as scrubbing. Leaving soap on the horse’s skin can cause irritation as it dries so be sure to rinse thoroughly down to the roots.
While there’s not much you can do to your horse’s tail other than shampooing and brushing, the mane is another story. Other than washing, you may also pick through the mane to remove any tangles. If there is untamable hair, you can also shorten the mane by blading. You can also purchase a specially designed mane-shortening comb or use an old clipper blade to keep its length and luster.
After Grooming Hacks
While the aforementioned tasks may already sound tedious, there are some after-grooming session products that you may still apply to your horse. These are good-to-have but not entirely necessary. Consider them as luxury tools to keep your horse spoiled with care.
First off is the detangler and shine spray. This will help repel dust and it dries fast. Spray it on your horse's coat to make it silky, or on their mane and tail to detangle any knots. Meanwhile, a fly repellent ointment may be used on your horse’s face and underbelly to keep them away from pests. A fly repellent spray may also be used on your horse’s coat after a grooming session to keep its entire body away from any insect attack.
These may not be the usual grooming tips you see, but know that they also do the trick in keeping your horse in the best shape and look. Try a tip or two on your horse today and let us know how it goes!