To continue from my last post on grooming, www.equinefacilitydesign.com/equine-care/tips-winter-horse-grooming, are you looking for a way to de-stress in 2016? Go to the barn and get out your grooming kit.
Scientific studies have shown that humans enjoy reduced levels of cortisol — that’s the stress hormone — after spending time working with horses. Of course, if horses become your job, or your horse has done something to cause you stress (injury, breaking fences, destroying expensive blankets in the dead of winter), you’re probably not enjoying quite the same mental health benefits as the average person visiting with a horse once or twice a week (such as those in the medical studies).
What’s a stressed-out equestrian to do?
Get back to basics and remember what you learned first about horses: grooming. It’s good for you, good for your horse, and good for your relationship.
After all, horses are accustomed to grooming one another. The ritual of companion grooming is a stress-reducer for horses, actually slowing their heart rate, particularly in the withers and neck regions. Grooming one another is one of the foundations of a herd of horses, so what better way to build up your relationship with your own herd?
Work with your horse’s reactions to find the brush he likes best and his own personal “sweet spots” for grooming. Allow for personalization in your grooming. Some horses might have stiffness, soreness, or just plain bad associations with certain spots that another horse will absolutely love to have rubbed with a hard rubber curry comb. Some horses will enjoy being scrubbed with a mud brush, while others will only tolerate a soft bristle or even a towel.
Grooming for the pleasure of it — finding your horse’s itchy spots, digging out crusted mud and pulling off loose hair, leaving a relaxed and shiny horse in the end — is one of those simple basics of equestrian life which we sometimes find ourselves too busy and stressed to enjoy. When the pressures of training, showing, and business seem to be sucking the fun out of your time with your horses, pull out the grooming kit. You’ll both benefit.