Grooming is part of daily life with horses.
When we groom our horses, we aren’t just making them neat and pretty — we are finding their sore spots, locating hidden injuries, identifying muscles which need toning, working on stretches and obedience. And we’re also offering our horses a sign of our affection, by acting as member of the herd, giving out scratches in all the itchy places.
So even if your horse is neatly clipped and steps out of his stall like a fashion model, or lives out in the pasture and is rarely, or never, ridden, it’s important to get in close with a good grooming session often — at least a few times a week! Get these five tools and get rubbing.
The Curry Comb is your go-to item for so many tasks: loosening mud, shedding off winter coats, impromptu massages. Maybe that’s why there are so many kinds of curry comb. Plastic curry combs are great for brushing tails and that perpetually shedding spot between your horse’s eyes. Traditional, oval, hard rubber curry combs, with those little soft teeth, are wonderful for rubbing down a short-coated horse in the summer time. And the newer soft-rubber curry combs, often round and with cylindrical teeth, really dive deep into winter coats and offer incredible massage tools. Try giving your horse a back-rub by pressing a soft curry comb methodically near his withers and spine. He’ll tell you if he likes it or not — and if he likes it, he won’t want you to stop! Curry comb rub-downs are a great way to show your horse you care.
The Dandy Brush has a great old-fashioned name, which is funny when you consider it’s nearly always made of plastic these days. Dandy brushes are stiff, hard-bristled tools sometimes called mud brushes, and with good reason. They’re essential for knocking tough mud off of legs and bodies, especially if you live in an area with clay soil. Keeping the legs, fetlocks, and pasterns mud-free is important to avoid skin infections and funguses that could rapidly turn serious, even causing lameness. Be careful where you flick a dandy brush, because if a horse doesn’t like those stiff bristles on sensitive skin, like the flank or belly, they might let you know in no uncertain terms!
The Body Brush is your favorite brush. Its bristles are medium: sort of soft, sort of stiff. It can be made of anything: synthetic or natural fibers. It’s the one that you sweep across your horse, ending each sweeping motion with a flick to kick the dust and dirt out of the horse’s coat. It’s the one you use to knock shavings out of your horse’s mane when you don’t have a comb handy. It’s the one you hand your little cousin when they want to brush the horsey. It’s basic, it’s easy, it’s always around in a pinch. It’s hard to hurt a horse with a nice body brush. Beware of stiff dandy brushes masquerading as body brushes, however. Make sure you have one nice semi-soft brush that is there for all occasions and all the sensitive parts of your horse!
The Hoofpick is non-negotiable. Every horse should have their hooves picked out, every day! Mud, stones, manure, and nails: these are hazards for every horse, whether they are riding horses or broodmares who live out for months on end. Hoofpicks are your first line of defense in keeping your horse sound and happy, cleaning out organic matter that can quickly get to work rotting your horse’s feet from the inside out. When choosing a hoofpick, look for one that isn’t so sharp it can actually damage the white line of a soft hoof. A favorite is the traditional plastic brush on one side, blunt pick on the other. The brush is perfect for sweeping matter out of the frog so that you can get a good look at its condition without damaging the sensitive, soft part of the hoof.
The Horsehair Brush is for the final polish. Why does rubbing horsehair with horsehair pull off those last bits of dust and shavings and leave your horse gleaming? It’s a mystery. But every grooming kit should have a horsehair brush. After you’re done grooming, give your horse one last swipe with this incredibly soft brush, and watch him shine — no hair polish required.
There are dozens and dozens of tools you can have in your grooming kit, but these five are the essentials: all you need to keep you and your horse happy and clean. Well — almost. One thing you’ll find, the cleaner you get your horse, the dirtier you’ll be. Happy grooming!