Begin Your Horse’s Spring Grooming

Spring grooming of the horse assists in promoting a clean, shiny coat and skin.
Begin Your Horse’s Spring Grooming - Articles
Begin Your Horse’s Spring Grooming

Benefits of Regular Grooming

  • Give it a clean, shiny coat and skin
  • Stimulate muscle tone
  • Gentle to most horses
  • Provide an opportunity to examine the horse closely.

Basic grooming tools

  • rubber currycomb or rubber groom-mitt
  • a coarse-bristle dandy brush
  • a fine-bristle body brush
  • a wool cloth or cotton towel rub rag
  • a hoof pick
  • electric clippers
  • a coarse-toothed mane and tail comb
  • a shedding or scrape stick-bent double with the two ends fastened, is a handy tool to use during the spring when the horse sheds its winter hair. It can be turned over and used as a sweat scraper in the summer.
  • A sponge can be used to clean muddy legs and other dirty areas.
  • Metal spring, or bar-type currycombs, are not recommended for show horses because they pull and break the hair.
  • Keep your tools clean. Remembering how you use the tools, not their quality, determines the results.

When and How to Groom

  • Groom your horse before and after you ride. If you follow a definite system, you will thoroughly clean the horse each time, and it will require less work.
  • Comb in the direction of hair growth. Begin brushing the horse with a rubber curry comb or rubber groom-mitt at the head and work back on the near side including the legs. Then go to the off side and work back from head to tail. Don't neglect the head (be gentle here) and the area around the tail. Do not use a metal curry comb the head or below the knees and hocks. There is no fat or muscle in these areas to cushion the comb's hard edge
  • Use a wet sponge or soft brush to remove dirt from the horse's head, knees or hocks. Use a rubber curry comb to remove caked dirt from below the knees and hocks.
  • When brushing, start with the coarse-bristle dandy brush and brush in short, brisk strokes. Flick the bristle up at the end of each stroke so it throws dirt away from the hair. Brush with the lay of the hair. It changes direction at different points on the body, so watch for these changes.
  • Use the dandy brush on the body and legs, but not on the head. Use the fine-bristle body brush on the head, body and legs. Again, brush in the direction the hair grows. Rub the horse from head to tail with a wool cloth or cotton towel rub rag to remove dust.
  • Many old-time grooms use their hands and fingers to rub and massage hair and muscles. When training a young horse, use your hands to rub, scratch and massage every part of its body.

Trimming and clipping

  • Clippers and shears are additional tools used for grooming. Use clippers for cutting bridle paths and leg hair, to trim around the head, ears and lower jaw, and to remove whiskers from the muzzle. Shears can be used in place of for horses that are clipper-shy. Clipping a horse can be dangerous. Always have experienced people around to provide assistance if needed.

Mane and tail styles vary with breed preferences

  • Contact your breed association for grooming styles.
  • Regardless of style, the foretop, mane and tail should be kept neat. Tangles in the mane and tail should be worked out with your fingers and brushed with a dandy brush. Use caution when using a comb. Over a period of time, a coarse-toothed comb or currycomb will pull out hair and leave it thin. Never try to pull tangles out; they just become worse. Pick at them to loosen snarls. Watch for burrs and sticks caught in the mane and tail; remove them carefully. When grooming the tail, stand at the horse's side and never directly behind the rear of the horse.

Feet care

  • Proper cleaning of feet requires you to pick up each foot. Every foal should be taught to allow its feet to be picked up and handled. Begin when it is young so it gets accustomed to the feel of your hands. If you trim the foal's feet as it grows, you should have no trouble when the horse becomes full grown.
  • Slide your left hand down the cannon to the fetlock. Lean with your left should against the horse's shoulder. Reverse for picking up the off forefoot. When the horse shifts weight and relaxes on the foot, pick it up.
  • For a quick cleaning, hold the hoof in your free hand. When shoeing or a long leaning job, it will help to place the horse's foreleg between your legs. Hold your knees together to help support the weight of the horse's leg.
  • Near hindfoot: Stand forward of the hindquarter and stroke with your right hand from the point of the hip down the hip and leg to the middle of the cannon. As you move the right hand down, place the left hand on the hip and press to force the horse's weight to the opposite leg. Grasp the back of the cannon just above the fetlock and lift the foot forward.
  • When the horse is settled, move to the rear, keeping the leg straight and swing your left leg underneath the fetlock to help support the horse's leg. Never pull the foot to the side--your horse will resist. Reverse sides for picking up the off leg.
  • Clean the hoof from heel to toe. Pay particular attention to the area around the frog. Clean the depressions thoroughly between the frog and the bars to prevent thrush and other foot infections. Watch for rocks, nails, injuries and loose shoes. Check the growth of the hoof periodically; trim and change shoes when necessary.
  • Proper hoof trimming is very important because it keeps your horse standing squarely and moving straight. Trim hooves every six to eight weeks, or when growth exceeds wear, depending on the rate of growth. The hooves of young horses should be watched closely as they grow. Keep feet trimmed regularly so that the muscles and bones of the feet and legs will develop correctly. A healthy hoof grows about 3/8- to 1/2-inch a month and the fastest growth is at the toe of the hoof. Do not let hooves grow long during winter months or when you are not using your horse. Keep hooves trimmed. If your horse is idle during winter months, it may be left unshod so its hooves have a chance to expand without being limited by shoes. This will help prevent contracted heels.
  • Corrective trimming and shoeing on some horses improves or corrects inherited faults in conformation. The work should be done only by a person fully experienced in the structure of the foot and leg who has the knowledge of corrective measures. Ask your farrier for the shoe size your horse wears on the front and back, and if he did corrective work on your horse. If so, ask what correction was needed and exactly what was done. Learn the basic points of proper shoeing so you will know when your horse is shod correctly. A poor job of shoeing can cripple your horse for long periods of time. Know what is correct and insist the job be done right.The hooves of a horse often become too moist with the damp Eastern climate.
  • Keep your horse's hooves from becoming too moist. When hooves are too moist thrush infections and white line disease are common. If your horse gets thrush, apply a commercial germicidal preparation or a 7 percent iodine solution to the frog area of the hoof. If affected by white line disease, apply the same solution to the lower hoof wall and the white line.

Fitting and training for show

  • Competition when showing horses, either halter or saddle, is challenging. If you intend to compete, you must plan to fit your horse. Proper fitting and conditioning is time-consuming. It requires a good worming program, proper feeding, a balanced exercise schedule, grooming and training. You cannot fit a horse properly in a day, a week or a month. Start early.

Worming program

  • The worming program should keep the horse free of internal parasites mentioned. If your horse has worms, it cannot make the best use of its food, and is likely to develop digestive problems.

Feeding program

  • Follow a feeding program that furnishes all the required nutrients. Consider the size of the horse, its growth rate (if young) and the amount of exercise or use it gets. Feed to get a good covering of flesh, but not an overly body condition. You must balance your feeding with exercise to keep the horse's body fit and its muscle good tone.

Exercise

  • Exercise is necessary to build muscles and develop stamina. Circumstances will dictate how you exercise the horse, but it should receive some planned exercise daily. Training and exercising can be combined, but keep them in balance. Train for short periods. Plan to get the horse out on long, relaxed rides to introduce variety in the exercise routine. This will help prevent boredom and a sour attitude. Lunge the horse for 20 to 30 minutes on days when the horse is not in training, to keep muscle tone. Regular turn out in a pasture or paddock to play and exercise freely benefits the horse mentally and physically.

Grooming

  • Regular grooming is a must. The horse should be cleaned and brushed at least once a day. Brushing will stimulate the skin and bring out natural hair oils that make the coat shine. A quick brushing when a horse is warm after working it will also help bring out body oils.
  • Wipe the entire body with a cloth after brushing. As you use the cloth, it will accumulate oil from the hair. This oil will help shine the hair, and will pick up more dust from the hair. You may dampen the cloth and use it as a temporary substitute for a full bath.

Bathing

  • When you bathe your horse, use a mild soap and rinse thoroughly. Use only water on the horse's face--avoid using soap.
  • After rinsing the horse's body, scrape the remaining water off with a sweat scraper.
  • Then, rub the horse dry with a clean towel. Keep the horse out of drafts until it is dry. The horse's coat may be fluffy and not lay flat after washing. If bathing can be done at least one day prior to a show and the horse kept clean until show time, the hair will lay flatter and smoother.

Grooming techniques will assist in promoting cleanliness

  • Cleanliness is very important, especially in showmanship classes. Clean the horse around eyes, nostrils, muzzle, under the tail and between its legs. The gelding's sheath and the mare's udder also require regular cleaning.
  • A blanket or sheet placed on the horse overnight will help keep the coat clean, but blanketing your horse should depend on circumstances. If you plan to show early or late in the season, it is necessary to blanket the horse full time when a short-hair coat is desired during the winter months.

Clipping

  • Train the horse to allow you to use electric clippers to trim the long hairs on the muzzle, under the jaws, the ears, the bridle path, and the legs. Breed and show customs will influence what you clip, but the goal is to have the horse looking trim and neat.

Shoeing

  • Keep the horse's hooves trimmed and in a healthy condition. If the horse is shod, the shoes should be reset or replaced about every six to eight weeks. Replace worn shoes before a show. It is best to trim the hooves and shoe the horse one to two weeks before the show; this will allow time for the horse to recover if it becomes sore due to short trimming.
  • The feet should be clean when you enter the show ring. A hoof dressing may be applied, but avoid those that leave a greasy appearance and attract dust. Use of artificial hoof coloring varies from breed to breed so know your breed rules.

Summary

  • None of the tricks practiced in fitting a horse for showing replaces the need for good feeding, grooming, exercise and training. Be observant and learn new techniques as you watch others. Add these ideas to your fitting knowledge, and use those that appear to help. Don't be misled by fads or fancies.

Authors

Implementing Conservation Practices Environmental Stewardship Equine Care and Management Equine Nutrition Equine Pasture and Manure Management Riding Area Surfaces

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