What you should know about grooming horses

Horse grooming is the process of enhancing your animal’s physical appearance. It includes hygienic care for the horse’s body, hair, hooves and overall wellbeing.

young woman lying on horse
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Reasons for grooming a horse

Brushing a horse’s hair makes it cleaner and improves blood flow on the skin surface, so grooming should be a key part of your routine. Interestingly, it’s a common behaviour for horses to groom each other. The animals do it to provide mutual feelings of love, respect, happiness and comfort—but when done by humans, it strengthens human-horse interactions. Unfortunately, for different reasons, some horse owners neglect grooming while those who understand the huge benefits do it regularly.

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Tools for grooming horses

Several horse grooming tools are available to horse owners and handlers. But the process and technique might vary according to one’s knowledge and skills. However, proper use of the following tools can keep your horse relaxed during the grooming and cleaning activities:

Dandy brush: High-quality dandy brushes are usually stiff and likely to wear out easily because they are made of natural bristles (such as rice stems). The most common dandy brush is made of plastic materials.

Generally, dandy brushes are effective for grooming horses’ legs but you should expect the animals to object—especially when used on the head.

Enhance use of dandy brushes by wetting it with water. This technique is most preferred because the moistened brush enables smooth brushing of the horse’s mane, hair coat or tail.

Currycomb: This short-teeth comb is an important tool used to groom horses on daily basis. Currycombs are usually made of rubber or plastic materials designed with handles that easily slide onto the handler’s hand. Users should gently rub or “curry” the tool to untie tangled hair and remove dirt. Massaging the horse’s skin with a currycomb helps it to produce natural oils.

Currycombs can be used in a circular motion. Alternatively, you can apply repeated, short and swift strokes according to hair growth patterns. Although there are few types of currycombs made of softer rubber, most of those available in the market are too harsh and not suitable for use on a horse’s legs or head.

Fitch or metal currycomb: This grooming tool is made of short metal teeth lined up in rows. Metal or fitch currycombs are best used for cleaning other grooming brushes. The metal teeth can, however, damage a horse’s skin and hair if used as a shedding blade.

Towel: A grooming rag or towel may be referred to as a “stable rubber”. It is usually made of any material (such as terrycloth or linen) that are purposefully used to brighten a horse’s coat. A towel is mostly used to dry up sweat on the horse’s body after a ride or bath.

Hoof pick: To clean horse hooves, a hoof pick (made of hooked metal) is required. The hoof pick is usually small and made with very stiff brush that makes it easy to remove dirt and mud. You can pick your horse’s feet before or after riding.

Mane comb or brush: Horse manes (especially short or pulled manes) are usually brushed with a metal or wide-toothed plastic comb whereas long manes and tails are best straightened with dandy brush—or other hairbrushes used by humans.

To avoid hair breakage, you should pick out your horse’s mane and tail if they are extremely long. While braiding the hair, you can use a pulling comb (often short-toothed) to pull, shorten, or straighten as desired.

Shedding blade: This tool is specially made to remove loose hair during winter. Usually made of metal, with short and dull teeth, the shedding blade is also useful in removing sticky mud but you should be careful not to dull, separate, or irritate the horse’s skin. Shedding blades are best used on sheep and show cattle, so may be harsh on horses.

Sweat scraper: This grooming tool is used to remove sweat after strenuous activities or bathing. Sweat scrapers are designed as one or two curved blades (used as a shedding or sweat scraping tool) and may have different handles made from plastic, rubber or metallic materials.