This easy step by step guide on how to groom a horse will teach you in 4 quick steps how to keep your horse cleaner, healthier and happier on a daily basis.
First off, let’s start with why you should even bother grooming your horse. I mean of course it helps your horse look pretty – but it’s actually much more important than just for looks!
Why Groom your Horse Besides Keeping Em’ Shiny?
Your horse definitely needs to be groomed before and after every ride to keep the coat, and especially the hooves, clean. If your horse has something in their hoof like a stone and you take them out for a hard ride, it could be very painful and potentially very harmful to them.
After a ride, when your horse is sweaty, grooming helps to dry them off and prevents them from getting cold and stiff. This also reduces injury and keeps your horse happier and healthier!
Also, your horse should be groomed after a bath to again help with drying their coat off and also to smooth out their coat and untangle their mane and tail. Ideally, your horse should be groomed every day even when they are not being ridden.
Step 1: Start with a currycomb to get that dirt up
What is currying?
The first step is currying. You’ll want to start by currying your horse in order to loosen up all the dirt from your horse’s coat. A currycomb an oblong shape and is usually made from rubber with many small rubber bumps on it.
Some currycombs are made from metal and have metal “teeth” on them. You should move this comb on along horses coat in a circular motion. You don’t want to press to hard but don’t be too gentle either as you want to lift up the dirt from within your horse’s coat.
You’ll see the dirt being lifted…
As you circle the brush, you will see a bunch of dirt grains become visible as they are brought up from the horse’s skin up to on top of his or her coat. This loosened dirt will now be much easier to brush off than it would have been if it had been embedded at the bottom of the horse’s coat near his or her skin.
Work from ear to tail
Start from your horse’s neck and proceed down along the body although order is not that important here. Do not currycomb the head, the mane, the tail or the lower legs as it is not effective in these areas. Currycombs are most useful along the neck, back, sides, rump and stomach of your horse.
Remember to always be in contact with your horse – or as much as possible when you are grooming him or her. Especially if you have to walk behind your horse, keep one hand on the top of the rump so that your horse knows where you are when he or she can’t see you. This will not only keep the horse calmer and happier but will also help you two bond and form trust.
Note that some horses don’t necessarily like this step because they don’t like the feeling of the rubber. A well trained horse should remain calm and trust you; however, I used to groom a feisty little black pony who would buck and kick at his stall the second the currycomb touched him no matter what we did.
Just be cautious with this. In fact, be cautious with all of the following grooming steps if this is your first time grooming the horse in question. If this is your first time grooming any horse, ask someone experienced and confident to observe and help you if need be.
Step 2: Flick the dirt and sweat off with the hard brush
What is a hard brush?
A hard brush and a soft brush look very similar except that a hard brush has stiffer bristles. You want to use a sweeping motion to “flick” off the dirt and/or sweat from your horse’s coat now that its all sitting on the top. Don’t use strokes that are too long as you don’t want to push the dirt back in.
You simply want to use short, flicking motions to sweep the dirt and sweat off. Often you can actually see the dirt coming off in little puffs or a bit of the sweat spraying off.
Work from ear to tail…
Start along the neck and work your way down along the body. You want to move the dirt backwards and off your horse as you go. Don’t brush the head, mane, tail or lower legs. Some do use the hard brush for these areas as well although I find the soft brush is better. It is gentler on the horse and on the horse’s coat/mane/tail.
Step 3: Smooth out the coat, mane and tail using the soft brush
What is a soft brush?
Use the soft brush in order to finish off your horse’s coat and give it a softened, shiny feel. The soft brush somewhat removes but functions more as a softening tool. You want to use this brush in long, smooth strokes. Flicking motions that work for the hard brush aren’t as effective here.
Work from ear to tail…
Start from the head and work your way down along the body and legs. Finish off with the mane and tail. With the tail, do not stand directly behind your horse. In fact you should never be standing directly behind your horse for any length of time, especially without contact. Stand instead on your horse’s left side facing opposite from your horse so that your horse’s left rump side is beside you and in contact with your shoulder/side and bring your horse’s tail towards you to brush.
A soft brush is useful for more difficult areas
It is also what is useful to use on your horse’s head (along the nose bridge and cheeks) but be careful to avoid the end of the nose, the nostrils and the eyes as these are all very sensitive areas. Soft brushes are great for brushing out your horse’s mane and tail.
They are not as quick as hard brushes but they are gentler and better for the health of the hair I find.
Finally, you can use quick sweeping motions with these brushes to flick off dirt in the case of the horse’s lower legs that are too sensitive for stiff bristles.
A wide toothed comb or regular brush is also good for the mane and tail
For daily grooming the soft brush is sufficient but every once in a while such as after a bath or before a show, you may want to completely detangle your horse’s mane and tail. For this you will need a mane and tail “hair brush” and/or a wide toothed comb.
This is a longer process that requires lots of patience. Definitely don’t be too aggressive but you also don’t have to treat your horse like a porcelain doll – if you pull slightly, they aren’t going to be in pain. It’s just like brushing through your own hair except with much thicker skin!
Step 4: Finish off with picking out dirt, stones, and gunk from those hooves
What is a hoof pick?
A hoof pick will have a rubber handle usually attached to a metal pick. Sometimes there will be a mini-brush on the opposite side of the pick. The metal end of the pick is used to dig out dirt, stones and other gunk that has gotten stuck in your horse’s hoof. The brush can be used to quickly flick out dryer dust or little bits the pick can’t get.
Hoof picking is super important step because stones lodged in a hoof for too long can be painful for your horse. Rarely, they can even cause lameness in that leg. So its vital that your horse’s hooves are always picked properly before and after every ride!
And that’s the last of the equipment that you’re going to need for the 4 main grooming steps!
This can be intimidating for many, especially new riders, because it requires you to handle your horse’s hooves and actually support them. And we all know how much force a horse can muster behind a hoof.
So the most important parts of this step is:
- To make sure you have someone experienced help you if its your first time or if you are unsure
- And to make sure you are as relaxed as possible
Your horse can sense if you are anxious, and this in turn with make him or her anxious because your anxiety is an indication to your horse that there may be a “threat” nearby. This is an instinct your horse possesses that was used to avoid predators in the wild.
The proper technique to get your horse to lift a hoof
You want to start by standing next to your horse on the left facing opposite your horse so that your left shoulder/side is in contact with your horse’s left one.
Have your hoof pick in your right hand.
Then you want to slowly slide down your left hand along your horses front left leg, turning your hand so that eventually you will be cupping your horse’s hoof in it. At the same time as your doing that, you want to lean into your horse gently so that you are putting pressure on the left shoulder.
This will reflexively cause your horse to pick up that left front hoof for you. Once the hoof is up, keep it supported securely in your hand.
Hoof care – where and where not to pick
Use your hoof pick to pick out dirt, stones, and anything else from the grooves on the sides of the frog (the part of the hoof in the middle that sticks out, is not as hard as the rest of the hoof and is shaped roughly like a triangle). You basically want to make sure the hoof is clean all around the frog.
Make sure you do NOT pick the frog as this area is sensitive and your horse may react!
For stubborn horses
Treat the other 3 hooves in the same manner. Some horses are more stubborn on certain hooves, like rear hooves or one hoof in particular. Vary the amount of pressure you apply with your body until the horse raises a hoof.
Also, you can simultaneously be applying pressure right above your horses hoof on the leg towards the back therefore coaxing your horse to lift a hoof with two separate pressure points at the same time.
Here’s a quick video to help you out 🙂
Yay – you did it, great job! Your horse is now freshly groomed and happy until the next time. I also like to give my horse an apple or a carrot or any other kind of treat for putting up with me prodding and pestering him or her after I’m finished.
If you’re looking to buy your own grooming kit, click here to see the one that I recommend for beginners (and it’s pink!)
Please don’t hesitate to comment below if you have any comments or questions!
Happy riding 🙂
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