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  • Mary Kate McCaughey

Grooming - the Art of Keeping a Horse Clean

Grooming is an important part of horsemanship and has multiple benefits. The main goals are to prevent saddle sores, which occur when dirt is trapped underneath the tack, and for presentation when showing. However, there are other benefits - it improves the bond between horse and rider; plus, it gives you a chance to thoroughly inspect your horse for any soreness or wounds.

At is simplest, grooming is comprised of three steps:

Step One - Currying. A curry brush is usually rubber with rubber nobs. There are different types/sizes for different parts of the horse. This step is used to move dead skin, hair, and dirt to the surface. Currying is performed against the hair. For example, if you are currying the horse's left side, you would curry in counterclockwise motions.

Step Two - Hard Brushing. A hard brush is used to brush off the dirt, skin, and hair from step one. Brushing should always be with the hair. Avoid brushing the lower parts of the legs and face.

Step Three - Soft Brushing. Soft brushes are used to remove dust and help polish the coat by distributing natural oils. Like the hard brush, brush in the direction of the hair. Soft brushes are okay to use on the face; however some precautions are necessary. Make sure the horse is comfortable with being brushed on the face and make sure not to get dust in their eyes.

Other grooming implements may be used:

A hoof pick is used to remove mud and rocks from the horse's feet. Care must be taken when picking out their feet to avoid the frog. The frog is the fleshy center part of a horse's foot. Do not attempt until instructed to do so.

A comb is used to detangle their mane and tail. A spritz is used to assist in detangling, plus giving the hair some needed conditioner. It is important to hold the hair higher up with one hand while you brush out the tangles with the other so the pulling doesn't irritate them.

Shedding blades are used in the spring to help remove hair during shedding season. They can be used for dirt, too. Care should be taken to not press too hard and to only use on the bigger parts of the horse.

Hoof dressing is brushed onto hooves to keep them conditioned and moistened. Hooves are like our nails, and need to be taken care of to prevent cracking or splitting.

These are only a few of the most common items used during grooming. Grooming, if done correctly, could take at least an hour, often more. Doing a little bit each day helps. Regardless, basic grooming is completed before and after riding. Before, in order to clean the horse for tack and after to get rid of sweat and dirt. Day-to-day, grooming is more about function and maintenance.

For horse shows, special attention is taken. Presentation is important, so grooming is more in depth. Grooming takes longer and may include a bubble bath! It may include adding other novelties such as adding a fake tail (like a woman adding extensions to her hair) to make the tail appear more full.

Remember, just like young kids, each horse has their own opinion about brushing. Make sure to pay attention to your horse as you groom. Just ask Gadget!

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