My routine would vary depending on the season and the timing – for example, if you are grooming before riding in them middle of winter, sometimes the priority is just to get all the mud off! But usually, with clipped out rugged horses, or in the summer, when grooming before riding, presentation is important to us being based at Boomerang stables where so many outside people come and go - and obviously the horse needs to be comfortable, so no mud/dirt on areas where tack will sit. This means that my routine is tailored to that – before riding, we get the feet picked out and oiled and mane and tail brushed, because if we then run out of time at least they look well presented.
After riding, it's important that the horse gets a good stimulating groom, with all the sweat from work removed.
I find it’s always good to start with spraying the tail with mane and tail conditioner (if necessary), because this way, by the time you come to brush the tail, it’s dry and detangled. Unless your horse has a very long thick mane, or is never going to be plaited or pulled, don’t put mane and tail conditioner in the mane! It is virtually impossible to pull or plait!
Then brush the mane over to the right (unless you have a really stubborn left sided mane when sometimes on a daily basis it’s just easier to keep it on the wrong side). If it bothers you that the mane is on the wrong side, down plait it over to the right. By brushing the mane before the body, this also means that any mud or dirt that falls out of the mane doesn’t fall onto your clean horse, it falls onto a dirty neck that you are about to groom, saving you from brushing it twice.
By now the mane and tail conditioner should have worked in the tail. I use a hair brush, or a plastic curry comb, but you can get specialist tail brushes for horses. You can also use a dandy brush to avoid pulling out more tail than necessary.
Twist the tail from the bottom of the dock to the bottom of the tail and then brush the bottom section until there are no tangles left, untwist it a little, brush that next section and continue like this until you can brush it from top to bottom. This way, you don’t rip the hair out and the tail stays thick. Some people don’t like to brush tails on a daily basis, but I think if you keep them soft with mane and tail conditioner, it doesn’t do
much damage and looks really nice. What do you do?
much damage and looks really nice. What do you do?
|My massage brush doesn't look very well any more|
but the horses love it!
I then like to start on the body with my lovely massage brush that I bought years ago on a trip to America, massaging the horse in circular movements all over it’s body. The horse will tell you how he likes it, but most of them really enjoy it and you can press really hard as you massage them!
This has a similar effect to a curry comb, working loose hair and grease to the surface of the skin so it’s easy to flick off with the body brush later.
This also switches the horses’ off and gets them really relaxed and enjoying their groom!
When all the dust and hair is raised to the surface, you can then flick it off with a body brush. If the horse still looks dusty, get a damp hot towel or microfibre cloth and just gently wipe this over the skin, which should help to lift any further dust and grease off. When done daily, there shouldn’t be very much dust anyway, but if the horse is really bad it might need a bath before starting a daily grooming routine.
If the horse is caked in mud when you start, use a dandy brush on a non-clipped (and to an extent, not so sensitive) horse to quickly remove most of the mud. There are lots of mud removing brushes available now so this is just down to personal preference – I have a different massage brush which is more bobbly, which is very useful to get mud off clipped horses. Some people use a grooming glove – what is your preference? Please feel free to add anything I might have missed!
I then have a third, softer massage brush that the horses really enjoy being used on their faces. Once I’ve lifted all the hair and dirt off the face, mine are a bit spoilt and have a goat’s hair face brush, which is really soft (and not actually necessary!) for flicking off the hair and dust. A body brush or normal face brush does just as good a job.
|Softer massage brush, ideal for their face|
(A bit dusty!!)
I also always have baby wipes in my grooming box for cleaning eyes, noses and under the tail! Slightly more expensive than the conventional sponge, but I find more hygienic and quicker.
Now your horse should be feeling fresh and looking great!
|Oiling the heel|
Immediately after riding, the routine is slightly different. If the horse isn’t really sweating, it can either have it’s full ‘evening’ groom then, but usually I like to go over them thoroughly with the massage brush and then either turn them out or leave them in the stable, where possible with no rug so they can have a nice roll.
If they’re sweating, I like to wash them off with warm water, with some lavender wash in the water.
Lavender wash is soothing and relaxing and helps draw out any excess dirt or sweat.
Rugs whilst grooming
If it’s the middle of winter or even just very cold, particularly if the horse is clipped, it’s really important that it has a rug over it at all times. Grooming tends not to be a 30 second mission and it’s not fair on the horse for you to be wrapped up in a scarf, coat, hat and gloves working away while he’s standing there naked in the freezing cold – unless of course you are fortunate enough to have a solarium at the yard.
I tend to rug my horses up a lot, so when grooming I would take all their rugs off, find a heavyweight stable rug within that pile of rugs and put it back on without doing any straps up. To do the neck, shoulder and most of the back, just fold the rug back over the hindquarters. To groom the hindquarters and top of the tail etc, just fold the rug forward so it’s covering the middle section of the horse’s back. Although it is important to let their skin breathe a bit, when 23 hours of the day they are suffocated by rugs, it is bad to let them get cold and cause the muscles to tense.
Grooming at shows
At shows, we have a slightly different grooming routine. The horses are already pristine from lots of washing, so they just need final touch-ups before they get going.
First we put studs in, then get cleaning – we have chalk for any white bits (socks and face markings), baby wipes for any stray chalk dust and for your hands, then, after chalking, you’ll know why when you do it the wrong way round, we put black hoof polish on (all feet including white – but this is down to personal preference).
While waiting for the black hoof oil to dry, we do the quarter marks, wetting the hindquarters with a sponge, then doing the quarter marks and sharks teeth with a firm body brush, then spraying quick plait spray over the finished quarter marks to keep the hair set (similar effect to hair spray.)
Then we brush out the tail, which having been loosely plaited the night before, should fluff out really well. Then we baby wipe the nose and eyes to make sure they’re really clean, then apply baby oil to make them shiny. The last thing before we go is to apply shiny hoof oil over the now dry black hoof oil to give a really nice touch.
Everybody does things differently – this is how I present them out eventing - please add your ideas and comments. I have picked up different ideas along the way but there’s always more to learn and reasons why people do or don’t do certain things, so I hope you’ve found this blog helpful and feel free to add anything I may have missed.
· BEFORE RIDING
· Tail spray
· Pick out feet
· Hoof oil
· Brush tail (twist and brush from bottom to top, then brush through)
· Brush mane over to the right
· Massage in circles all over body including legs with massage brush
· Flick off the dirt with the body brush
· Massage in circles on the face with soft massage brush
· Flick off the dirt with small body brush/goats hair brush
· AFTER RIDING
· If not sweating
- Massage brush
· Body brush
· Sudocrem on mouth
· If sweating
· Lavendar wash and hot water
· Sweat scrape
· Sudocrem on mouth
· *Rugs whilst grooming* (Cold days/clipped horses)
· All rugs off
· Thick stable rug on, fold back to groom neck and back, fold forward to do hindquarters
· Fully on (doesn’t necessarily need to be done up) for neck/face/mane
· Competition Grooming
· Black hoof oil
· Quarter Marks
· Baby wipe and oil nose and eyes
· Shiny Hoof oil