Some of this maintenance should be left to professionals, such as veterinary care, blacksmithing, and tack or equipment repair. These services are the owner’s responsibility to schedule and pay for, but can only be carried out by those with proper training.
If you read more about horse racing, you know how important it is for the horses involved to be groomed.
Grooming horses, however, is an act of love that an owner can carry out themselves. Your horse will feel his best, and the experience can strengthen the bond between horse and owner.
There are a lot of steps to a good, thorough grooming. Read on to see what’s involved!
Baths for horses often involve the human leaving the scene dirtier than they were when they arrived!
An equine bath usually involves tying or clipping the horse in an outside area, with the ground covered in rubber to avoid slipping. You will also need a hose to get your horse wet. Make sure to slowly turn the water pressure in and make sure it is a mild temperature, so that your horse does not spook.
You can use large textured dish gloves to scrub, or sponges similar to those you would use to wash a car. Use gentle, unscented soap for your horse’s body, and scrub firmly. Take special care to move gently while washing the underside of your horse’s belly, and even more so when washing the ears.
For the mane and tail, it is best to use a shampoo that will cleanse the hair a bit more thoroughly. When washing the tail, pull it over to the side- never, ever stand directly behind your horse, as being kicked is always a risk! Section your horse’s tail into thirds of fourths and work the shampoo in with your fingers. Horses are far less sensitive to “hair pulling” sensation, so you are unlikely to hurt them.
After you have rinsed away all the suds, you can use a plastic squeegee or sweat scraper to remove excess water along with cloths and towels. Then, depending on the weather and your horse’s temperament, you may wish to dry them out by hand-walking them around a shedrow or paddock.
Just like human hair, manes and tails can get frizzy in the summer humidity! While wet, you can gently comb out tangles. To keep knots and mats from occurring, you may want to consider keeping the mane in small bands and keeping the tail in a basic braid.
When your horse is dry, out come the curry combs and dandy brushes! This aspect of grooming removes old hairs and stimulates the horse’s skin, similar to how exfoliating works on people. To curry your horse, start at the top of the neck and work down and to the sides; use short but very firm strokes to pull up dead hair. Don’t be afraid to use some muscle- your horse will appreciate it!
After you have finished currying, it’s time to switch to the dandy brush. This stuff brush will whisk away any leftover hair or dust from the curry, so your horse will (literally and figuratively) shine.
You may also want to clip your horse’s ears. This is best done with a small electric set of clippers that have little to no noise. Most horses will resist ear maintenance, and so it is best to have the horse’s head secured (such as clipping a halter or lead shank to the wall) to do this. You may also want to have a partner use a twitch on your horse, which involves tugging a part of a horse’s lip into a device in order to distract the horse.
Finally, you must tend to your horse’s hooves. Although the trimming of the hoof and the shoeing should both be done by professionals, you will still need to pick dirt and other irritants from your horse’s hooves. To do this, approach your horse’s side and lean your shoulder into him just enough to cause him to shift his weight to the other side. Then, gently pick up the hoof and use a hoof pick to clear out any crud, taking special care around the sensitive center of the hoof, called the “frog.”
For Gelding Owners
There is a specific aspect of grooming that a gelding owner must include.
The sheath, or the outer covering of a gelding’s genitals, secretes a substance called “sebum,” which, when mixed with dirt or sweat, can build up into smegma and cause a host of health problems. As such, a gelding’s sheath needs to be cleaned frequently. As this is a delicate process that not all horses tolerate well, it is best to work with an expert on sheath cleaning until you are confident in yourself and your horse.