Horsemanship, Horse Care

How to Groom a Horse: Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re new to horses, the amount of grooming brushes and gadgets seems insane. There’s something for everything; soft brushes, hard brushes, brushes for legs, brushes for faces, brushes for manes. And that doesn’t even touch on things like shampoos, shine spray, and the new tools which make the grooming job a bit easier. 

Luckily, we’re here to demystify grooming for you. Though your horse’s grooming needs will vary a bit depending on where you live and what their turnout conditions are like, this is a good basic step by step process. 

Once you’ve got this sorted and you can do it with no problems, you can start to add in extra steps or products for daily care or even shows. 

So, here’s what you need to know about the step-by-step process to grooming a horse. Generally, it’s easiest to start at the hooves and then go to the body. That way, you know you haven’t missed anything out. 

Step 1: Secure Your Horse

Make sure your horse is tied or stabled somewhere securely. This stops them moving around and means you can focus on grooming whilst keeping both of you safe.

Step 2: Start with the Feet

Pick your horse’s hooves using a hoof pick. This is very important as stones and bruises can cause lameness. In fact, you should always pick your horse’s feet before you ride, even if they’ve had a full grooming earlier in the day.

Start at the back of the foot and use the hoof pick in a firm but smooth motion towards the toe. Remember to clean out the deep V-shaped grooves on either side of the frog. Here is a helpful video if you’re not sure how to pick hooves. 

Step 3: Curry, Curry, Curry

Now that the hooves are done, it’s time to tackle your horse’s body. The first brush you are going to use is the curry comb. This is for loosening mud, dirt, and hair. 

To use the curry comb properly, firmly rub it in small circular motion all over your horse’s body and neck. You want to work in the opposite direction to the horse’s hair. Beware that your arm will probably get tired if your horse is very dirty or you’re not used to the motion yet. As you go, you’ll notice plenty of dirt and dust building up on your horse’s coat. That’s good! We’ll tackle it after this step. 

You can use the curry comb on the horse’s mane and legs, as long as you have a rubber curry comb. But remember to be very gentle over bony areas so that you don’t hurt your horse.

Step 4: Hard Brush to the Rescue

Once the dirt has been loosened by the curry comb, the “beautifying” process begins. The really difficult work is over now, and it becomes easier to groom your horse from this step onwards. 

The next brush you’ll need is a hard brush. In some places, this is also called a dandy brush. The bristles will be fairly stiff rather than soft and flimsy. This brush is used to remove dust and sweat from your horse’s coat. 

Work in long, firm strokes from the neck or shoulder towards the horse’s flank, going with the direction of the hair. You want to “flick” the worst of the dirt and dust off now that it’s been loosened up and worked out of the coat. 

Because dandy brushes or hard brushes have firm bristles, you shouldn’t use them on your horse’s leg or face. These areas are too sensitive for hard brushes like this, and can make your horse uncomfortable. 

Image: Unsplash

Step 5: Finishing Off

The end is in sight! Next, you’ll want to go for the soft brush, also known as a body brush. I know it sounds strange seeing as almost all the brushes are for the horse’s body, but there we go…

This one looks almost exactly like a dandy brush, but has lovely soft bristles for finishing everything off and getting your horse shiny and soft. Use long, gentle strokes to get your horse’s coat ready for all-day cuddles and kisses, and to remove any last flecks of dirt. You can also use this brush (gently) on the legs, and to brush out the mane and tail. 

Step 6: Cleaning the Face

Of course, you haven’t been able to fully clean your horse’s face up until now. Most horses don’t appreciate having their faces brushed, which is understandable. 

To finish off, you’ll want to clean your horse’s face with a cloth or sponge. Make it damp, and gently use it to wipe your horse’s nose, eyes, and around the ears. While you’re at it, use a separate sponge to wipe under the tail too. Go gently! 

You can use a special face brush to finish the look.

Other Things to Remember

This is a good way to get a hang of the basics of grooming a horse. And in most cases, it will serve you well. There are one or two cases in which you might want to change or add to the routine, however. 

For instance, there are lots of effective new tools like grooming gloves or mitts, tail brushes, and grooming blocks. You don’t have to use these, but as you get familiar with the process, you might find some of this equipment makes your life a little bit easier. But you should still know the “old-fashioned” way, too!

It’s also good to remember if the horse is very dirty, it might be less work all around to skip the curry comb and go straight to the bath. That way you can get all the dirt, mud, or grease off before drying them off and continuing with the rest of the grooming process. In most cases though, a good curry comb will be sufficient. 

In summer, you’ll also need to finish off with a good fly spray to keep the pesky insects and flies away from your horse. And in winter, you’ll likely need to spend more time with the curry comb to get any dried mud off your horse. 

And if recommended by the farrier, you may also want to finish your horse’s grooming with a coat of hoof oil. 

Conclusion

We’ve all made silly mistakes when learning to groom. But luckily now you know the basics, there’s no need for funny mane trims or wondering which brush does what. If you’re already an expert, do you have a favorite grooming gadget you think everyone should know about? Tell us in the comments.

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