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Horse Grooming Techniques

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Horse grooming is a very important aspect of horse care. Not all horses are groomed the same. Wild horses survive just fine without any grooming; domestic horses, on the other hand, are expected to be clean of any mud, stains, and dust. Always make sure you are equipped with the right horse grooming supplies in order to get the job done correctly.

Outside horses should not be groomed excessively. The grease in the coat helps keep them warm and dry when the weather turns miserable. Also, horses that spend a good amount of time outdoors should have their feet picked out and mud and stains removed. Special attention should be given to those areas on the horse where tack lies. As for stabled horses, a full grooming not only removes dirt but also massages the animal’s muscles and skin, which in turn stimulates the release of natural oils into the coat and improves circulation. A quick grooming can also be used as a time to assess any possible injuries, missing shoes, weight loss, or other changes.

Removing Mud

Removing MudThe hooves are the best place to begin. Pull the hoof pick down each side of the frog from heel to toe to remove any caked mud or manure. You may also need to run the pick along the inside of the shoe. Next, move to the body. Get rid of any dried mud with a rubber curry comb or dandy brush. Be sure to brush in a straight line, in the direction of hair growth. The bristles of the dandy brush are relatively harsh; try to avoid using one on more tender areas, like the horse’s belly and clipped areas.

Body and Tail Brushing

Horse BrushingOnce most of the mud has been removed, get a body brush and begin cleaning and massaging the horse’s skin. Start along the crest of the neck, brushing with the grain in short circular strokes. Apply enough pressure so the bristles reach down to the skin. After the crest has been thoroughly cleaned, flip the mane and work on it a few locks at a time. Remove any tangles with your fingers, and then, from the roots downward, brush the mane down from the neck. Brush all parts of the animal’s body working towards the tail.

Pay close attention when working near sensitive areas, such as the inside of the legs and groin. It is important that you watch where you stand so that you aren’t hurt if the horse kicks. Use the left hand on the left side of the horse and the right hand on the reverse. Put your weight behind the strokes. The process will be tiring; if you don’t feel a little tired afterwards, then you may not be applying as much force as you need to be. You can keep the body brush clean with a metal curry comb. After every four or five strokes, push the bristles across the curry comb. From time to time, tap the corner of the brush on a hard surface to dislodge any dirt.

When grooming the tail, brush it out with a body brush; use your fingers to remove any tangles. Try not to pull any hairs out as this will hurt the horse. Never use a dandy brush or curry comb on the tail. Starting from the bottom, hold the tail in one hand and shake a small section free. Brush the small section with long, flowing strokes. Continue this at a gradual pace until you are finished.

Sponging

Horse SpongingSome areas of the horse’s body require more attention than others. The best tool for achieving a proper cleaning is undoubtedly a sponge. Start at the outside corner of the horse’s body and sponge inward so that you do the dirtiest parts last. When cleaning the muzzle, sponge around the lips, and then around the nostrils; you can put the sponge right into a nostril and clean inside. Once you are finished with the front, move to the back. Use a different sponge for the dock area. Lift the tail out of the way, and gently sponge the underside of the dock and the whole area under the tail.

Training Hair

Dampening the mane encourages the hairs to lie flat and look neat. Wet the brush and give it a good shake to remove excess water. Place the brush on the base of the mane and work from the roots downward. When it comes to training the tail, dampen the top of the tail with a water brush in the same manner as you did with the mane. Pay special attention to short hairs that would otherwise stick up. When finished, you can bandage the tail to keep it neat.

Finishing Touches

Once the basic grooming techniques are completed, give the horse a quick "once-over." With a slightly dampened cloth, wipe the animal’s body in the direction of the hairs to remove any remaining dust.

For an eye-catching appearance, oil your horse’s hooves. Never apply oil to a dirty hoof, as it will seal in the dirt. Brush off any mud from the hooves before applying the oil; in muddy conditions, it may be necessary to wash them. If you do wash the horse’s hooves, dry them thoroughly or else the oil will not act as effectively. Cover the whole hoof, from the bulbs of the heel up to the coronet, with a thin, even coating of oil. Oil the sole of the hoof too; this can help prevent mud, ice, and straw from getting packed into the foot.

Did you know that horses will groom each other? They do so with their teeth as a form of social bonding. They will also roll in dust as a way of dry shampooing or will rub against trees as a way of brushing their coat. However, don’t expect your horses to do all of their own grooming. If you also follow some of the above grooming techniques, your horse will remain healthier, happier and cleaner.
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