In Part 1, I went over the grooming tools you need in your tool box and lightly touched on the basics of grooming.
Grooming is a ritual that allows you to closely inspect your horse and gives the two of you time to be in each other’s company without dealing with the demands of riding. New window.
Here, I will go more into depth to show why consistent grooming is so important for you and your horse.
Everything you do with your horse is an exercise in training and every piece adds to the relationship you have with your horse. Over time, you will get to know each other just like a married couple. You will be able to read your horse, and he or she will be able to read you as well.
Grooming is a ritual that allows you to closely inspect your horse and gives the two of you time to be in each other’s company without dealing with the demands of riding. My horses and I have reached a point in our companionship that I can groom them standing in a pasture.
Grooming is a form of training that teaches patience and calmness, since the horse has to stand tied for long periods. It also allows the horse to get used to being touched all over, which is helpful for medical exams.
Using the curry comb for a quick once-over
As I face the highest point on the horse's neck, starting with the curry comb (I almost never use a metal curry comb and I adore my little rubber one) I start in slow circles under the mane, moving the length of the underside of the neck and then across the chest, then in between the legs and under the girth, up over the sides and back, and then over the hips and haunches.
As I am doing this, I am looking for the horse's reactions. Twitching or bending away from the comb indicates a muscle reaction that could be deep bruising. I am also looking for cuts, healed or fresh, puncture wounds, or anything that looks out of place and not normal for the horse.
Discovering hoof conditions with the hoof pick
I then go for my hoof pick. Both mares are at a point in their training where I barely have to touch the interior of their leg and they lift a foot up for me and stand without leaning on me. Farriers and vets love this.
Look for anything that looks abnormal in the horse's hoof, like flared or chipped edges of the hoof wall, damage to the frog or punctures. New window.
I take the pick and clean both sides of the frog and look for anything that looks abnormal, like flared or chipping exterior edges of the hoof wall, damage to the frog or sole in the form of bruising, and punctures.
If your horse wears shoes, look for missing or hanging nails. You should have at least clinchers and a rasp in your tool box. If I see anything that needs to be smoothed out, I do it.
Working on the hooves also allows me to take a closer look at the legs. I run my hands the length of the leg and feel for any bumps, nicks, soft spots, or hot spots.
Brushing the mane and tail
This element of grooming is a lot like [no-glossary]brushing someone’s hair. It seems to be especially relaxing for both of us. I love the long strokes, and both my mares actually drop their heads and cock their hip and relax when I am doing this.
I don’t ever let their manes get to a point where they are horrible to do, though… and I use the fly repellant/detangler mixture that I make up of fly spray, Skin-So-Soft, and water. It leaves the mane and tail silky and easier to comb through, which makes the process more pleasurable, and helps to keep flies away.
Getting the horse's body and face clean
I keep several washcloths in my tool box. I take a rag that is wet and warm (or at least room temperature) and I clean underneath the tail in the mare parts, rinse, and then do the mare’s bag area. I have noticed, especially on Misty, that if the crud in these areas builds-up, she gets itchy and has a tendency to rub her tail head on the nearest post.
I then grab another clean, wet washcloth and wipe the nostrils and eyes and check on the ears, rinsing in between areas. Training the horse to let you inspect and clean these areas is invaluable should they need medical attention.
Letting fly spray do its job
This is the last step for me. Spraying thoroughly, pay attention to the “fly line,” the area on your horse's belly right in the front cinch area. Misty has to wear a fly mask, as she has sherry-colored eyes and seems prone to the eye dripping in the spring and summer, which causes the flies to just swarm this area on her. Some gentle pats, a couple of pony treats, and the horse is ready to be turned back out.
All in all -- about a 90 minute ritual for me. While I would like to say that I do this a lot, the truth is that with my work schedule I only get to do this on the weekends and that is reasonable.
If you find yourself with free time in the evening, go out with a body brush and mane brush and treats in your pockets and work on the free will connection that takes place. I try to do this once a week just so that they know that catch and clean does not necessarily mean work.
Grooming gives the horse owner a chance to observe the horse with the eyes and hands and make sure nothing is new or out-of-place. New window.
There is another ritual that does take place every day at feeding time. I take the time to "walk" their bodies with eyes and hands, just to check and make sure that nothing is new or out-of-place.
I watch how they come in for feeding and look for lameness or soreness and then take a closer look if something catches my eye. Close attention to the beginnings of a problem keep the expense of a later, larger issue from developing.
Enjoy grooming your horses, and Happy Trails!
About the author
After a lifetime of loving horses, Miriam had her first horse at age 41. With Nan she has learned about breeding, foals, health issues, hoof issues, eye issues and is still learning how to become a better riding partner with Nan. She works on this with Nan while riding in Texas Trail Challenges.
With Misty, her second horse of the herd, she gained confidence on the trail riding in NATRC(North American Trail Ride Conference) and Misty is her go to girl. Her horses are her Zen place in life.
Miriam has been writing her entire life and began getting published in her early 20's. All of her work has been of the informative article type and always on topics she has become familiar with in the personal arena first. She currently lives in Central Texas but is looking at a state address change in the near future. She loves writing for Equimed and looks forward to a long future with them.