Everyone who owns a horse grooms it before riding. Most grooming is done in the saddle area to keep burs, sand, and hair from causing pain or rubbing under the saddle while riding. While this is definitely an important benefit of grooming, there are many other reasons to groom your horse before riding, after riding, and even on days when you don’t ride.
To get all the potential benefits from grooming, several key steps need to happen.
Curry Comb: This comb should be used in a circular motion all over the horse’s body to loosen hair, dirt, and other debris from the skin. This is an essential part of creating a healthy, shiny coat for you horse. Using the curry comb before riding will ensure there are no clumps or hair or dirt that could cause the animal discomfort while you’re in the saddle. Using the curry comb after riding will allow you to remove much more dead loose hair and encourage the oils in your horse’s coat to lubricate the skin and hair, creating that shiny coat. Stimulating the hair follicles will also help healthier hair to grow.
Each type of curry comb works on different hair coats and serves slightly different purposes:
- Metal curry combs are great for removing mud and long hair, but can damage the hair and don’t encourage the skin’s natural oils to flow and soften it. These should be used sparingly, only for extra dirty horses and maybe on the first day of starting a grooming regimen.
- Spiky rubber curry combs are great for long hair and horses with less sensitive skin. Spikes can dig into sore muscles and sensitive skin and cause discomfort for the horse. If the horse has longer hair, the spikes can be great for getting down to the skin to encourage the natural oils to lubricate the skin and encourage healthy hair growth. They are also great for loosening hair closer to the skin that other curry combs will not reach.
- Round rubber curry combs are great at loosening hair and dirt from the skin, generally do not irritate more sensitive horses and are easy for anyone to use. These can also be used like a shedding blade by cupping the comb in your hand and using fast, firm strokes with the hair’s grain; this will help warm the skin a bit and pull loose hair from the body.
Body brush: Generally a stiff bristle brush, a body brush is used for removing all the hair and dirt loosened by the curry comb. It should be used all over the horse’s body, with special attention paid to the saddle areas. This brush should be used with the flow of the hair to flatten out the hair and get it ready for the saddle.
Finishing brush: Similar to the body brush but with longer bristles, the finishing brush flicks excess dust and hair off the horse’s body and creates a shiny coat. Like the body brush, it is used all over the body and with the flow of the hair.
Hoof pick: This tool possibly is the most important part of a grooming kit. As the saying goes: “No hoof, no horse.” Hooves need to be cleaned before and after riding. A thoroughly cleaned hoof prevents fungus buildup, which can lead to lameness. It gives the rider a chance to check for rocks or other injuries to the hoof. It also makes the horse more comfortable for riding or going out to his stall or pasture.
Mane comb: A metal comb for the mane allows the rider to brush out the hair and do basic maintenance such as pulling long sections to keep the mane even and ready for show. Using a metal comb on a regular basis makes the horse less difficult to deal with when mane pulling is done before a show.
Tail brush: Tails break easily, so brushing should be done gently. For daily maintenance, your body brush can be used on the tail to brush out debris. This brush is not going to tear the hair or remove tangles. A hairbrush-style brush can be used weekly or bimonthly to remove tangles and thoroughly brush out the tail. Start at the ends and slowly work your way up in small sections; this method will create more body in the tail and make you less likely to pull out large chunks of hair.
Face brushes: A smaller, softer version of the rubber curry comb and body brush should be used on the horse’s face. You can curry and brush the face just like the rest of the body with these brushes, remembering to be gentle as the face is more sensitive. If your horse has sensitive legs, you can use these there as well instead of the body brushes. Legs should be groomed regularly, since fungus and skin issues can develop especially if you live in a wet climate or use boots or wraps on the horse’s legs.
Regular grooming will keep your horse healthier, sounder and looking its best. Grooming is also a great way to bond with your horse and get to know its body. Knowing your horse’s normal skin, lumps, and issues will make it much easier to detect when problems arise and may help you avoid expensive veterinarian bills.