Everything You Need to Know About Grooming a Horse

Grooming is part of the daily routine care every horse needs. Taking the time to brush your horse helps to keep them clean while also giving you an opportunity to check your horse for signs of injury or soreness. Grooming can also massage your horse and will help them associate you with positive touch. If you’re new to owning a horse or being around horses, grooming is one of the first things you will learn when it comes to caring for your horse. 

How do you brush a horse? Here is a list of steps you can follow to effectively groom your horse:

  1. Use a curry comb to loosen and lift the dirt stuck in your horse’s coat
  2. Once the curry comb has brought dirt to the surface, sweep the dirt off your horse using a hard brush (a.k.a dandy brush)
  3. Follow behind with a soft brush to remove dust that may have settled back on the horse’s coat
  4. Pick and clean the hooves using a hoof pick
  5. Use a mane-and-tail brush or a hard brush to brush out your horse’s mane and tail.


By following these steps, you can have your horse looking shiny and clean, and ready to go. In this article, I will walk you through a more in-depth look at all of these steps and I’ll share tips I’ve learned that have made grooming and taking care of my horse much easier.

Horse Grooming Equipment: Supplies You’ll Need

Before you can brush your horse, you’ll need to know each piece of equipment and how it’s supposed to be used. Here’s a list of the bare minimum pieces you’ll need to groom your horse:

  • Curry Comb
  • Dandy Brush
  • Soft Body Brush
  • Hoof Pick
  • Mane/Tail Brush

Next, I’ll break it down and describe what each piece of equipment is and how it should be used.

Curry Comb

A curry comb is often a circular brush that has a hand strap. This type of brush has sets of teeth on it that will be used to lift and loosen dirt from the horse’s coat. Because of this, it should be the first brush you use when you start to groom your horse. To properly use a curry comb, you’ll make circular motions with your hand all across the horse’s body as if you’re waxing a car.

 Since the curry comb has prominent teeth that will be used to loosen dirt, you should avoid using this brush on more sensitive areas of the horse, as the teeth may cause discomfort. Avoid using this brush on the horse’s legs, face, and around the nether regions. 

Curry combs can also be made out of different materials, but most often they are either metal or rubber. If you have a horse with sensitive skin, (usually paints or horses with pink skin) it’s best to use a rubber curry comb with smaller teeth.

Dandy Brush (Hard Brush)

 A dandy brush or hard brush is an oval-shaped brush that has stiff hard bristles. This brush is to be used after the curry comb to sweep away the dirt and debris that the curry comb has lifted and loosened. This brush will be used as a broom; you can sweep it over your horse’s coat, following the way the horse’s hair lays. 

Since this brush has some stiff bristles, it may also cause discomfort to your horse if used in the wrong places. Avoid using this brush on the horse’s lower legs and near the nether regions.

Soft Body Brush


A soft body brush is very similar to a dandy brush in looks; it’s often ovular but with shorter and softer bristles. This gentle brush can be compared to a duster, as you can use it after the dandy brush to remove any dust that may have settled back on the horse’s coat. It can also be used to redistribute oils on the horse’s coat as well.

You will use the soft body brush as you use a dandy brush; sweep it over the horse, following the way the horse’s hair lays. Since this brush has soft gentle bristles, it can be used all over the horse, including the face, lower legs, and around the nether regions.

Hoof Pick

 A hoof pick can be described as a metal pick or hook that is used to remove dirt from a horse’s hooves. The pick is used to remove rocks, dirt, and debris that has been packed into the horse’s hooves. Some hoof picks may have bristles on the other end of the pick that can be used to sweep away remaining dirt from the hooves as well. 

Mane/Tail Brush

 A mane and tail brush is quite similar to a normal hairbrush and is used the same way. The same way humans brush their hair, a horse’s mane and tail can be brushed. For the best results, start at the end of the mane or tail and work your way up so that you can effectively work out snarls and tangles.

Brushing a Horse Step-By-Step

Now that you know all the equipment you’ll need, you can follow these steps to ensure you can effectively groom your horse while remaining safe and having fun:

1. Secure Your Horse So You Can Groom Them

Before you can even start grooming your horse, the first thing you should do is secure them. You can do this by tying them up, putting them in cross-ties, or even have them ground-tie. The goal for this is to keep your horse from wandering away while you groom them, as this can be frustrating and put you in a potentially frustrating situation. 

2. Use the Curry Comb to Loosen Dirt on Your Horse’s Coat

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Once you have your horse secure, start grooming by using a curry comb. Remember, a curry comb will be used to loosen patches of mud and bring dirt to the surface of the horse’s coat. To properly do this, move the curry comb in circles over your horse’s coat, as if you’re waxing a car. You can use medium to heavy pressure to properly loosen dirt.

You can use this brush all over your horse’s body from the poll of their head to the dock of their tail. You can use it on less sensitive parts of the horse’s belly, like the area where the girth goes.

3. Sweep Dirt Off Your Horse’s Coat Using a Dandy Brush

Once you’ve curried your horse, you’ll notice how your horse suddenly looks dirtier! This is because all the dirt in your horse’s coat has been brought to the surface. The next step in grooming will be to remove this dirt from your horse’s coat. To do this, you will use a dandy brush. The hard still bristles of a dandy brush are great for pushing and sweeping dirt off your horse, quite like a broom.

Start at the horse’s poll and sweep the dirt off your horse all the way to the dock of your tail. In order to properly remove the dirt, you will need to brush with the way of the horse’s hair. This means you should look at how the horse’s hair lays, and brush in the same direction. You can use medium and hard pressure to ensure dirt is being adequately swept and removed from the horse’s coat.

With light pressure, you can gently use this brush on more sensitive areas to loosen dirt. If the curry comb seems too aggressive, the next best brush to use would be a dandy brush; however, the stiff bristles of a dandy brush can still be uncomfortable to soft skin or bony areas like the lower legs.

4. Remove Remaining Dust From Your Horse’s Coat Using a Soft Body Brush

How to Groom a Horse

Oftentimes, when you use a dandy brush to remove heavy pieces of dirt and mud, dust and dirt tend to settle back on the coat as your brush. To remove the last traces of dirt, you’ll use a soft body brush. This type of brush acts as a duster for your horse, capturing the last bit of dust on the surface of your horse’s coat. 

Use this brush the same way you used the dandy brush; follow the way of the horse’s hair to gently brush away dust and dirt. You can use medium to light pressure when using this brush. A soft body brush can also be used on sensitive areas of your horse’s body, like the face, lower legs, and around the nether regions. My horses love to have their faces brushed with a soft body brush!

5. Pick Out Your Horse’s Hooves to Remove Dirt and Debris

Once you have seen to the care of your horse’s coat, now it’s time to see to the care of your horse’s hooves. Picking out your horse’s hooves should be something you try to do on a daily basis, as their hooves are one of the most important parts of a horse’s health and comfort. 

To pick out your horse’s hooves, stand next to the horse’s leg you need to lift and stand facing the opposite way of your horse. Next, you’ll lean down and pick up the horse’s hoof. You can ask them to raise their leg by pinching their chestnut or by pulling at the hairs on the fetlock.

Once you have the horse’s hoof, you’ll use the hoof pick to remove any debris found in the hoof. Be sure to avoid picking at the hoof’s frog, as this is a vital and sensitive part of the foot. You should remove dirt enough to where you can clearly see the sole of the horse’s hoof. Do this for all four hooves.

To get an exact rundown of how to clean out horse hooves, check out my article Cleaning a Horse’s Hooves: Easy Illustrated Guide.


6. Brush Out Your Horse’s Mane and Tail

There’s nothing as beautiful as a flowing mane and tail! Brushing out your horse’s mane and tail can make them look kept and fancy. To do this, you’ll use a mane and tail brush; this brush acts just like a human hairbrush. Start brushing at the bottom of the horse’s hair and work your way up towards the roots of the hair to work out snarls.

When it comes to brushing your horse’s tail, the best practice is to pull the tail to the side and stand next to your horse’s hind leg. This way, you’re not standing directly behind the horse, a place where you could easily be kicked. 

If your horse’s mane and the tail are very tangled, I recommend spraying a detangler to help make the job easier. If you want your horse to look like they have a full mane and tail, avoid brushing them every day with a mane/tail brush, as this can pull out hair and actually thin the mane or tail. Instead, use a dandy brush, as a dandy brush won’t pull out the hair but can be used to separate the strands.


Did you know that there are many other things to caring for your horse besides grooming them? To get a complete overview of how to care for a horse, check out my article How to Care For a Horse: Ultimate Guide For Beginners.


P.S. Save this article to your “Horse Care” board!

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

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