How to Groom a Horse: Complete Guide

How to Groom a Horse

Everything You Need to Know About Grooming Your Horse

Grooming your horse is just one of the many daily tasks involved in owning a horse. The main reason you groom your horse is to get them clean before you tack up to ride. By grooming your horse, you remove any patches of mud and dirt that could cause uncomfortable rubbing under the saddle. It also gives you a chance to see if your horse has any soreness throughout its body that could be affected by your ride.

How do you groom a horse? Here are the steps for a basic horse grooming routine:

  1. Secure your horse so that they stand still while being groomed. 
  2. Use a curry comb to break up dirt and mud patches and to bring the dirt under your horse’s coat to the surface.
  3. Use a hard brush to brush the dirt and mud from your horse’s coat.
  4. Use a soft brush to brush away any remaining dust and to brush sensitive areas of your horse like their face and legs.
  5. Use a hoof pick to thoroughly remove dirt from the horse’s hooves.
  6. Lastly, use a mane and tail brush or a hard brush to brush out your horse’s mane and tail.

 

Grooming your horse has many great benefits, as it gives you time to spend with your horse and allows your horse to understand that human touch is a good thing. If you’ve been in a horse lesson program, you can probably remember one of the first things your learned was how to groom a horse; this is because grooming your horse is an essential part of being a horse owner! Keep reading to get an in-depth look at how to correctly groom your horse.

How to Groom Your Horse: Step-By-Step

Step 1: Secure Your Horse

Knot to secure a horse

The first thing you’ll want to do before you groom your horse is to secure them. You can either tie them off, put them in crossties, or have someone hold the horse while you brush.

There are a few reasons why you should always secure your horse before grooming them. Horses are easily distracted, which means they like to wander off frequently. If your horse isn’t secured while you’re grooming, you may get frustrated with them always trying to walk off.

Another reason to secure your horse is to keep them from reaching back and biting you. Some horses have a biting problem while others may simply be trying to tell you that the spot you’re grooming is sore. Either way, you can maintain a level of safety by securing your horse

The best knot for securing a horse is a quick release knot that allows you to release your horse quickly in the event that something goes wrong. You can watch the video I made here on How to Tie a Quick Release Knot.

Step 2: Use a Curry Comb to Break Up Dirt

Horse Grooming Curry Comb

When it comes to brushing your horse, the first tool you’ll want to use is a curry comb. The curry comb breaks up mud patches and helps bring underlying dirt to the surface of your horse’s coat. A curry comb is also great for getting all of your horse’s scratches!

A curry comb can be used from the neck to the dock of the tail. However, it should not be used on sensitive areas like the face or the legs unless you use it very gently. To use the curry comb, make circular motions with your hand across the horse’s coat. If you’ve ever watched The Karate Kid, think of the wax-on, wax-off movement.

Step 3: Use a Hard Brush to Remove Dirt From Your Horse’s Coat

Once you’ve brought the dirt to the surface of your horse’s coat using a curry comb, you can use a hard brush to remove the dirt. A hard brush has stiff bristles, much like a broom. You can sweep this brush over your horse’s body to remove the broken up dirt and mud. When using this brush, make sure you brush the way the hair lays on the horse. You can use a stiff brush lightly on your horse’s legs and face. The rigid bristles may cause discomfort if you brush too hard.

Step 4: Use a Soft Brush to Remove Remaining Dust and to Brush Sensitive Areas

If you want to go the extra mile of grooming your horse, you can use a soft brush next to remove any remaining dust on your horse’s coat. This brush will look like a hard brush except with soft bristles. When using this brush, follow the way of the hair in your horse’s coat.

You can use this brush all over your horse’s body, including their face, legs, and belly. This brush is more gentle than the other ones and is great for removing excess dust.

Step 5: Clean Out Your Horse’s Hooves Using a Hoof Pick

Hoof Pick Grooming Tool

Next, you’ll want to pick out your horse’s hooves. You should try and pick out your horse’s hooves at least once a day to protect against bacterias like thrush taking root. To pick out your horse’s hooves, stand beside the leg you want to pick up. You can pull up on the horse’s feathers or pinch their leg right above their pastern to cue them to raise their hoof.

Once you have the hoof up, the easiest way to start cleaning the hoof is by taking your hoof pick and starting at the corners of the heel. At these corners, there is a groove in the horse’s hoof that allows you to get a better hold of the mud so you can remove it.

Before you clean your horse’s hooves, make sure you understand the anatomy of the hoof. There are certain parts of the hoof that you won’t want to dig the hoof pick into, like the frog which is in the middle of the hoof. To know more about how to clean out your horse’s hooves, check out my article, Cleaning a Horse’s Hoof: Easy Illustrated Guide.

Step 6: Brush Out Your Horse’s Mane and Tail Using a Hard Brush or a Mane Brush

Horse Mane Brush

Another thing you can do is brush out your horse’s mane and tail. It’s best not to incorporate this into a daily grooming routine, because if you did this every day, the horse’s mane and tail would become much too thin. I try to brush out my horse’s mane and tail at least once a month to keep them from getting to tangled and to keep dreadlocks from forming.

You can brush the horse’s mane and tail using a tail brush or a hard brush. While a tail brush is more like a normal hairbrush, it’s more apt to rip the horse’s hair. Using a hard brush to brush out your horse’s mane and tail will be easier on the hair. If you do this, you may want to use detangler spray to make brushing easier.

To properly brush out your horse’s tail, hold the tail and stand to the side of your horse’s rump to avoid getting kicked. From there, start at the bottom of the horse’s tail and work your way up as you get passed knots and tangles.

Supplies Needed to Groom a Horse

To properly groom a horse, it’s important to thoroughly know each piece of equipment and how it should be used. Let’s review the different supplies you can use now. Some of these items are seasonal and won’t be used frequently; however, they can make your life much easier when it comes to grooming.

If you don’t have any grooming supplies yet, this horse grooming Kit from Amazon is a great place to start. It includes many of the items mentioned below as well as a carrying case.

Essential Daily Routine Horse Grooming Supplies: 

Curry Comb: Although called a comb, a curry comb looks more like a brush. This brush has “teeth” that break up mud patches and dirt on your horse’s coat. To effectively use this brush, run it over your horse’s coat in small circular motions. This will help to bring dirt to the surface of the horse’s coat. The curry comb can be used on the horse’s neck and body, but avoid using it in sensitive areas on the horse’s face and legs.

Hard Brush: A hard brush is a brush that has stiff bristles, much like a broom. This brush will be used to remove the mud and dirt from your horse’s coat that the curry comb loosened. To use this brush, brush over the coat the way that the hair on your horse lays. A hard brush can also be used to brush your horse’s mane and tail. Many people prefer to use a hard brush to do this since it doesn’t break the hair of the mane and tail.

Hoof Cleaning Brush: A hoof cleaning brush is used to brush any remaining mud or dirt from the hoof wall and the hoof sole of your horse. This brush is smaller than a hard brush and has very rigid bristles. Many times, hoof picks will be double-sided and have a hoof cleaning brush on the other side of the hoof pick.

Hoof Pick: A hoof pick is a narrow tool that has a metal edge used for removing dirt from a horse’s hooves. A hoof pick usually has an angle to help you get better leverage when removing packed dirt.

Mane & Tail Brush: A mane and tail brush is a brush used specifically for brushing out a horse’s mane and tail. These types of brushes look like a normal hairbrush that you may use on your hair.

Wide-Toothed Comb: Another tool you can use to brush out a horse’s mane and tail is a wide-toothed comb. Wide-toothed combs have teeth that are set further apart and are great for working snarls out of your horse’s tail.

Soft Brush: A soft brush looks like a hard brush but has soft bristles. This type of brush is used to remove dust from your horse’s coat. Since it’s soft bristles are more gentle, it can be used on your horse’s face and legs. When using this brush, brush over the coat the way that the hair falls.

Towel/Rag: Another material you can use to clean the more sensitive areas of your horse is a towel or rag. These can be used to remove dust and dirt from your horse’s legs, face, muzzle, and around the genital area.

Seasonal/Extra Horse Grooming Supplies:

Bot Knife: In the summer months, you may notice little yellow dots on your horse’s legs. These are bots eggs, which are eggs laid by flies. These eggs can be hard to remove from your horse’s coat. A bot knife is a tool that can be used to remove these eggs. A bot knife has little teeth that help grip the hair and rip the bot egg out.

Clippers: You can use electric clippers to trim the whiskers on your horse’s face, the feathers on their lower legs, and a bridlepath in their mane. These clippers are much like the electric clippers you may use to give someone a haircut, although more heavy-duty. Some horse owners like to clip their horse’s entire body to keep the horse’s coat short and polished.

Fly Spray: Fly spray is a liquid that you can spray over your horse to repel flies. This is a must-have for the summer months!

Mane-Pulling Comb: A mane pulling comb is a metal comb used specifically for pulling and thinning the horse’s mane. A metal comb must be used to do this, as a plastic comb could easily break. To learn how to pull your horse’s mane, check out my article on Pulling a Horse’s Mane: Step By Step Guide For Beginners.

Scissors: Scissors come in handy when you’re at the barn. When it comes to grooming, you can use them to trim and even out the horse’s mane and tail.

Sponges: You can use sponges to give your horse a bath or to spot-clean them.

Shedding Blade: A shading blade is a curved comb with little sharp teeth that makes it easy to collect loose hair from your horse. This is a must-have for shedding season in the spring.

Sweat Scraper: A sweat scraper is a curved tool that is used to scrape excess sweat or water off of your horse. If water sits on your horse, it can cause them to become chilled. By removing excess water, the horse will be able to return to its normal temperature.

Benefits of Grooming Your Horse Horse being groomed by woman

There are many benefits of grooming your horse. You may think of it as a mundane task, but in reality, the quality time you spend with your horse while grooming them can go a long way. Here are some of the main benefits of grooming your horse:

Grooming Desensitizes Your Horse to Human Touch

Grooming your horse is a great way to desensitize them to human touch. Whether you’re working with a young horse, a rescue, or any horse that is a little untrusting, grooming can go a long way in the training process.

When you groom your horse, you can teach them that the human touch feels good, which will make them more accepting of it. Grooming also gives you the opportunity to touch the horse’s entire body, from the tip of their ears to the tip of their tail, ensuring that they aren’t afraid of physical contact in specific areas.

Grooming Lets You Inspect Your Horse For Injuries or Soreness

Grooming your horse before you ride allows you to inspect them for injuries or soreness before you hop on their back. There have been a few times when I learned that my horse shouldn’t be ridden that day just by the way they reacted when I was grooming them.

As you groom your horse, be aware of any injuries they may have or reactions that grooming may cause. If your horse flinches every time you groom a certain spot, they are most likely sore in that area. The last thing I want to do is get on a sore horse and get bucked off!

Grooming Massages Your Horse

The motion used when you brush with a curry comb mimics many massage movements. The circular motion works a horse’s muscle and helps with circulation or relieving muscle tension.

This is why you may notice your horse stretching their neck up when you use the curry comb; it feels good to them and it’s probably helping to relieve some of the tension built up in the muscle!

Grooming Keeps Your Horse Clean

One of the most obvious benefits of grooming your horse is it gives you an opportunity to clean your horse. Dirt and mud patches should be removed before tack or blankets are put on the horse so that the saddle or blanket won’t rub the dirt spots uncomfortably.

You should also regularly groom your horse to maintain a sense of cleanliness. There are fungal and bacterial infections horses can get from dirt, mud, and guck covering their coats or packing in their hooves.

Thrush is a common infection that affects the horse’s hooves. Fungus forms in the horse’s hooves and will eat away at the hoof wall and the sole of the hoof. Cleaning your horse’s hooves frequently can help prevent this.

Grooming Allows You To Spend Time With Your Horse

Grooming your horse provides an opportunity to spend time with your horse other than just sitting on their back and riding. Horses learn at ground level by repetition; this means the more you interact with them on the ground and the more they see you, the more familiar and fond of your presence they’ll become.

Grooming allows you to interact with your horse and communicate with them without demanding anything from them. So often, all our horses know us for is constantly asking something from them. Grooming gives both you and your horse a chance to relax.

How Often Should I Groom My Horse?

Ideally, you should groom your horse at least once a day. This way, your horse can be inspected for any injuries or cuts they may have and their coat and hooves can be thoroughly cleaned to ward of fungal and bacterial infections.

If you aren’t able to groom your horse every day, your horse should at least receive a visual inspection once a day, either from you or the barn staff where your horse lives.

Horses that live out in pasture 24/7 can get injuries that no one would notice if they aren’t checked on daily. For the health of your horse, have someone lay eyes on them regularly.

Thank you for reading, and good luck grooming your horse! For more horse care tips, here are a few more of my articles you might be interested in:

 

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