Daily grooming is the perfect time to check your horse’s overall health. As you groom your horse, you will be able to notice any changes in his behavior as well as in his physical condition. I have always found grooming to be relaxing for me and the horse. Some horses who aren’t used to being groomed can be a little skittish at first. Take your time and relax. As long as you are gentle and careful, the horse should start to relax too.
The best thing to do in cases like that is to let the horse sniff each tool before you use it. With skittish horses, I’ll talk in a calming voice about everything I’m about to do. Hearing your voice can relax them too. If your horse is “thin-skinned” or very sensitive to touch, try to have a light touch.
It’s important to gather your equipment before bringing in your horse. You can keep all your tools in a large bucket or a carryall. You’ll need:
• curry comb (not metal – those are not for horses) used in a circular motion to stir up dirt and hair;
• dandy brush – a stiff brush used to remove the dust, hair, etc stirred up by the curry comb;
• body brush – a soft brush which can be used over the entire body;
• towels – used to give a final polish and remove sweat after riding;
• mane comb – used on short manes or you can use the dandy brush on long manes and the tail;
• sponges for the face and dock; and
• hoof pick.
If you’re riding your horse that day, you’ll need to plan on grooming him twice. One grooming will be more thorough and the other will be a touch up.
Exception for pasture-kept horses
When grooming a pasture-kept horse, the body brush isn’t used on its body. The body brush will remove the important natural oils in their coats that protect them from the cold and wet. Only use the body brush on the mane and tail of pasture horses.
Before riding, pick out the hooves with the hoof pick. Pick up each hoof and clean it out with the hoof pick. Starting at the heel, work downward scraping out all the dirt. Do not dig into the sensitive frog (the fleshy v-shaped area of the foot). Check for any tenderness or heat. Check the shoe to make sure that it’s not loose or worn out. Make sure that the nails aren’t sticking out either.
After riding, check the hooves again. This will be a simple check to remove any stones, debris or dirt picked up during the ride.
When you are picking up the hoof, do not act timid. If you are nervous, the horse will be too. Horses can kick if they feel frightened. If you lightly touch the leg as you reach for the hoof or grab the hoof without running your hand down the leg, the horse might startle and kick. The best way is to calmly and confidently run your hand down the leg (on the inside of the front legs or along the back of the back legs down to the hock and then down the front of the leg) . As you get to the fetlock, grasp it and say “Up” as you start to lift it.