Top 6 Horse Grooming Tips
Grooming your horse regularly should become part of your normal routine. Not only does it promote a healthy, clean coat and skin, but it provides an opportunity to spend non-demanding time with your horse.
Horse grooming is not just for those who wish to show their horses. Everyone can and should present their horses to the best of their ability.
At a clinic it is a sign of respect towards your instructor that both you and your horse are presented appropriately. That doesn’t mean the latest and greatest, most expensive tack and clothing; what it does mean is a clean well presented horse, clean tack and clean boots for you.
Before we start on grooming I just want to say that no amount of grooming will give you a healthy shiny coat if your horses diet is lacking. A good balance of vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids is required for coat health.
If your horses coat is dull you need to consider what you are feeding and also your deworming schedule.
My horses are wormed on a strict schedule and have a vitamin/mineral supplement called Kool Glow which I swear by and also Performa 3 Oil, both once a day in their hard feeds. I think this, along with a balanced diet including plenty of hay and a regular grooming routine, is what keeps their coats looking shiny and healthy.
Below we will run through my top 6 tips to keep your horse looking their best all year round.
Top 6 Horse Grooming Tips
#1 Invest in excellent quality grooming brushes
They are more expensive to purchase initially but will save you money in the long run. The cheap all in one grooming kits are OK if you can’t afford good quality brushes right now but as soon as you can go for the best you can afford.
As a bare minimum for your grooming kit you will need:
- Body Brush
- Dandy Brush
- Curry Comb or Magic Grooming Brush
- Hoof Pick
- Sweat Scraper
- Mane & Tail Comb
I also like a small face brush but you can groom the face with a soft body brush. My horses both enjoy having their faces brushed with a horse hair bristle brush which are lovely and soft.
I highly recommend the HAAS range of grooming brushes. They have been around for almost 100 years, they are German made and just beautiful quality. Each brush is made from a combination of slightly different bristles and materials.
Their motto is “bespoke care” and you can see this in the quality of the materials they use and the craftsmanship of their brushes. The brushes last because of the production technology used in manufacture, I’ve had mine for 3 years now and they look as good as new.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $40 per brush but they do last and do a beautiful job.
They have a large range, but these are the two I have tried so far and I highly recommend them.
Keep your brushes super clean. You can’t do a thorough job of grooming your horse if the brush is already dirty. Once you spend some money on good quality brushes they will last so much longer if you keep them clean. You can do this by shampooing the bristles with your horse shampoo once they start to look dirty and leaving them to dry upside down (that’s bristle side up).
#2 Use the brushes
To keep your horse well presented and his coat healthy you need to get physical and use those brushes. A daily grooming routine can take as short as 5 – 10 minutes with a more thorough going over when you have more time, for me that’s a weekend job.
I groom my horses every night before I rug up. Someone explained it to me like this “how would you like a raincoat placed directly on your skin if you were all dirty and dusty?”. It would surely be uncomfortable and possibly rub. Your horse is no different.
Always brush in the direction the hair lays. I start with the Magic Grooming Brush in one hand which lifts the dirt to the surface and follow over the top with a body brush in the other hand. Do this systematically so you don’t miss any spots.
Start at the neck on one side, move back towards the rump and once one side is finished move to the other side and start again at the neck. Ensure you do all legs and under the belly as you go.
I then pick out any hay or debris on the mane and tail, clean any weepy eyes or dirty noses with a clean face washer and brush the face. Any coat conditioning spray you are using can be applied now, I use the coat conditioner about twice a week when we are getting ready to show otherwise I don’t bother.
Weekly I will also brush off hooves with a dandy brush and then paint with oil or a hoof conditioner. I do a more thorough job of the daily body routine, add a leave-in mane/tail conditioner and do a thorough detangling of the tail – see instructions below.
#3 Mane & Tail Care
If you are looking for the long flowing mane and tail the best advice I can offer you is to keep your horse mane & tail clean at all times. Dirty manes & tails encourage horses to rub and in a few short minutes you can have no tail left or a bald patch in the middle of your lovely long mane.
Don’t use the mane & tail brushes, stick with a comb. Using a brush is quicker but you will pull out heaps of hair with a brush. It takes years for tails to grow so each strand you pull out is going to make your horses tail thinner and it will be like that for quite some time.
I find the very best way is not to use a tool at all but to use your fingers to remove any hay or sticks etc, and then gently remove any knots and pry apart each strand with your fingers.
I only comb through a tail once it’s relatively knot free and I have applied a conditioning spray. If you are going to comb, hold the bulk of the tail firmly in one hand and start combing from the bottom of the tail with the other, this way you will pull out less hair.
To stimulate hair growth and natural oils brush your horses dock daily with a dandy brush. This area can build up with dirt and dander (dry skin) and become itchy. You will not only be removing the dirt but also increased blood flow which stimulates growth.
You can also keep your horses tail bagged or wrapped. There are quite a few products on the market now where you wrap the tail in 3 segments and then plait them together securing the wrap just below the dock. These can be used without a rug.
Most traditional tail bags fully enclose the tail and then secure at the top of the rug with velcro.
Either way make sure your horse can’t get his tail caught on anything, as you might lose the lot or at least a large chunk, rather than a few strands as you would if it’s not wrapped.
# 4 Shedding season
As sure as night follows day each year your horse will start to shed his winter coat and you will have fur flying everywhere. Your horse might look patchy and have uneven colouring during shedding and this may go on for weeks to months depending on your breed, the climate and just how much coat has grown over the cooler months.
One absolute “must have” once your horse starts losing coat is a shedding tool to help remove that old, dry and dull coat. I have tried all sorts of brushes, gadgets and even sandpaper blocks to remove the hair, but I now use the Sleek EZ and it is simply brilliant.
It doesn’t look like much but it does a great job of removing dead hair with minimal effort. Go with the large one for horses, they also come in a smaller size for dogs.
You can speed up the shedding time tremendously if you help to shift the old hair, which allows the new summer coat to come shining through.
# 5 Time for a bath
Try not to wash your horse too often. I know this seems like a contradiction as you want the horse’s coat to stay clean but bathing with shampoo will remove the natural oils from your horse’s coat. You should replenish the oils removed in the bathing process with a hot oil treatment.
I prefer to use horse shampoo and conditioner, not the human variety, but I have been known to use the cheap stuff from the $2 shop without any ill effects. I do think using the cheap human variety would eventually lead to a duller coat due to the difference in the PH levels of human to horse hair, but as a once off it seems to do no lasting damage.
If you are using a cheaper human brand shampoo just make sure to condition well afterwards and also apply the hot oil either as a final rinse or a leave-in spray.
For the very best bath time products, I recommend Hi Shine Equine. You can’t do better for your horse’s coat and skin than using these products. I have been using their products for years including the Hot Oil Coat Conditioner, Liquid Silk for mane/tail, HG Serum as I have a hair-challenged gelding and Glass Pro Coat Laminator for showing, just to name a few.
# 6 A word on rugging
I am not a fan of keeping horses rugged 24/7. I understand coats can become sun bleached. I have a black gelding who goes red-brown in the sun so I feel your pain. BUT you need to decide what is best for your horse as opposed to simply rugging to keep coat colour.
I speak from experience as the first year I had Bill he very rarely went without some type of rug, whether that was a light cotton rug in summer or warmer synthetic combos in the winter. He is a very tolerant horse and never put up any fuss about being rugged continuously, but to see his sheer joy at being turned out without any rugs and being able to move unrestricted was enough to convince me to stop.
There is some conjecture that blanketed horses who do not have sufficient levels of Vitamin D in natural forage need at least one day a week with their skin exposed to the sun to synthesise the required amount of this vitamin. Some research corroborates this, others don’t. Personally, I’m not taking the chance so my boys go at least one day unrugged each week.
Also rugging will not prevent your horse from growing coat or keep it shorter over winter. Horse coat growth is regulated by the amount of sunlight, it’s called a photoperiod. Horses respond to the seasonal variation in daylight hours. The only way to partially control this is by artificially extending the daylight, usually by keeping the horse under lights.
Consider turning out your horse at least one day a week without any rugs, and allow them to just be a horse, to roll in the sand or grass and run free without any restrictions.
How’s your best mate looking?
If you are not 100% happy with your horse’s coat give these tips a try and see if they make a difference. Remember you need to be committed for at least a 4 – 6 month period with feeding and a good grooming routine before you will see any change in the coat.
Once the hair is damaged it really isn’t fixable and you need to wait for shedding and the new healthy coat to come through before you see the rewards of your efforts.
We hope you enjoyed our Top 6 Horse Grooming Tips and would love to hear your stories or answer any questions you have on how to keep your horse looking tip-top, leave us a comment in the box below.
My Horse Handbook has an affiliate relationship with some, not all, of the companies and products that appear on this site, including Amazon affiliate links. This means there is no additional cost to you and I receive a small commission should you buy from the link, which of course I appreciate. Please do not buy anything you do not need or can’t afford. I provide the links so you can easily find products or seek additional information you may need.