Is there a universal grooming standard for all horses (mane and tails)?
What I share with you regarding health and care is what I’ve learned and developed over decades and works for me and so it may also work for you.
To answer the first question, I will explain how I was taught to groom a horse and which seems to be the standard way I’ve seen many other people use too.
However, as I always say…
Use your own best judgement when it comes to you and your horse, as you and only you know your horse and how he reacts and feels about certain things.
Steps to How I Groom my Horse:
Start grooming on the left side of the neck and work towards the rear of your horse.
The face, legs and hips, should be groomed carefully and gently.
Stand close to your horse but, be careful of where your feet are so you don’t get stepped on.
Make fluid and smooth movements, not quick or jerky, so you don’t spook or startle your horse.
If you’re just starting out with a young horse, take your time and go slow in order to let him or her become accustomed to you and the grooming tools.
When moving to the other side to groom your horse, either walk far enough away to avoid getting kicked or stay really close to your horse’s rear quarter with a hand on the rump, to stay safe. If your horse tries to kick with you being close, it will only push you away as he can’t get enough momentum to hurt you.
Never step over the lead rope or cross ties. which should not be low enough to step over anyway). This puts you in a very dangerous position should the horse panic and pull back on the rope. And never crawl under the horse’s belly. Even the most docile horse can spook and step on you.
I normally start out with currying. The purpose of currying is to loosen caked-on dirt and to bring dust and dandruff to the surface for easy removal.
Start at the neck and brush the hair in circular movements while working towards the rear. Pay particular attention to areas you cannot see such as the belly, between the legs and behind the ears, because they are often forgotten.
Vigorous circular movements when currying increases circulation to the skin because it releases the skin’s natural oils and will produce a healthy shine to your horse’s coat. Be careful not to curry too vigorously on bony areas and do not use on your horse’s face.
I then follow the currying by brushing with a stiff body brush to get all the dirt and hair I just loosened. Brush with short strokes instead of long strokes, because long strokes only move the dirt from one area to another while short swift strokes flick the debris off the horse. Brush with the grain of the coat too. It helps to brush with one hand and hold the curry in the other to clean out the brush when you need.
Do not use the stiff brush on the face.
Follow the stiff brush with a soft brush. This second brushing removes the dust left by the stiff brush and brings natural oils to the surface, giving a lustrous shine to your horse’s coat.
The face can also be brushed with a finer, softer brush. With a softer brush start at the forehead and move down the face, brushing with the grain of the hair.
Avoid the eyes. Be extra gentle around your horse’s nose and mouth.
When grooming the legs, bend at the hips or remain in a solid squatting position.
Do not sit on the ground or rest one or both knees on the ground because, if your horse spooks, it would take too much time to move away and increase your chance of becoming injured.
It always helps to have your free hand resting on your horse’s body while working on the legs. This way you can feel the muscles tense up and be forewarned if your horse is about to panic.
Don’t try to scrub wet mud off your horse’s legs. Scrubbing wet muddy legs may lead to forms of dermatitis. Muddy legs should either be allowed to dry and then cleaned with a curry or stiff brush, or hosed off and then allowed to dry.
Always pick out your horse’s feet each time you groom. I like to start with the front left foot and work around the horse, ending with the front right foot.
For each foot, face the rear of the horse. Do not reach for and grab the foot quickly so you don’t spook your horse.
Slide your left hand down the forearm. Many horses will lift their foot once you reach the ankle.
As your horse raises its foot, slide your hand around to the front of the ankle and raise it to knee height.
Once you have the foot in hand, pick out the crevices around the frog as well as the frog itself.
Always pick from heel to toe. Using the pick from toe to heel could result in an injury to the frog if the foot is jerked from your hand with the hoof pick caught in the crevice.
Watch the position of your feet. Make sure they are off to the side of the horse to avoid being stepped on when the foot is jerked out or released from your hand. Gently release the foot. Do not drop it.
The hind feet are picked up the same way as the front feet. When you move to the right side of the horse to clean the right feet, hold the feet with your right hand and pick with your left.
Remember to clean the eyes, ears and nostrils with a clean cloth or sponge. Also check and clean, if necessary, the anus, vulva or sheath, and between the teats.
Fly season can be a very annoying time for your horse. You can lessen the irritation by spraying your horse with fly spray. Spray from the same positions you used to groom him. Do not spray directly on the face. Put some liquid in your hand or on a cloth and rub it on. Many commercial fly wipes/sprays are available. Select one that fits your needs.
Always clean all tools before putting them away. For safer stable hygiene, it is better to have a set of tools for each individual horse if possible. This lessens the possibility of transmitting communicable organisms from one horse to another. If it is not possible for each horse to have its own equipment, then infected horses should have their own set and the remaining tools shared among the other horses. Once the infected horse overcomes the ailment, whether it be mange, lice, ringworm, or rain rot, the tools should be disinfected before being used again.
Well, that answers question #1. I’ll leave question #2 for next week, universal standards for a horse’s mane and tail.
Something to chew on until next week.
Let me know if there is anything special that you do when grooming your horse or any little thing that your horse especially likes when grooming in the comments below.