When it comes to grooming there is no substitute for good, old-fashioned elbow grease. The amount of shine that your horse’s coat has will depend on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into it. As decedents of wild horses, domesticated horses still have some wild behaviors such as rolling in the dirt to get the correct “smell” or the correct “feel”, but one thing remains constant: domesticated horses still need our help on a daily basis to be thoroughly groomed. Because horses like to roll around in the dirt and mud, it is obvious that they are constantly getting dirt caked in their hair coat. This is where we humans come into the picture. Our goal is to make the horses natural oils come out and to make that horse shine as much as possible. Now, there is a limit to how much a horse should be shampooed, as there is a limit to which you should wash your hair as a human. The natural oils need time to work in their natural “habitat” and to be effective.
Here is a short list of some of the basic tools for general care that you will need when it comes to grooming your horse:
- Curry comb/mitt
- Stuff/dandy brush
- Soft, face brush
- Mail and tail comb
- Hoof pick
- Bot fly knife (if they are common in the area that you live in)
- Fly spray
- Body sponge
- Face sponge
- Bucket for batching
- Rubber scraper (to scrape off excess water from horse’s coat)
- Shedding blade (if your horse needs help shedding out in the spring)
- Hoof oil
All of these items are what you’ll need when you’re just starting out with a new horse. Other items that I would include in my grooming kit would be some sort of Thrush remedy to keep the bottom of my horse’s feet from getting soggy in those muddy/winter months and some Show sheen or coat conditioner. These two products, in my experience, have been useful and beneficial to my horse’s health.
So when I say that it is possible to shampoo a horse too much, it’s true! A lot of people are under the impression that you have to bathe your horse every day with shampoo and conditioner, but this isn’t true. The horse’s hair coat needs time to breathe and to produce the natural oils that gives your horse its beautiful shine. The shampoo is something that washes those oils AWAY and therefore your horse’s hair coat won’t be as shiny and silky as you might want it to be.
When it comes to grooming, here are some basics that you should remember:
- Elbow grease– There is no substitute for elbow grease. If you want your horse to shine and have a healthy hair coat, then you’re going to have to work at it.
- Easy-to-Miss spots- These are spots that are sometimes forgotten because they have a small surface area such as: ears, face/muzzle, udder/sheath and the cheeks of the horse. These may be small areas, but they are very important when it comes to everyday grooming and maintenance. If you are constantly riding your horse with riding equipment on them, then it’s even more important to groom your horses face/muzzle because they are wearing a bridle and that extra dirt underneath the hardware could damage or scar their face if they aren’t clean. All of these easy-to-miss areas should be cleaned with a separate sponge or towel than is used for the rest of the body. Around the eyes and genital areas, especially.
- Bathe infrequently- Daily shampooing will dry your horse’s hair coat and make them an itchy mess. The only horses that should be bathed on a somewhat regular basis are show horses and horses that are attending “special” occasions such as parades or an auction. If you do have to wash your horse more frequently, try using a mild shampoo. Finish your horse’s bath with a vinegar rinse (1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts water). This rinse cuts out the remaining soap in the hair coat and leaves even more of a shine.
- White fur/hair- You can use what’s called the “purple stuff” on these areas. There are special shampoos that are meant for white hair on your horse. These shampoos are designed to make the hair reflect more light, so that they appear to be whiter. I would suggest using a curry comb/mitt to work this type of shampoo into your horse’s hair coat.
- Be organized- Keep all of your grooming materials in a bucket or box that works easiest for you. Label your tools to know which part of the body that they have been used on (i.e. Hind end/genital sponge vs. a face sponge for bathing).
When considering all of your options for grooming and general care, don’t forget about your horse’s nutrition. Proper and balanced nutrition will help your horse’s hair coat immensely. Even though your horses shouldn’t be bathed daily, they should be groomed on a daily basis; sometimes more than once if necessary. This helps keep their coat as clean and dirt-free as possible and it keeps your horse feeling and looking healthy. If you have any further questions about grooming or general equine care, please don’t hesitate to call or make an appointment at River Road Veterinary Clinic!