Grooming a horse safely and correctly is a very important part of daily horse care. It is a great time to check over the horse for any issues on his skin, back, and girth area and to get an idea of how the horse is feeling that day. You should groom a horse before you take it out for riding or exercising. It helps keep them healthy and looking good.
First, halter and tie the horse to a ring or safety string attached to something solid. If the horse pulls back, you don’t want the horse’s halter tied to something that will swing or be pulled out of the ground. A ring on a wall meant for tying or a solid fence post often works well. You can also use cross-ties if you have two rings and cross-ties.
Next, pick the horse’s feet. This is one of the most important steps, so do it first so that you don’t forget. Stand on the horse’s left side next to his left front leg and face towards the horse’s tail. Slide your left hand down the back of his leg to the fetlock, which is the last big joint, and squeeze a little. The horse should pick up his hoof and let you hold it. Using the hoof pick in the other hand, pick out any rocks and remove any dirt from the area around the frog and just inside of the shoe line. The frog is the softer, raised triangular area located in the center of the foot. You don’t want to scrape or puncture this. You only want to clear the indented area of the sole of the foot. If a horse doesn’t pick up his foot right away, you can cluck or say “Up” to encourage the horse to pick up his foot. You can also try leaning a little on the horse’s shoulder to shift his weight off of the foot so it is easier to lift up.
After picking all four feet, take a rubber curry comb and brush all over the body in a circular motion. Avoid the lower legs and head since these are bony areas and need gentler brushing. The currying brings dust, dirt, and dead skin to the top surface of the coat so that it can be brushed away. Some horses enjoy a good strong currying, and some horses hate it, so try to be gentle at first. To clean the curry comb, tap it against a fence post to make the dirt fall off.
Next, use a body brush to brush off the loose dirt and hair. Brush in the direction of the hair growth to smooth the hair as you brush. Flick the brush at the end of the brush stoke to try to get all the dirt removed from the coat. Occasionally, you will need to clean the brush fibers by brushing them across the curry comb. Finally, follow up with a soft brush to further smooth the hair and spread the natural oils along the coat. This is what makes horses shine. You can also carefully brush the lower legs and face with the soft brush.
For the tail, first use a detangler spray or gel such as Cowboy Magic, Show Sheen, Mane ‘n Tail Detangler, or EQyss Survivor. This stops tangled hairs from being torn out when you brush the tail. Some people think you should never brush a tail because hairs will be torn out. If you are careful and brush only a small section at a time while starting from the bottom, you shouldn’t pull out many hairs. You can brush the mane without being as worried since most manes are kept thin and short. If you have a long-maned breed such as an Arabian or a Friesian, you will want to treat it as carefully as the tail.
Also, use a clean, damp towel to gently wipe any dirt or dust from the eye area and the nostrils. Most horses learn to appreciate this. You will appreciate it too because when the horse blows out his nose, he won’t get as much horse snot all over you!