51 Horse Grooming Tips
Grooming is the backbone of horsemanship and creating a relationship with your horse. It’s often a challenging process, with lovely hurdles like shedding, mud, and stains. Be prepared with the best horse grooming tools, and add sufficient amounts of elbow grease! You can always add to your horse grooming kit as needed. And behold – 51 horse grooming tips for you.
Table of contents
Your horse’s skin
Sebum is the holy grail of horse grooming.
- Your horse’s sebaceous glands make this oil. These magic glands open into the hair follicle, so every strand of hair is coated with stain-repelling goodness. Sebum is also anti-microbial and part of your horse’s immune system.
- Horse people talk about natural oils – they are talking about sebum! It’s the secret sauce for grooming, and your horse makes it. It’s your job to keep it!
- There are a few things you can do to boost the sebum. Stop using harsh detergents and shampoos. These strip oil! Help the sebum spread by currying your horse more than you think is necessary. Feed the sebum from within – omega 3 fatty acids along with a well-balanced diet are a top priority.
Healthy skin starts on the inside.
Use the best grooming tools for your horse’s tastes.
- Consider this a long experiment into what your horse likes! This is especially true for sensitive horses. Varying pressure and trying new grooming tools is the key to your horse’s happiness. Try grooming gloves, sheepskin mitts, cactus cloths, and every style of bristle and brush that you can.
- Dandy brushes are multi-functional brushes and come in varying styles and densities. Soft brushes are often better for faces, butt cheeks, and other sensitive areas.
More specific grooming tools
- Body brushes with added stiffness and length are best suited for breaking up mud and digging into a horse’s winter coat’s long hair. Some horses do appreciate the scratchy-ness of a stiff brush!
- A metal curry comb was once the gold standard of grooming a horse in winter and during shedding season. Grooming gloves are more versatile and won’t rust. Some horses will be fine with this style of curry over larger body areas. Don’t use them on hips, shoulders, legs, faces, or sensitive areas.
Don’t share grooming tools or saddle pads.
- There’s no faster way to spread bacterial infections like rain rot and fungal infections like ringworm than shared horse equipment. Sharing brushes also means you will be washing them more often!
Cover up with sunscreen
- Using zinc oxide-based sunscreen has many benefits for your horse! Pink-skinned noses are protected, and bugs won’t be able to bite. Zinc oxide is also lovely for any small nicks or cuts your horse may get in summer.
Keep mud away
- Mud is, by far, the bane of most equestrian’s existence. Attack it from all angles – paddock management, horse care, and finger crossing. Many feathered horse owners use copious amounts of grooming oil in the feathers and tail to ward off the mud. Fly boots are also acceptable in winter; this will give your horse a bit of a barrier to loads of wet Earth attaching itself. Sox for Horses is another excellent idea, especially if your horse has equine pastern dermatitis.
Feed your horse’s skin from the inside.
- Creating the best diet for your horse is challenging – there are endless factors to consider. And many supplements overlap and interfere with fortified feeds. Enter the equine nutritionist. A consultation with a Ph.D. is more affordable than a few new saddle pads. I trust www.summit-equine.com
Your horse’s coat
- That awesome sebum creates shine, and it’s also waterproofing to ward off rain and snow. Make currying and a good diet your primary focus. For horses that are hard keepers or have insufficient coats and waterproofing, use blankets.
Do regular fecal egg counts!
- It’s an entire novel about deworming! The short version – intestinal parasites create dull coats. Fecal egg counts monitor levels of some worms, specifically ascarids. Use a fecal egg count in the spring and fall as a starting point for a targeted deworming plan with your vet’s help. Rotational deworming programs can lead to drug resistance in the worms, and then we are really in trouble.
- No-rinse shampoos and spot removers allow you to clean your horse without a full bath. Prevent stripping that sebum if you can! The spot-remover bonus is that you can add a few glugs of it to your hot water during hot toweling in the winter. The spot-remover will help lift the dirt!
Clip your horse when necessary
- A horse’s thick winter coat is a beautiful thing for your horse to keep. UNLESS it’s not appropriate for the climate, his skin health, and the amount of sweating he’s doing. Keeping your horse comfortable in winter often means taking that hair off. A clipped horse can thermoregulate better, dry faster, and have a smaller chance of developing mystery skin funk.
Spray your horse’s body brush with water or sheen spray to cut static when it’s dry
- Static shocks are just plain annoying! Cut the static by spraying your grooming tools with a sheen spray or plain water as you groom. There’s no need to get anything wet; a small spritz will do just fine. Repeat as you are grooming.
Oil buff your horse!
- Oil buffing is a super easy workout that involves massaging or brushing grooming oil into your horse’s coat for conditioning and shine.
Help your horse shed with piles of sand.
- Let your horse do some of the work the next time he sheds. An excellent roll in the sandiest area of your farm should do the trick! Sure, you’ll be grooming out some sand, but you were going to do the elbow grease anyway. A pile of sand is Earth’s grooming gloves.
Do more currying during shedding season and add in grooming oils.
- Grooming oils can help with the shedding season, too. After grooming, add some grooming oil to a cloth or mitt and wipe your horse. You will deposit conditioning shine and help some hair find its way to the fabric and not your chapstick.
- Baby oil shares some of the same ingredients as grooming oils for horses, if you would like to try that.
Put a hoof pick in every area that your horse visits!
- Hang them near gates, stall doors, in grooming areas, in the farrier’s area, anywhere you might be moving your horse in or out. Hooves can pick up rocks, nails, twigs, and plugs of mud. Pick those hooves before you move your horse!
Catch quarter cracks early by inspecting the coronary bands
- Quarter cracks start at the coronary band and travel downwards. They are painful and need help from the vet and farrier to heal. Most are conformation issues that do well with corrective farrier work. You can sometimes subtle changes to the coronary band before a quarter crack busts open.
Spray out the hoof with the jet setting before applying thrush medications
- You can put all of the thrush medication into a hoof, but the foot needs to be clean! Hose nozzles with a “jet” setting are perfect for blasting out every last bit of dirt from the grooves. Pat dry with a towel and apply meds before moving your horse.
Olive oil can make an excellent hoof oil if you like.
- Your horse’s hoof dressing doesn’t have to be expensive; you can use olive oil. Use caution in warmer months, as it may attract flies. But really, everything does.
Trim your horse’s leg hair in the winter.
- You don’t need to clip to the skin. Removing the bulk of hair gives mud less hair to attach itself. Any wetness and dirt will also dry faster, and it’s easier to feel for skin infections. Incidentally, mud causes some of those skin infections.
Use vaseline to soften chestnuts and ergots if you want to peel them.
- Softening chestnuts and ergots for peeling or trimming is best. During a bath, peeling them is good, or put petroleum jelly on them for a few days to soften up. Peel them away, and don’t twist them off!
Shoo-Fly boots also hold ice in a pinch.
- When leg emergencies happen, and they do, ice can help your horse fight off pain and inflammation. If you don’t have technical ice boots for your horse, fly boots will do. The Shoo Fly style is particularly tough and forms a cone around your horse’s leg. Fill it with ice cubes. As the cubes melt, the water will drain from the bottom.
Wet legs to help your horse’s ice packs last a bit longer.
- If you do have traditional ice boots for horses, starting with a wet leg will help things cool off. I would skip this in the winter or cold weather. For gel packs, this is quite helpful as they warm up quickly.
Use sunscreen and long-nosed fly masks with ears!
- Fly masks are for more than just flies. They can help block UV light and keep gnats away. Bugs have the unique ability to spread infections, like aural plaques, and create allergic reactions, as with sweet itch. And they are just a nuisance!
Don’t clip your horse’s eyebrows, which are above and below the eye.
- These long buggery hairs, called vibrissae, help your horse know where his eye is in relation to things like walls and other bonkable objects. He needs them. Sometimes, those hairs can grow quite long and loop back, pointing themselves at the eye. I will trim those to avoid eye-stabbings, but I won’t cut them down flush.
Keep your horse’s whiskers!
- Whiskers are another vibrissae, helping your horse feel around, as his eyes can’t see under there. I leave whiskers long on all horses. Mostly because he needs them, and part of me is lazy. Many national and international horse show organizations forbid clipping whiskers for competitors now.
Roached manes work for some horses.
- Streamline your grooming routine with a roached mane! Roaching, or hogging a mane, has many benefits, not the least of which is stopping a super thick mane from sweating up a horse’s neck. Bugs and ticks are easy to spot and remove, sweet itch topical meds are a snap to apply, your horse’s bridle will fit better, it’s easier to see your horse fill up the outside rein, and it’s darn cute.
Long and loose braids work for so many things!
- On the other hand, if you are taming the mane or growing it out, consider long and loose braids. Braids are an excellent way to keep tangles away and help things stay on one side. Tight braids often irritate a horse and can inspire him to rub them out.
Bridle paths are a must!
- There’s no better way to ensure proper bridle fit than with a clipped bridle path. Manes create a lump under the crownpiece of your bridle. The tack won’t fit smoothly over the poll, and the lump places uneven pressure on your horse’s cute noggin.
Create an even mane
- Several tools can create an even mane. Use scissors, a mane blade, or an old clipper blade to shorten the mane. For creating consistent thickness throughout the mane, pull it or use a solo comb. Then your braids will be perfect!
These mane blades create a nice edge on a mane.
Daily care is the best way to keep your horse’s tail untangled and tidy.
- It doesn’t matter if you prefer to pick your horse’s tail by hand or if you want to brush it. Small tangles and bits of bedding are easier to deal with in small batches. Daily attention also reminds you to inspect your horse’s cute butt cheek and tailbone every day.
Mane and tail detangler is your best friend.
- Slick tails serve two primary purposes – keeping knots away and creating a barrier to stains. Unconditioned hair is brittle hair, and tangled hair is brittle hair. Dry and cracked hair gives mud, manure, and urine stains an engraved invite to invade your horse’s tail.
Use mud knots in winter.
- A well-placed mud knot can keep the bulk of mud and moisture out of your horse’s tail during cruddy weather. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be below the tailbone. You can secure it with a bit of vet wrap if your horse’s tail is slick.
Tail bags can work. Or not.
- Tail bags are a grooming tool that I might use in the winter. Horses need their tails in summer for fly protection, so I prefer to let them fly loose when the bugs are out. For mare owners out there, make sure your horse’s tail bag is out of the urine stream. The urine stream may catch the tail bag if her blanket has a tail cover.
Skip the bucket and sponge; just put shampoo right into your grooming glove.
- After wetting your horse, dollop some shampoo right onto your grooming glove. Pat your horse over his body, then curry the shampoo into his coat.
Use a sweat scraper to remove most of the bubbles before you rinse.
- Save a little water by scraping off most of the shampoo before you rinse. This is especially helpful if you are running low on warm water! It’s also quite satisfying to flick big gobs of bubbles around.
Use white vinegar as a rinse.
- Shampoos and conditioners can be challenging to rinse out thoroughly. As a final rinse, white vinegar works to remove any residue. Horses with itchy tails will appreciate this, and the white vinegar helps to brighten white and gray horses.
Bathe in winter with hot towels, no-rinse shampoo, and coolers.
- A bucket of hot water, some washcloths, and no-rinse shampoo make for a great hot toweling session. This method of horse grooming uses steamy towels to lift dirt and funk from your horse’s coat. Your horse should not get wet, and you can use coolers to cover up any damp areas. Deets and a video are here!
Instant hot water kettles are great for spot cleaning your horse, among other things.
- Use a bit of hot water while grooming for a real treat! Hot water is ideal for warming bits, hot toweling small areas, and adding to your horse’s feed. Instant kettles make this easy!
Use grooming oils.
- Grooming oils do a few things! After you have groomed and bathed your horse for clipping, rub some grooming oil into his coat. The oil allows the clippers to zip through the hair. If the blades are sharp, that is! After clipping, buff some grooming oil on your horse for a shiny coat.
Keep the floor dirty where you are grooming to catch falling hair.
- If it’s breezy when you are clipping, prevent the fallen hair from flying away with a bit of dirt. Shavings and dirt on the floor add some grip, and hair is more likely to stay put. It’s also much easier to sweep up the hair and dirt mixture.
Re-use clipper blades
- Don’t toss out old clipper blades! Use then to shorten the mane. Grab a small section of mane, about an inch wide. Backcomb or rat-up the hair, and lob off the ends, trimming the mane. The hair will have a natural finish.
Horse show day
Make grooming wipes!
- Homemade grooming wipes are easy! In a baggie or small container, add some shop towels. Shop towels are heftier and larger than a baby wipe. Pour in a bit of your no-rinse shampoo, a bit of water, and stir! It’s ok if you add too much liquid. Wring out the towel before use and then wipe stains away!
Use feed bags for leg wrap holders and trash cans.
- Empty feed bags make great trash cans for narrow spaces at showgrounds. You can also cut up a feed bag to use as a wrap and boot holder at the show. You can never be too organized!
Use tack trunks with wheels!
- While traditional tack boxes are gorgeous, they are cumbersome at best for horse shows. Hit the hardware store and pick up a durable rolling trunk. The handle is retractable!
Baby powder and cornstarch work for brightening chrome at horse shows if the weather is good.
- Sprinkling these powders on white hair brightens them up for the show ring. Drape a washcloth over hooves or dark hair to avoid covering those areas as well. You might end up with paste if the showgrounds are wet or muddy.
Use Show Touch Ups if the weather is wet or terrible.
- An alternative to powders to whiten legs is Show Touch Ups. These colored sprays are pigment in a can and take days to wear off. Apply similarly to baby powder, using a cloth to cover areas.
Conditioned tack is better than oiled tack.
- Oiling your leather too frequently results in worn-out stitching! It’s better to clean and condition your tack daily. Neatsfoot oil can also become rancid, blech!
Use breakaway halter crown pieces.
- Any halter that goes on your horse’s noggin should have a safety feature to break away. A leather crown piece is the most logical way! You do not have to have a leather halter. Leather crown pieces are available separately to make any nylon halter safer.
Use your dishwasher to help you clean tack.
- Nylon halters, spurs, stirrups, and bits can also go into the dishwasher for cleaning! It’s also nice to use a metal polish on your tack’s shiny things. You can pick up polishing cloths to make it easy. Don’t polish a bit!
Wash your grooming tools weekly!
- Forget about using a separate bucket! Keep your tools and brushes in your grooming tote or grooming kit, and wash it all simultaneously.
Have an extra stiff brush.
- Use stiff brushes for cleaning work boots, the bottom of your pants, mud from hooves, mystery crud from horse blankets, and anything else that needs a touch-up. Don’t use this brush on your horse!
Use brush attachments for your drill for deep cleaning buckets and stall walls.
- Nothing says efficiency than letting a power tool do the work for you. These handy drill attachments make barn cleaning a snap.
FAQ about horse grooming!
Should you groom your horse every day?
- Yes! Your horse’s health is the primary reason for grooming, and daily checking allows you to catch medical issues quickly.
- Grooming more than once a day is often necessary, as many horses come back from exercise sweaty and dirty. The priority here is to make sure your horse’s sweat isn’t interfering with his body temperature. In hot weather, it should be cooling him off. In colder weather, he may cool off too quickly.
- Curry comb any dried sweat, remove mud and dirt from the bridle, saddle pad, and boots. Any curry combing that you do will also make his muscles feel better!
How long does it take to groom a horse?
- In a perfect situation, you find your horse clean and sleek. In that case, grooming should take you 20 minutes, maybe a bit longer. Add in mud, lots of caked-on dirt, a winter hair coat, or stains will add time to this process!
- Over time, you will streamline the grooming process for your horse, and things will go smoothly.
The following links go to my favorite horse grooming products. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, and there is no extra charge to you. Your support means that I can float this website to keep bringing you good information and bad jokes. THANKS!
HandsOn Grooming Gloves – also, use code PEG for some free shipping!
The gold standard for oil buffing your horse.
Sheepskin grooming mitt!
Hard brush for oil buffing a long winter coat.
Microfiber washcloths for sensitive horses
My fave corded body clippers are these:
And my fave lightweight cordless trimmers (with a 5 in 1 blade) are these:
For wounds and tack cleaning.
My favorite mane tool!
Leather crown piece to make any halter safer.
Ice packs for ice boots!
A wonderful boot to have on hand for emergencies.
The BEST for winter grooming – a hot water kettle!