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 some grooming secrets and add sufficient elbow grease! You can always add to your horse grooming kit as needed. And behold – 51 horse grooming tips for you. 

 

Table of contents

 

Skin

Coat

Shedding

Hooves

Legs

Faces

Manes

Tails

Bathing

Clipping

Horse shows

Tack care

Barn management

FAQ’s about horse grooming

Go shopping

 

Horse grooming tips for your horse’s skin

 

Sebum

 

  • Your horse’s sebaceous glands make this oil. These magic glands open into the hair follicle, coating every strand of hair with stain-repelling goodness. Sebum is also antimicrobial and part of your horse’s immune system.

 

  • 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.

 

flax for horses Thank you!

Healthy skin starts on the inside.  I like flax for Omega-3’s to boost skin and coat health. 

 

Curry combs and such

 

  • Try all the curry combs and brushes, and consider this a long experiment into what your horse likes! This is especially true for sensitive horses. Varying pressure and trying new grooming tools are 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 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.

 

hands on gloves grooming a horse's legs

Horse grooming secret – it’s sometimes not the tools, but how you use them.  Find how much pressure your horse likes to maximize horse comfort. 

 

 

Don’t share

 

  • There’s no faster way to spread bacterial infections like rain rot and fungal infections like ringworm than shared horse equipment. Sharing brushes, saddle pads, and tack also means you will wash them more often!

 

Sunscreen

 

  • Using zinc oxide-based sunscreen has many benefits for your horse! It protects pink-skinned noses, 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.

 

sox-for-horses

Sure, Sox for Horses SEEM silly, but they work for mud fever! 

 

Feed the skin

 

  • Creating the best diet for your horse is challenging – there are endless factors to consider – and one big one is adding Omega-3’s to your horse’s coat. Also, consulting an equine nutritionist 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 waterproofing to ward off rain and snow. For horses that are hard keepers or have insufficient coats and waterproofing, use blankets.

 

Egg counts

 

  • 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.

 

Spot removers

 

  • 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 and boost shine.

 

Clip

 

  • A horse’s thick winter coat is a beautiful thing for your horse to keep. UNLESS it’s inappropriate for the climate, their skin health, and the amount of sweating they’re doing. Keeping your horse comfortable in winter often means trace clipping or body clipping. A clipped horse can thermoregulate better, dry faster, and have a smaller chance of developing mystery skin funk.

 

Static

 

  • Static shocks are just plain annoying! Cut the static by spraying your grooming tools with a sheen spray, no-rinse shampoo, 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

 

  • Oil buffing is a super easy workout that involves massaging or brushing grooming oil into your horse’s coat to condition and shine it.

 

very shiny bay horse on the grass

 

Horse grooming tips for the shedding cycles

 

Sand

 

  • Let your horse do some of the work the next time they shed. An excellent roll in the sandiest area of your farm should do the trick! This is one of the horse grooming tips that doesn’t save you time – as you will still need to groom out that sand.

 

Curry and 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.

 

Shapley's No. 1 light oil grooming oil

 

Hooves

 

Sprinkle picks

 

  • Hang hoof picks them near gates, stall doors, grooming areas, in the farrier’s area, and anywhere you might be moving your horse in or out. Hooves can pick up rocks, nails, twigs, and mud. Pick those hooves before you move your horse!

 

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 see subtle changes to the coronary band before a quarter crack busts open.

 

horse hoof with healed quarter crack

Quarter cracks can cause lameness.

 

Jet setting

 

  • You can put all of the thrush medication into a hoof that you like, 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

 

  • 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.

 

Horse grooming secrets for legs

 

Trim leg hair

 

  • You don’t need to clip to the skin. Removing the bulk of hair gives mud less hair to attach itself to. 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.

 

Chestnuts and ergots

 

  • 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!

 

Ice boots

 

  • 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

 

  • 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.

 

horse wearing suspensory ice boots that cover the fetlock

 

Faces

 

UV light

 

  • 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!

 

Vibrissae

 

  • These long buggery hairs, called vibrissae, help your horse know where their eye is in relation to things like walls and other bonkable objects. they need 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 the whiskers

 

  • Whiskers are another vibrissae, helping your horse feel around, as their eyes can’t see under there. The best horse grooming tip is to leave whiskers alone. Many national and international horse show organizations, and some countries, forbid clipping whiskers for competitors now.

 

profile of black horse with whiskers

 

Manes

 

Roaching

 

  • 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.

 

Braids

 

  • 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 them to rub their mane.

 

Bridle paths

 

 

Horse grooming tips for manes

 

  • 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, use a solo comb. Then your braids will be perfect!

 

fold up mane blade on chestnut horse

These mane blades create a nice edge on a mane.

 

Tails

 

Daily care

 

  • 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.

 

Detanglers

 

  • Slick tails serve two primary purposes: keeping knots away and creating a barrier to stains. Unconditioned hair is brittle, and tangled hair is brittle. Dry and cracked hair gives mud, manure, and urine stains an engraved invite to invade your horse’s tail. Use grooming oil to deep condition and detangle the tail.

 

Winter horse grooming tips

 

  • 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 some vet wrap if your horse’s tail is slick.

 

mud knot on chestnut horse tail

 

Tail bags

 

  • 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.

 

Bathing

 

No buckets

 

  • After wetting your horse, dollop some shampoo right onto your grooming glove. Pat your horse over their body, then curry the shampoo into their coat. There is no need for buckets or sponges.

 

Sweat scrape

 

  • 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.

 

White vinegar

 

  • Shampoos and conditioners can be challenging to rinse thoroughly. As a final rinse, white vinegar removes any residue. Horses with itchy tails will appreciate this, and the vinegar helps to brighten white and gray horses.

 

Hot toweling

 

  • 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.

Learn how to hot towel your horse here

 

Hot water kettles

 

  • 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.

 

easy out no rinse shampoo and hot kettle with cloths

A hot water kettle is clutch for winter grooming

 

Clipping

 

Use grooming oils

 

 

Dirty floor

 

  • If it’s breezy when you are clipping, sprinkle a bit of dirt or shavings on the fallen hair to prevent it from flying away. 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.

 

Recycle blades

 

  • Don’t toss out old clipper blades! Use them 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.

 

three clipper blades for trimmers body clippers and shears

 

Show day – for all disciplines from dressage to western

 

Wipes

 

  • Homemade grooming wipes are easy! Add some shop towels to a baggie or small container. Shop towels are heftier and larger than baby wipes. Pour in a bit of your no-rinse shampoo and a bit of water, and stir! It’s okay if you add too much liquid. Wring out the towel before use, and then wipe stains away.

 

Feed bags

 

  • 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.

 

Use 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!

 

tack trunk with wheels

WHEELS!

 

Powders

 

  • Sprinkling cornstarch or baby powder on white hair brightens it up for the show ring. To avoid covering hooves or dark hair, drape a washcloth over those areas as well. You might end up with paste if the showgrounds are wet or muddy.

 

Sprays

 

  • 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 that you don’t want sprayed.

 

Go here for the ultimate horse show packing list

Click here for show and competition horse grooming tips

 

Tack care

 

Condition

 

  • 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!

 

Breakaway crowns

 

  • Any halter that goes on your horse’s noggin should have a safety feature to break away. The most logical way is a leather crown piece. You do not have to have a leather halter; leather crown pieces are available separately to make any nylon halter safer.

 

Dishwasher

 

  • Nylon halters, spurs, stirrups, and some bits can also be cleaned in the dishwasher. It’s also nice to use metal polish on your tack’s shiny things. You can pick up polishing cloths to make it easy, but don’t.

 

Barn management

 

Brushes

 

  • Forget about using a separate bucket to wash your horse brushes. Keep your tools and brushes in your grooming tote or grooming kit, and wash it all simultaneously.

Extra stiff brushes

 

  • Use stiff brushes to clean 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, though; this can be your designated gross stuff brush.

 

Drill brush attachments

 

  • Nothing says efficiency more than letting a power tool do the work for you. You can find brushes that attach right to your drill so they spin and clean. These handy drill attachments also save time.

 

bucket with bubbles and a hard brush

 

 

FAQ and more horse grooming tips

 

Should you groom every day?

 

  • Yes! Your horse’s health is the primary reason for grooming, and daily checking allows you to catch medical issues quickly. Use all the horse grooming tips and do health checks.

 

  • Grooming more than once a day is often necessary, as many horses come back from exercise sweaty and dirty. The priority here is to ensure your horse’s sweat isn’t interfering with their body temperature. In hot weather, it should be cooling them off. In colder weather, they may cool off too quickly, so use coolers.

 

  • Curry combs are great for cleaning and massaging your horse. The more, the merrier.

 

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. 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, even more so with your own horse grooming tips that you figure out.

 

Happy grooming and let me know what other horse care secrets you come up with.

 

 

go shopping button for horse products

 

Need to stock up to do some of these horse grooming tips for all seasons?  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support!

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Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious cold milled flax formula. It's delicious and it will turn your horse's coat into a mirror.

Shapley's Easy-Out No Rinse Shampoo 32 fl.oz
$16.23 $14.64

Spot removing, deodorizing, dust busting, shine adding spray.

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These are HandsOn Gloves with special pricing! Only in the color gray.

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Shapley's Easy-Out No Rinse Shampoo 32 fl.oz
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Shapley's Hi Shine Shampoo, 1-Gallon
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Other sizes, too! Adds shine with the most gentle formula.

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SHAPLEY'S Medi-Care Med Shampoo W/Tea Tree & Lemon Grass, 32 oz
$19.98

The best shampoo for shine and soothing.

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Shapley's No.1 Light Oil
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For shine, conditioning, detangling, and stain protection.

03/11/2024 08:33 pm GMT
Shapley's Equitone 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, GOLD
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Brighten duns, palominos, and golden colors.

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For chestnuts and some bays

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Thank you!