Fall Grooming Tips
Ah, so much pumpkin spice this time of year. And maybe a few more things to consider when it comes to grooming your horse! Just a few.
More curry combing.
- You heard me, more. Fall is the time of year when the summer coat is shedding and the winter coat starts to come in. The decreasing amount of sunlight triggers this, not temperatures and weather.
- The shiny summer coat disappears, to be replaced by longer hairs. Much longer. These new hairs will need some shine and protection! The best way to do this is to spread your horse’s natural sebum all over the place with your grooming tools. I’m a huge fan of the grooming gloves, especially for longer coats those areas, like legs and faces, where traditional curry combs are trickier to use.
- And really, there’s no such thing as too much currying.
So. Many. Muscles.
Resist the urge for one last deep clean and scrubbing bath. Go mild instead!
- Bathing with strong detergent-y shampoos only serves to strip your horse’s natural oils. If you must give one last bath, make sure to use a super gentle shampoo and add a conditioner afterward. You can find conditioners to rinse out, or you may opt for a grooming oil to use once your horse is mostly dry or totally dry.
- PS – dish soap and laundry products are the exact opposite of mild.
- If you are planning to clip your horse, he must be wickedly clean and oily for the best results. Same situation – use a mild shampoo and add oils back in before you start clipping. For more pre-clipping tips, this article has you covered.
- My preference is to use a grooming oil. There are lots of ways to use them to help condition and shine up your horse. After a bath, you can use a few glugs of grooming oil in a bucket of warm water, about halfway full. Swirl around and then sponge on your horse. You will be able to tell if you have too much oil or too much water.
- You can also spritz on as your horse is drying. Sometimes the spray gets mucked up by the density of the grooming oil. In that case, use a washcloth and a bit of grooming oil to massage into your horse’s coat.
- You can use grooming oils at any time of year, no matter how long or short your horse’s hair coat is. They are great to use after a clip, also, so that the cut hairs get a little sheen and a deeper color. For post-clipping tips, this article has lots of information.
Of course a clipped horse can shine!
Deep condition your horse’s tail.
- It’s actually quite easy to wash or spot treat your horse’s tail in the winter, but before it gets really cold, I’ll do a deep condition. Lots of options here, including a conditioner. You can also reach for the grooming oil and do a deep conditioning session.
- You have the option of rinsing out any conditioner or oil at any time. If I know I’m giving a bath in a few days, I’ll deep condition a tail with oil and use a tiny bit of shampoo to remove any last bits during the bath.
- I do this in the fall so that the tail is soft heading into winter. I’ll also tidy up the tail top sides, and bang the tail. If I know bad weather will bring mud, the tail gets chopped shorter than normal. There’s also the option of doing mud knots for longer tails if you don’t want to bang the ends off.
A lovely mud knot. Below the tail bone, of course!
Bust out the sheets and coolers.
- Even if you don’t use blankets, I would still recommend you have coolers at your disposal. Wool coolers are my favorite, and there are tons of durable and fashionable fleece ones available, too.
- The main purpose of any cooler is to help your horse’s body temperature be comfortable and safe as it returns to normal. This is especially true if his fuzzy coat gets sweaty! No one ever in the history of the universe is comfortable when they are sweaty and naked in cold weather. Use a cooler!
- Sheets are fantastic to use as a dirt barrier. Longer horse coats are just plain harder to get clean! The hairs trap all sort of dust, dirt, dried sweat and loose hair in addition to keeping your horse warm. Using a sheet makes the grooming process more streamlined. Vacuums help, too!
- More things to know about coolers can be found here.
I’m a fan of wool coolers! Durable and oh, so effective.
Trim up your horse’s legs if the weather makes things muddier and wetter.
- There is no rule that says horses only get scratches and leg funk issues in the warmer weather. Often, longer hair on the legs makes skin conditions much worse. Longer leg hair also prevents medications from landing where they need to land – on the wounds!
- Clipping lower legs to help manage mud and prevent leg skin funk is a great idea. If you do it early in the fall and winter, there’s time for some of it to grow back before cold weather really settles in.
- If you only want a little off the top, use clipper guards or combs to tidy things up without taking off the bulk of hair. Another alternative is to use a specialty designed sock for your horse to keep the hair and skin clean and protected.
- The whole point of this is to make any mud that does glue itself to your horse easier to remove. This is better for grooming, better for putting a polo or sport boot on top, and better for making sure your horse’s skin isn’t crying for help.
These Silver Whinny’s are made by Sox for Horses. Their website has TONS of before and after pics of how helpful these socks are.
Health matters to check up on in the fall.
- Vaccines will be due! No time like the present to make sure your horse stays safe from tick and mosquito-borne diseases. More on these horrible diseases here.
- I also have my Vet do a dental, eye, and overall health exam at the same time. Older horses, like mine, usually don’t need a dental float as frequently as younger horses. However, they are more likely to have abscesses, chips, and other dental issues pop up.
- If your horse is older, has Cushing’s (PPID), or is showing signs of Cushing’s, it’s time for testing of ACTH levels. This simple blood test can reveal if your horse’s ACTH warrants medication or a change in medications. The fall is a time in which a horse’s ACTH levels naturally rise. For confirmed cases, this may require more meds. For some horses, they may need meds only in the fall.
- Why does this matter? Because high ACTH levels increase the risk of laminitis. Fall grass is also as dangerous as spring grass, which can make fall pasture grazing quite risky. Temps are falling at night, which makes the “sugars” in grass rise.
- Adding a grazing muzzle if your horse might be at risk! Add a grazing muzzle if your horse is overweight! If you don’t know by now, I love grazing muzzles. They allow your horse to do his outdoor horse eating thing, for much longer amounts of time. I won’t sugarcoat this at all – overweight horses need your help to be healthier!
The best muzzle and halter system I’ve found – from Greenguard! You can find them at GG-Equine!
Tend to your horse’s hooves.
- During cooler and colder weather, you may notice that your horse’s hooves slow down just a bit in terms of growth. This isn’t the case for all, every horse has their own schedule. This becomes more important if you pull shoes for the winter. You definitely want to give your horse plenty of cushion and growth as you transition your horse from shod to barefoot.
- While I have a horse that has been both shod and barefoot, I always take into account the weather and the footing. I won’t have a barefoot horse if the ground can get hard or freeze. I also keep shoes on if my riding plans are to keep going, which they are!
What other things do you help your horse with in the fall?
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The best muzzle in the land – order one here! Also in raspberry and black colors.
You can snag a pair of HandsOn Grooming Gloves here, and use code PEG for some free shipping on that order!
I love this mild and effective shine-making shampoo!
This is my favorite grooming oil. A little bit goes a long way!
My go-to body clippers.
A nice fleece cooler!
A wool cooler, in the traditional square shape.
A turbo fleece cooler – I love these styles, especially in colder areas.
My favorite horse boots for barefoot guys.