Old-school horse grooming techniques


I will preface this by saying that I love old books about horse care for the sole reason of seeing what sort of nonsense existed in the horse world.  There is a lot that remains the same, but much has changed.  


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About onions, urination, and berets!


  • A few months ago, I stumbled upon two great books about horse keeping – both published before I was born. That’s a long time ago…


  • The Horseman’s Book is a horseman’s dictionary organized by discipline. It’s great fun to peruse and learn the meanings of Plater (farrier at the track), Grassed him (a cowboy is thrown from his saddle), and Riot (when the hounds run from the Huntsman).


  • The second book, first published in 1938, is The Owner Groom, a British book detailing the proper care of horses for the horse owner. This is where it gets interesting.



Great reading!


Exhibit A – teaching your horse to urinate on command and also using onions.


  • The old-school method of teaching your horse to urinate on command is the same as modern-day – whistle as your horse volunteers to urinate; eventually you can ask him to pee when you whistle. This is handy before a ride, on a long trail ride, or whenever you need your horse to be comfortable.  This trick is handy for horse shows if your horse needs to be drug-tested. 



  • This book suggests placing an ONION inside the sheath if your horse is not urinating.  Do not do this, please. 



No for sheaths. Maybe for cooking. Yes for crying.


  • New school version – keep up with the whistling, but skip the onion. First of all, no one wants to cry, and certainly, no one wants raw onion on their sensitive parts. If your horse is not urinating, medical intervention is necessary. Some horses also have a hard time urinating when their bean needs to be removed or their sheath is extra full of gross lumps. Call the Vet!



No horse wants an onion in their sheath. I’m pretty sure of this.


Exhibit B – what to wear at the barn.


  • Old school dressing guide suggests a beret for women, with their hair in a side pony. You should also wear breeches and boots, topping off your look with an apron. Also, avoid yellow sweaters!


  • New school dressing guides vary from discipline to discipline, but for the most part, I dress for sun protection and comfort. I try not to do anything but ride in my boots and put them on just before I put on the bridle. I will use an apron at shows if I’m braiding, but other than that, safe and comfy is the way to go.




Definitely more 1938 than modern day. But styles come back around!


What old-school horse care methods have you heard of?  And perhaps you want to shop for more up to date books about horse care?  

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