Your barn time – do you have a horse grooming routine?
It dawned on me today that in all of the months and years of writing about grooming for you guys, I have never shared with you my usual routine for actually grooming.
So, in an effort to get back to basics, I thought I would share with you the order in which I do things while grooming my horse.
- This is the same for horses that I groom for others, and also for my own horses. Establishing a routine has served me well in high-pressure situations, you can rely on “routine memory” and then you won’t overlook something when you are at a show or under pressure.
Easy routine – temp, hooves, mane/tail, curry, brush, stain removal, and shine.
Here we go – my horse grooming routine:
- Gather all of your tools, tack, and equipment in the cross ties. This includes your grooming box full of brushes and tools, and your saddle, bridles, etc. This may also include your boots, helmet, and other riding essentials, but usually, the rider is responsible for gathering their own gear. I don’t leave my horse in the cross ties unattended.
- Go fetch your horse! Pick your horse’s feet before you leave the stall or paddock. This keeps the barn aisle a bit cleaner and can also alert you to any problems before you start walking. For example, some horses are talented at tweaking shoes in their stalls, which is something you may not want walking through the barn. You can also feel their legs for heat/swelling before you leave the stall.
Pick feet before you head to the cross ties or tack up area! You can also do a quick leg inspection in the stall, too – just in case your horse needs to stay put.
- In the cross ties, the first thing I do is insert a thermometer to take my horse’s vital signs. I have a string attached to a tight barrette so I can clip it to their tail hairs just in case it gets “farted out”. Yes, that’s an official grooming term. Or use a digital thermometer which takes a lot less time. Checking TPR regularly is critical to notice what is going on with your horse. Most horses will act fairly normally despite a fever, so I check anyway. It’s also good desensitization for your horse.
- Remove and read the thermometer. If I suspect a horse is feeling under the weather, I will take his temperature in the stall. Otherwise, you run the risk of “contaminating” the cross ties. Anything above his normal temp and vitals is something to watch to see if it keeps going up. Any temp above 101.5 is cause for alarm and is a signal to call the Veterinarian.
- Curry comb! I always start on the same side and work top to bottom, front to back. I use a rubber curry for the horse’s body, then I come back with a jelly scrubber or pimple mitt for the face and legs and sensitive parts of the belly.
Grooming gloves > curry comb
- I like to vacuum after a curry but before the brushes. Some days, I find I don’t need the vacuum, but it usually saves me a bit of time for extra dusty horses. If you curry before the vacuum, you have less to brush away and more dirt comes to the surface.
- After the curry is when I attack manure or urine stains. The dried stain will be diminished by a curry, and then you can use a damp washcloth to wipe it away. You could also add in a waterless shampoo if you need to. For horrible stains, you can learn some tricks here.
- Hard brush to flick away the dirt. I always like a natural bristled brush! If you have used water or waterless shampoo to get rid of a stain, you may need to let it dry a bit before brushing on that spot. You can also use a dry towel or rag to wipe away any moisture.
- Soft brush and/or finishing brush to lay the hairs smooth and bring out some shine. (Almost done – hang in there!) You can add any finishing sprays now, or in some cases, you may just want to rub them with a cloth. You can also apply your finishing spray or shine product to your final soft brush.
- Put a detangler on the tail if you use one, then pick or brush the tail. You may not need to use a detangler or conditioner on your horse one every day. Comb out the mane and forelock. This is a good time to check to see if your horse’s bridle path needs a trim.
- Brush off the hooves, I like the rough side of a double-sided sponge or the brush on the end of a hoof pick. Now you have a smooth surface to apply your polish of choice if that’s what you like.
- Wrap and protect your horse’s legs. Use your preferred choice of leg protection and/or bell boots. Always run your hands down all tendons and joints again before you wrap, just in case.
I like all of my tack in the cross ties when I’m getting a horse ready. I am also searching for a way to make only ONE trip from the grooming station to the tack room.
- Saddle up. I am often asked about when to tighten the girth and how much, and I wish there was an answer for you on this one besides “every situation is different.” I do like to leave the girth snug but not totally done up as I walk to the mounting block. This allows for the girth to be tightened bit by bit, and the short walk can allow the saddle to settle a bit. After mounting, the rider should check again and tighten again if necessary as the rider’s weight can smoosh things down a bit.
- Bridle up. I really don’t like to see horses with bridles on wearing halters on top in the cross ties. It’s uncomfortable looking, and the reins can slip to the side if not knotted up and cause a hazard. It’s typical for me to put the bridle on at the last second before heading to the mounting block.
Do you have a set routine for grooming your horse? How does it go?
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