It’s spring time, which means bathing, clipping, shedding, grooming and getting ready for shows (maybe not in that order). I think that just about every equestrian has known a grey horse or a horse with a lot of white markings, and trying to get and keep that horse clean — whether it iss just for a lesson, or for a show — well, we all know the struggle is very real.
The summer before I came to college I showed a lovely grey paint mare in some hunter under saddle, showmanship and halter classes. She taught me a lot about my riding and my confidence in the show ring, but I learned a lot about grooming as well. Grey horses typically get lighter with age, and Cloud is no exception. She is flea-bitten, has beautiful paint markings and four stockings; but you can only see them now if she is blindingly clean. So what did I learn to do? Get and keep her spic-and-span.
Owning a black horse has reduced the amount of spot cleaning in my life, but has brought up new problems — like sun-bleaching, and seeing every particle of dust or dandruff on my horse.
Here are some tips and tricks I’ve learned. Please leave your comments below; what is the best grooming tip you’ve learned?
One of the introductory equine classes taught here goes over grooming techniques. The professor tells his students that good grooming takes 45 minutes, and it should be vigorous enough that you are breaking a sweat. While it’s impossible with a crazy schedule to do this type of grooming every single day, it’s important to deep groom when you can. It stimulates hair growth, can improve circulation, allows you to notice any abnormalities, and the time you spend grooming can help develop the relationship with your horse even further. At this time of year, the average grooming kit can be supplemented with a few things to make the time you spend grooming more effective:
- Shedding blades – alternating between currying and shedding can work well to shed out and loosen more hair so that you may be able to shorten the shedding madness.
- Strapping pad – I feel like strapping pads aren’t as commonly used anymore, but I love what they can do. Use a strapping pad to promote muscle definition and a smooth, shiny haircoat
- Cactus cloth/Soft terry cloth – I have a great mitt; cactus cloth on one side, terry cloth on the other. After I’ve completed my normal grooming regimen, I run over my horse with both sides of this mitt. It captures any dust and leaves her with a luster-like shine.
It’s important to remember to groom everywhere! Don’t forget under the belly, in-between legs, fronts of cannons, under the jowls and other not-as-visible places. Another good method I’ve found to loosen dirt and dust is to curry against the grain of the hair (as long as your horse tolerates it and it isn’t in a particularly sensitive location, like the flanks).
Bathing and Spot Cleaning:
There are about a million shampoos, conditioners, detanglers and sprays out there, all claiming to get your horse clean, soft and shiny. I’ve tried a fair amount of them and have settled on a few favorites.
- You can’t go wrong with Mane ‘N’ Tail. Their shampoos and conditioners work as well for me as they do for my horse. I’m not as big a fan of their detangler, but love the shampoos.
- For grey horses or paints or horses with white leg markings, I love Quic Silver. If you like to live on the edge and risk dying your horse a lovely purple color, this is the product for you. The only downside to this product is I could never use it without also dying my hands purple; it is a little more expensive than most shampoos and when you have a whole horse to make white, you go through a lot!
- I don’t use it regularly, but Absorbine Showsheen makes a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. I love this product; I noticed it made my horse whiter, and it leaves their hair really soft and shiny.
When it comes down to it, I am rarely buying actual horse shampoo to bathe my horse. Even when I was using Quic Silver for Cloud, I found a combination of my own to reduce the amount of expensive shampoos I was using. Because let’s be honest, I can buy a bottle of Dawn Dish Soap for a few bucks, and the soap that is tough on grease but soft on hands is also going to leave my horse shiny, soft and her skin moisturized and dandruff-free.
I would combine Dawn and Orvus, an industrial paste shampoo, and then spot clean with Quic Silver where I needed to.
Side note: A tub of Orvus will probably last you forever.
So what happens when that clean, grey horse walks out of the trailer with a manure stain on her hock? Don’t fret, break out the arsenal of spot cleaners. Rarely did I have the time to re-bathe Cloud, and she always managed to get dirty from the time we left the barn until the show ring.
- A towel doused with hot water and a drop of Dawn dish soap (so many uses) used directly on the stain actually can go a long way
- Corn starch or baby powder can be sprinkled on those hard to remove/set in stains, although this was always a last resort if I couldn’t get something out during Cloud’s bath.
- There are a decent amount of green spot removing sprays, and while I have had more success with hot water, brushing and Dawn dish soap, I have relied on these before. My favorite of these kinds of products is Cowboy Magic’s Green Spot Remover. Good to use in a pinch.
Detanglers and Shine:
I am a total nut about my horse’s mane, forelock and tail. I like them to be tangle-free and smooth all the time. She has a good mane/tail/forelock, and I want to keep it that way! I cringe when people rake brushes or combs through their horse’s tails. I’ve used a variety of detanglers and have to say that my favorite is Farnam Vetrolin Detangler. This stuff smells really good (bonus!) and after putting it in my horse’s mane or tail, I can pick through it with ease. It leaves her tail smooth and shiny for a longer period of time than with other products I’ve used.
I also use baby oil on my horse’s tail; I rub it on the underside of her dock to avoid it getting crusty and dry, and I also rub it into her tailhead and top of her dock. I’ve found it hydrates the skin there and keeps the flakiness to a minimum.
As far as shining sprays and the like, I have a few go-to products. I use Hair Moisturizer, by Healthy HairCare Products. It’s a leave-in conditioner that moisturizes the skin, and makes them super shiny and soft. It comes concentrated, so you can dilute it and put it in an old spray bottle; another product that will last you a long time!
When it comes time for the show ring, I have one more go-to grooming product, and that is Silverado Face Glo. Yet another product that will last forever, it comes in different colors specific for your horse (black/bay, chestnut, clear for greys). It is an enhancing product for your horse’s face, and I slather it on ears, muzzles, above the eyes…it smells super great. I’d buy it just for the smell but beyond that it accentuates the features of your horse’s face, makes them smooth and shiny, has aloe and vitamin E to condition the skin, and also provides sun protection from UV-A and UV-B rays, great if you are going to be out in the sun showing all day!
What are your favorite grooming techniques and products?