Oprah started it! Remember when she would have an episode of her talk show that gave everyone in the audience an amazing goody bag to take home, stocked with Oprah’s various favorite things? Similarly, every equestrian has their favorite things. Here are some of my favorite grooming products:
Betadine — Since I have a dark bay, and since I learned this trick from Emma Ford and Cat Hill, I’ve begun using Betadine to douse and scrub into his coat twice a year, for his first and last baths of the season. We go all the way up the neck, but skip the head because I don’t want to get this in Charlie’s eyes by accident. I buy a gallon a year, and it gets us through both of these baths. The magic of it is that it helps clear up lurking fungi and bacteria in his coat. And in the case of skin infections, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Just remember to wear sacrificial clothes because this stuff stains.
Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo — This shampoo is amazing. First, it is a shampoo and conditioner in one, which comes in handy when your horse gets impatient during their bath. It also fortifies the coat instead of stripping it of natural oils, so stains don’t get embedded. It has tea tree oil for anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. I use this after our Betadine rinse (above). And his coat is the envy of the barn.
Santa Fe Coat Conditioner and Sunscreen — I use this religiously each time I groom Charlie’s mane and tail, to keep it tangle free, conditioned and soft. Since it’s an actual conditioner, it doesn’t coat the hair and make things gunky. Yeah!
Witch Hazel — Any time Charlie gets a scrape where there’s hair loss, I religiously apply witch hazel a couple of times a day for about a week. It promotes hair growth. After a week’s worth of use we have nary a bald spot. The usual liquid form available at your local drug store is fine, but I’ve also worked with a version of witch hazel gel, in a base of olive oil, which is much easier to apply, and have it stick where you want it.
ShowSheen — But not the way you think! I spray a precious little bit of ShowSheen on a chenille mit, then go over Charlie’s especially dusty spots. Don’t rub it in. Just hold the mitt barely above the coat and the dirt is almost magically attracted to the mitt. It’s a quick grooming shortcut for when you’re tight on time.
Effol Summer Hoof Gel and Winter Hoof Gel — These are hoof gels mixed specifically for the various challenges of hoof care in different seasons. Each formula contains slightly different oils and botanicals, with the weather conditions in mind. We used the winter version this past year, and I have just moved back to the summer formula. Since starting on it, we have never had a case of thrush or any other infections. Be sure to scrub all the dirt and debris off the hooves first. You can apply the hoof gel with your hands, but I like to use a brush to coat both the hoof wall and the frog.
Strip Hair — I’m not a fan of metal shedding blades because they’re hard to get on so many parts of Charlie’s body and I’m glad I recently found Strip Hair grooming blocks. They work on the same issues as a blade, namely shedding and embedded dirt, but they also work on sweat marks, can be used in place of a squeegee after a bath, and they can be used to clean the hoof wall (I haven’t tried this one yet). They’re made of a flexible spongy but rubbery substance that gets into the awkward spaces on legs and faces.
Wahl grooming brushes — They’re a little heavier and the bristles are a little stronger. The coolest brush is half stiff bristles and half soft bristles, so I can just turn the brush around when I’m doing touch up.
Ultrashield Green Fly Repellent and Gel — The difference between this and other fly sprays is that this is an eco-friendly formula, which is important since we are a national park. The repellent is non-aerosol spray and the gel is great for putting a dab on Charlie’s ears and face to keep the bugs from bothering his head. I’ve also been known to put a dollop on my baseball hat, and behind my ears to keep the bugs off me.
Noble Outfitters EquinEssential Tote — Totes are hard to get excited about but this one has a mesh bottom that keeps the hay and dirt that always find their way into your bag from staying there. With the wide mesh floor, most everything falls straight through, helping me stay clean. Always a plus!
Oster Juice Cordless Clippers and Amp Cordless Trimmer — I use these to keep Charlie’s fetlocks, coronet bands, goat beard, and bridle path trimmed. They are cordless and light; the Juice is rechargeable while the Amp requires one AA battery. I used to trim muzzle whiskers for shows but don’t any more due to the influence of my European friends, where that practice is not allowed in competition. No matter whether you do or don’t trim your horse’s muzzle whiskers, never, never, never, never, never trim the hairs around your horse’s eyes. I could tell you a horror story, but I won’t. Just take my word for it.