Proper grooming practices may come as second nature to you, and it’s something that should be an integral part of your routine. Grooming your horse does not just consist of a quick swipe with a hard brush before you tack up, nor does it involve simply hosing him off in the wash rack and sticking him back in his stall right away. Taking the extra time to give your horse a good once over and grooming is not only an important part of horse management, it’s also beneficial for the relationship you need to have with him.

Pre-Ride

Before your ride, take the time to take a good look at your horse. Check his legs, head and body with your eyes and hands, looking for any new cuts, skin issues, heat, or other issues.

Be sure to rid the coat of any clumps of dirt, hay, or shavings before putting any tack on. Think of how it feels to have a tag itching your neck when you put a shirt on – that’s similar to how a stray shaving under a saddle pad would feel.

Always use clean saddle pads, boots or wraps, and tack. It’s hard to keep up with things at a barn where literally everything is in or covered in dirt, but it’s important to keep your horse clean right before he goes and works up a sweat. We won’t tell anyone if you wear the same shirt two days in a row at the gym, but your horse’s skin will thank you if you don’t make them do the same!

Use the right equipment. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how expensive your saddle is or if everything is color-coordinated if the equipment does not fit the horse. Of course, you still want to look clean and tidy in the saddle, but don’t add or change tack or equipment without thinking about how it would benefit or hurt your horse to do so.

Post-Ride

Nothing feels better after a workout than a shower, right? Your horse probably feels the same way. Rinsing the sweat off after a work is important to preventing skin problems and, in warm weather, an essential part of the cool-out process. Of course, you may live in an area with cold winters, in which case you’ll want to be sure to spot clean with a warm towel or sponge in lieu of a full bath.

Even if you’re spot cleaning, though, be thorough. Pay attention to where you’re cleaning. Did you clean the sweat from behind your horse’s ears? What about under his tail and between his hind legs? Even with a hose, it’s possible to miss spots. I can’t tell you how many riders I’ve seen leaving a wash rack with a horse that still has dirt and sweat on his belly!

One of the most often overlooked body part when it comes to grooming is the head. Fungus and other skin problems can still occur on the face. Add in sweat left on after the bridle is taken off and only a quick brush here and there and you are making for quite an uncomfortable, itchy situation. To combat this, be sure to at least sponge your horse’s face. Even if he’s naughty in the wash rack, you should still be able to at least get a quick wipe in with warm water. Taking the finer side of a jelly curry comb and doing a thorough curry will also do wonders for the head and face, especially during shedding season!

If you’re lucky enough to have a warm, sunny day and some space, let your horse hang out in the cross-ties while he dries. The sun will help kill off residual bacteria and discourage fungus growth. Not to mention, your horse will stay a bit cleaner since he won’t go in his stall or pasture and immediately roll while still wet!