It takes more than an old brush to adequately groom your horse. You need a hoof pick, a curry comb or shedding blade, a medium or stiff-bristled brush, a finishing or soft-bristled brush, a mane and tail brush, and mane and tail detangler. These items can be purchased at almost any farm or ranch supply store or online from a number of suppliers.
I prefer to begin with the hooves; I work on one side at a time, moving from the front hoof to the back. Because I pick each hoof in the same turn each time, my horse has learned to predict my movement and lifts his foot as I approach each leg. I begin by getting my horse to stand squarely on all 4 feet for optimum balance. It is difficult to maintain your own balance, not to mention very tiring, if your 1100 lb. horse is leaning into you. Beginning with the left front hoof, I use the pick to clean out any packed dirt, manure, or small stones from around the frog and the “cup” of the hoof. I hold the hoof in my left palm and clean the hoof in a downward motion, toward the ground. This is the time to also examine the hoof and note any cracks, chips, uneven wear (if your horse is barefoot), or missing nails or movement in the shoe (if your horse is shod).
Next I use the curry comb or shedding blade to loosen any dirt or dried mud and remove loose hair. Your horse will greatly appreciate this tool in the Spring when his shedding begins. You will greatly appreciate this tool in the Spring too, when your horse begins shedding and rolls in the dirt and mud to remove his unwanted winter coat. I generally start at the neck and move across the body toward the rump. Because these tools have sharp teeth, be careful not to press too hard or use them on the bony or less fleshy areas of your horse, such as the legs or face.
After I’ve loosened any dirt, I use a medium or stiff-bristled brush to remove the loose dirt and any other debris that might’ve collected on my horse’s coat. This brush also gives my horse a nice massage when used on his neck, shoulders, back, and rump. This brush can also be used on your horse’s legs, stomach, and hooves.
The finishing brush is very soft and used for a good head-to-tail brush down. This brush will bring out the natural shine of your horse’s coat and is particularly designed for use around the face, head, and legs.
I prefer to address my horse’s mane and tail last. If either is tangled, contains debris or burrs, or has static electricity, I first apply a liquid or gel detangler to the problem area. I use my fingers to pull or pick out any debris or burrs, which are much easier to remove when a detangler is applied first. The detangler also lessens hair breakage or excessive pulling on the mane or tail when you brush or comb through it. There are several mane and tail brushes on the market, but I prefer an inexpensive human hair brush with round-tipped plastic pins.
The more time you can spend grooming your horse from top to bottom, whether or not you have the time to ride, the better both you and your horse will feel. Your horse gets wanted attention and a nice massage, and you spend time with your equine friend in a relaxing, stress-reducing manner. A grooming session also sends the message to your horse that he is not necessarily going to be required work each time you arrive on the scene.