10 Horse-Grooming Tips

Your horse will be looking better than ever, thanks to these horse-grooming secrets.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Groom for success. Journal photo.

While parts of the country are still locked in winter’s wicked embrace, horsemen in other, much kinder, climates are already seeing the hair fly. So, as your horse makes the transition from looking like something out of “Ice Age” to his much more sleek-and-shiny self, you need some tricks of the trade to fight this grooming battle.

Fear not, friend. Help is on the way in the form of 10 horse-grooming tips for horse-show competitors to keep in mind all show season long.

  1. Currying is the most important grooming process. It removes dead hair and dirt, massages the skin and stimulates the release of natural oils that make the coat shine. For a healthy hair coat, follow up currying with brushing and toweling. 
  2. Dirty manes = itchy horses. Horses are less likely to rub their manes and tails out if they are kept clean. Fungus and insects are the main reason horses rub their manes, so keeping them free of these bugs will make them less likely to rub and tear out the hair.
  3. Never clip a dirty horse. Nothing wears down clipper blades faster than dirt and grunge. This doesn’t mean your horse needs a full-blown bath; just wash whatever you plan to clip.
  4. Avoid bathing the day before the show. If you bathe your horse a few days before the event, doing so will allow natural oils enough time to regenerate a glossy sheen on the coat. Any stains or spots can be touched up on the day of the show.
  5. Excessive shampoo is a major taboo. Too much shampoo is difficult to rinse out and can leave skin itchy, so go easy on the soap. Use only about half the amount you think you need.
  6. Set down your scissors and step away from the mane. If you need to shorten your horse’s mane, scissors are not the way to go. The proper way to shorten is by pulling and thinning the mane by hand. But make sure you pull the hairs out completely rather than just breaking them off. Broken hairs make manes thick and bushy with frizzy split ends.
  7. Trim tails with pliers. Take a few hairs at a time, then snap them off with pliers. This will keep the tail thick, while maintaining a natural look.
  8. Beware of evil ingredients. Plenty of ingredients impede the shine of your horse’s coat, and these generally appear in grooming aids such as detanglers, stain removers, coat polishes, highlighters and fly repellants. You should steer clear of alcohol, certain insecticide ingredients, silicone, petroleum, wax and powder. 
  9. Wash your tail extension after every show day. If your horse rocks a tail extension, hang the just-been-washed extension to dry overnight, then use detangler in the morning before you braid it back in. You can always tell when an extension hasn’t been washed – it does not blend well with the horse’s natural tail.
  10. Scour your brushes once a month. First vacuum brush bristles down to the roots. Then soak them for 10 minutes in two gallons of water containing a quarter cup of bleach. Rinse, then put them in the sun to dry.