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Horse Grooming Basics

Horses groomed regularly have healthier and more attractive coats. Many horse management handbooks recommend grooming a horse daily, though for the average modern horse owner, this is not always possible. However, a horse should always be groomed before being ridden to avoid chafing and rubbing of dirt and other material, which can cause sores on the animal and also grind dirt into horse tack. Grooming also allows the horse handler to check for injuries and is a good way to gain the trust of the animal.

Proper basic grooming of a horse is a multi-step process involving several simple tools:

Curry, curry comb, or currycomb: Usually a round tool with short teeth made of plastic or stiff rubber, used to loosen dirt, hair, and other detritus, plus stimulate the skin to produce natural oils.
Dandy brush: A stiff-bristled, “dandy” brush is used to remove the dirt, hair and other material stirred up by the curry. The best quality dandy brushes are made of stiff natural bristles such as rice stems; plastic-bristled dandy brushes are more common.
Body brush: A soft-bristled “body” brush removes finer particles and dust. Some natural body brushes are made of boar bristles, like human hairbrushes, others are made of soft synthetic fibers.
Grooming rag or towel: A terrycloth towel or other type of cloth. Sometimes called a “stable rubber.”
Mane brush or comb: Horses with short, pulled manes have their manes combed with a wide-toothed plastic or metal comb. Horse tails and long manes many be finger-combed or are brushed with either a dandy brush, body brush, or a suitable human hairbrush.
Hoof pick: All four feet of the horse need to be cleaned out and inspected for signs of injury or infection. See “Hoof care and shoeing,” below.
In special weather conditions, a metal shedding blade with short, dull teeth is used to remove loose winter hair. Metal grooming tools used on sheep and show cattle may also be too harsh to use on a horse.
In the summer, fly spray is often applied to the horse after grooming.
Sweat or Water Scraper: A metal or plastic tool to remove excess liquid from a horse’s coat.
Sometimes, though not always, horses are clipped with scissors or, preferably, electric clippers. The most common areas are a short “bridle path” just behind the ears, where a few inches of mane is removed to help the bridle lay more neatly; and the fetlocks, where extra hair can collect undesired amounts of mud and dirt. For horse show and exhibition purposes, additional clipping may be done.
Beyond the basic equipment, there are thousands of other grooming tools on the market, from multiple designs on the basic brushes, available in many colors, to specialized tools for braiding manes, polishing hooves and clipping loose hair. There are also grooming products for horses ranging from moisturizing hair dressings to glitter gel and hoof polish.

Horses can be bathed by being wet down with a garden hose, but they do not require bathing and many horses live their entire lives without a bath. Either horse or human shampoo may be safely used on a horse, if thoroughly rinsed out, and cream rinses or hair conditioners, similar to those used by humans, are often used on show horses. Too-frequent shampooing can strip the hair coat of natural oils and cause it to dry out. A well-groomed, clean horse can be kept clean by wearing a horse blanket or horse sheet.

A horse show class that considers quality of grooming for as much as 40% of the total score is called showmanship.

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