Horse grooming: A guide to keeping your horse in top condition

A Guide to Horse Grooming

While feeding and watering your horse may seem like the most important part of looking after them, grooming is equally so. Knowing how to groom your horses properly is key to keeping them happy, healthy, and looking their best. Read our guide to learn everything you need to know.

The saying ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ is true when it comes to showing and competing your horse. Turning out your horse to its full potential is fundimental to how others perceive your horse. However, even out of the show ring, grooming is an essential activity that should be enjoyed by both yourself and your horse. Not only will it have plenty of health benefits for your steed, but it should also strengthen the bond between you both. Grooming should be a daily activity, but it's especially important before riding because, if there is a build-up of dirt on their skin, this could be aggravated, and might even create sores. Read our horse grooming guide to learn everything you need to know.

How should you brush your horse?

To ensure you brush the entirety of your horse without missing any patches, it's advised to start on either its right- or left-hand side, starting at the head and working your way along their body. You should always brush their coat in the same direction as it grows, or it's likely they'll find the process quite uncomfortable. You should be most mindful of this when you're brushing over a horse's flank, because the hair here will usually grow up towards their back, which you will need to adjust for.

The pressure used when brushing the horse should be firm but not too vigorous. If the horse swishes its tail, puts its ears back, or moves away from the brush, this could be because it is uncomfortable, and you might even be hurting them. So, make sure you pay careful attention to how they're reacting.

What should be in your horse grooming kit?

In order to keep your horse in tip-top condition, you need to have the right tools. Here, we're going to talk you through what you should keep in your kit, so you can ensure they always look and feel their best.

Curry Comb

Curry Comb

In our selection of horse grooming equipment, you'll find a range of curry combs. When used in a circular motion, these will do a fantastic job of loosening any mud that might be in your horse's coat. You can then remove this with a brush that's slightly more heavy-duty.

Using a curry comb to groom your horse can also help to encourage the skin to produce natural oils, which will help to keep the hair and skin moisturised.

Dandy Brush

Dandy Brush

Once you've loosened the dirt in your horse's coat with the curry comb, you can use a dandy brush to remove it.

A dandy brush is also great for grooming a horse's legs, because they tend to be far less sensitive than the rest of their bodies.

Mane and Tail Comb

Most mane and tail combs resemble a human hair brush, and they're used in a very similar way. As the name might suggest, you can use one to remove any shavings or straw that might have gotten trapped in the longer hair of your horse's mane or tail, as well as to get rid of any tangles.

It's likely you'll find that it helps to brush your horse's mane on the correct side, which is the right-hand side.

Body Brush

Body Brush

Body brushes are used in a similar way to dandy brushes, and they look alike, too. However, one of these will remove any finer particles of dirt that a dandy brush might have missed.

Body brushes are very soft, which means they can be soothing to your horse and should add a shine to their coat. Using a body brush should be the last step in your grooming routine.

Hoof Pick

Hoof Pick

You should use a hoof pick every day, whether you're riding your horse or not. This is because, if stones or hard clumps of mud are left in their hooves, they could bruise your horse's frogs.

Mud that is left in their hooves for too long can also start to smell, and may cause gravel, which is an infection within the hoof that can lead to lameness.

The general rule of picking out a horse's hoof is to follow the outline of the triangular soft part (also knows as the frog) and pick downwards from there. The frog itself must not be picked, as this will be very sensitive and could cause lameness if it's damaged.

Grooming Kit Box

Grooming Kit Box

A grooming box will make a great addition to your grooming kit. It can be used to keep all of your brushes together and should also prevent them from collecting dust like they would if they were left on the floor.

When you're grooming your horse, be sure to keep the grooming box out of their reach. Otherwise, they could get injured if they stand on it.

If you're looking to update your horse grooming kit, make sure you check out our ranges of horse grooming tools, horse hoof care, and horse shampoo and coat care. We'll have everything you could possibly need.

How to stay safe when grooming your horse

Horses are incredibly powerful and, if they aren't dealt with properly, they could cause you a lot of harm. So, it's important that you take steps to stay safe while you're grooming them. Here is some advice you should keep in mind, as it should help you to avoid any accidents:

  • Never stand behind or in front of your horse. They can strike out and kick very quickly, which can cause excess damage.
  • Tie your horse up before grooming, so it is unable to walk around. This will ensure you know exactly where it is when you are bending down to choose your next brush.
  • Never sit on the floor when brushing the horse’s legs or tummy. Sitting down means you are unable to move quickly if the horse jumps or strikes out.
  • Don’t be tempted to crawl under the horse's tummy to get to the other side, as this is likely to surprise and scare them, which could lead to it kicking out.

How to take care of your horse's hooves

Most horses will develop cracks in their hooves at some point in their lives, and these will usually repair themselves without any real harm. However, if the cracking sticks around for a while, they may need some extra help. Dry, cracking hooves can be caused by a number of things. For example, their diet mightn't be as nutritious as it needs to be, they mightn't have had enough appointments with a farrier, or they may have been exposed to conditions that are too wet or dry. All of these things can weaken their hooves.

There are many horse hoof supplements, as well as hoof care products you can used to support the healing process. We're particularly big fans of NAF Pro Feet, which you can mix in with their usual feed. Silverfeet Hoof Balm is also great, as it was designed by a farrier who wanted to offer "show ring shine" and protection in one. It's made using natural ingredients, which help to protect horse hooves from a bacteria and fungus, as well as encourage hoof growth. The magic ingredient is silver, which is known for its bacteria-deterring properties.

How to take care of your horse's coat

Whether you're preparing your horse for the show ring, or you just want to give them a brilliant shine, it's a good idea to have a high-quality horse shampoo on hand. WAHL Showman is one of our favourite brands, as they offer such a wide selection of shampoos that are specially formulated to work with the colour of your horse's coat. They do a fantastic job of removing dirt and grease, as well as maximising the tones in your horse's hair, which will help them to shine like a star.
If you're looking to give your horse a particularly deep cleanse, Dermoline Tea Tree Shampoo is the perfect choice. It's antibacterial and contains natural extracts of tea tree, which is known to give the coats of horses a fantastic clean. It also has many other benefits, which means it can be used frequently.

Horse skin care supplements are also great for improving the quality of your steed's coat. Dodson & Horrell Glow & Show is the perfect example of this. It's high in oils, minerals, and proteins. Plus, it contains a combination of herbs that have skin healing and coat conditioning properties. These include red clover, nettle, whole fenugreek, marigold, golden rod, seaweed, and mint.

Types of Horse Clip

How to clip your horse

As the weather gets colder, your horse's coat will get thicker! If you horse lives outdoors, you should definitely consider keeping the thicker coat, as it will act as a barrier against the cold and wet during the winter months.

On the other hand, if you regularly exercise your horse, a thick coat can get in the way — especially if they sweat quite heavily. They could end up catching a chill once they've cooled down, and this could even lead to them contracting pneumonia. If you're particularly worried that this could happen, clipping them could help to combat it.

The best time to clip your horse will typically be in September or October, although it can also depend on how fast your horse's coat grows, and the intensity of their exercise regime. You will usually be advised to clip them two or three times over the colder months, and stop in February to allow their summer coat to grow in.

There are a variety of different clips that you can choose from, depending on how much your horse tends to sweat:

  1. Full clip: the entire coat is removed (legs can be kept). Designed for horses in intense work with little to no outdoor turnout.

  2. Hunter clip: coat is removed except a saddle patch and legs. Leaving the legs helps protect from thorns and scrapes often found when hunting. The saddle patch is extra padding for the horse when it is been ridden for long periods of time.

  3. Blanket clip: leaves a blanket of coat from the withers to the point of the tail, half the head is removed, and legs are left on.

  4. Bib clip: the coat is removed from the front of the neck and chest and can be continued under the belly. Designed for those in light work.

It is really important to make sure your horse is properly rugged up post-clip to ensure they do not catch a cold. If you have never clipped a horse before, it is advisable to allow someone more qualified to do it, so you can watch how it is done, and how the horse is treated during the process. If you are feeling confident enough to do it yourself, there are many clippers on the market.

We stock a wide range of horse clippers here at Millbry Hill. If you're looking to investing in your grooming kit, make sure you check them out.

How to care for your horse's mane and tail

Looking after your horse's mane and tail should be relatively easy. The general rule is to brush them out with a mane and tail brush every day. This will help to keep your horse's hair silky, as well as encourage the mane to stay on the correct side (the right-hand side). Additional products, such as a mane and tail spray, can also be used for extra silkiness, and should even help to fight tangles.

We recommend Lincoln Classic Mane & Tail Conditioner Spray, which enhances the condition of a horse's hair, and repels dirty by creating a glossy finish that will cause it to slip right off. However, we do stock a whole host of horse health and grooming products, so check them out to assess all of your options.

Take all of the tips we've offered here on board, and you should find it much easier to groom your horse properly. They'll be looking and feeling their best in no time.