Every equestrian needs to know how to groom a horse.
You’ve come to the right place to learn this essential skill!
It is one of the first things you are introduced to when you start riding lessons.
Here will give you everything you need to know about horse care and grooming. Read on to find out!
What You Need To Groom A Horse
To groom a horse, you will need your own or access to a selection of specific tools. This includes brushes and other items that help you keep your horse’s coat in tip-top shape.
You will also need somewhere to store these items. This is either a grooming box or a grooming bag.
Items You Need In Your Grooming Kit
- Hoof pick
- Curry comb
- Dandy brush (hard brush)
- Body brush
- Soft brush
- Mane and tail spray
- Mane and tail brush
- Metal mane comb
- Fly spray
- Clean towel
- Hoof oil or cream
Benefits Of Horse Grooming
Grooming a horse serves several purposes. Many horses enjoy the process, and it creates a bonding time for you and your horse.
It is rare to find a horse that doesn’t particularly love a good curry with a curry comb.
This is like a massage for the horse. While grooming your horse, it gives you a chance to take a close look at him. You can spot any small or major injuries or abnormalities.
When you groom your horse, you are replicating something they do naturally when he is with other horses. If you spend time with equines, you will notice that when horses are friends they spend time grooming each other.
Grooming helps keep the coat in excellent condition. It lifts dirt and loose hair and releases oils from the skin. This helps bring out the beautiful shine you see.
By keeping the coat clean, you reduce the risk of the horse developing skin conditions, such as scratches.
The massaging action of grooming will help the horse’s muscles relax and improve its mood.
Related: How Much Does it Cost to Own a Horse?
8 Grooming Steps
You should always groom your horse before you ride to make sure there is no dirt that can cause irritation under the tack. After you ride, make sure to at least brush off the sweety areas, as not doing this can cause skin irritation.
Next, we will go through a full grooming session step by step.
1. Secure Your Horse
The first step is to secure your horse. Do this by either tying him or putting him on the cross ties.
This will depend on your facilities and what the horse is comfortable with.
2. Curry Comb
The first brush you use is the curry comb. You use this brush in a circular motion all over the horse’s body.
Many say to avoid using a curry comb on the legs and face.
You should definitely avoid the face, but a more gentle pressure with a soft rubber curry comb on the legs can release and a lot of gunk that builds up there.
Just take care when using the curry there.
The curry comb brings up any dirt and helps release loose hairs. Don’t worry about applying strong pressure on heavily muscled areas, such as the neck, shoulder, and haunches.
Most horses love this, and if you press too hard, it will most likely let you know.
3. Dandy Brush
A dandy brush has the stiffest bristles of all the grooming tools. After your curry your horse, you use a dandy brush.
This is the best brush to pull off the main dirt on the horse, especially dried mud.
Start on the neck and work your way along the horse to its hindquarters, switch sides, and do the same. Use this brush with strokes moving in the direction of the hair, you don’t move it in circles.
It is best to avoid using this brush on the face as it is too harsh. It is a bit harsh for the legs and does not work as well as a slightly softer brush here.
4. Body Brush
A body brush is a medium brush. By that, we mean a brush that is slightly stiff, but not as hard as a dandy brush.
The bristles on this type of brush are set more densely than a dandy brush.
This is the next brush you use in a full grooming process. Again start at the neck and use a long sweeping motion, following the direction of the hair.
A body brush tackles the next layers of dirt and catches finer particles. It also helps remove grease.
The body brush is a good brush to use on the legs. The legs, in particular, can get a build of greasy hair, which this brush does a good job of removing.
Remember to stroke down in the direction of the hair.
5. Soft Brush
The soft brush will have very densely packed soft bristles. This is a finishing brush.
It removes the smallest dirt particles and helps put a polish on the coat.
You use it in the same way as the other brushes, all over the body, including the face. This brush will also help smooth down the coat, and in no time, it will have a gleaming sheen.
6. Mane and Tail
The mane and tail require some regular grooming and tasks that are only done every few weeks.
Regular care involves using a tail brush.
This is a large brush with long plastic tips that are widely spaced. Much like a hairbrush for people, it has a long handle.
First, start with the mane. All you have to do is move it in downward strokes like you are brushing your own hair. It will remove tangles and any debris, such as shaving that are stuck in it.
The tail is a little trickier. It is best to start with a freshly washed tail, and then continue on a regular maintenance routine.
After you wash the tail, apply a mane and tail spray. This will condition and also help detangle the tail.
When you brush the tail, start at the bottom. Hold the tail slightly above the section you are working on. As the tail softens and all tangles are gone, move up the tail until you reach the top.
A good way to understand the tail brushing process is to compare it to long human hair. People with long hair will know how to start at the bottom and hold sections.
They will also know that this minimizes pain. The same goes for a horse.
Using a mane and tail spray will help prevent knots for a few days for easy brushing. For maintenance, reapply this spray to the tail every couple of days.
Also, make sure not to overbrush the tail, as it can pull out hair and become thinner. A good routine is to only use the tail brush every few days and the rest of the time to use your hands to remove shavings or hay.
You can also stroke the tail with a body brush, as it is less harsh on the hair.
7. Clean The Feet
To clean a horse’s feet, use a hoof pick. The best kind of hoof pick is the type with a small, stiff brush attached.
Use the brush to clean the outside of the hoof.
You can also use the brush to clean the underside of the hoof after you’ve picked it.
To clean the feet, run your hand down the leg and squeeze at the top of the fetlock and pull up. Most trained horses do this very easily, and will even lift the next foot for you when they know what you’re doing.
If your horse is not trained to lift its feet, enlist some help to teach him. Do this especially for the back feet as you risk getting kicked, and there is a method to teach this that keeps everyone safe.
Once you have the foot lifted, use the pick end of the hoof pick to remove any dirt or stones from the sole of the hoof. Move the pick along the grooves that sit next to the frog.
Start at the heel end and move the pick toward the toe.
Finish off the feet by applying a hoof cream or oil. You don’t have to do this every day as it will depend on your local weather and the condition of the hooves.
To know which product is best for your horse, ask your farrier.
8. Final Polish
The final task in a full groom is the final polish. For this, you use a clean towel.
You can also use a fluffy grooming mitt. This will really bring out the shine and remove any dust from the coat.
A tip here is to lightly spray the towel or mitt with the mane and tail spray. Don’t get it too wet. Then wipe over the horse, take care around the eyes.
Also, don’t use too much or any in the saddle area as it sometimes makes the coat slippery.
Washing Your Horse
When the weather is warmer, you might want to give your horse a bath, especially if you plan on going to a show. Don’t do this in cold weather, as the horse will get too chilly.
To wash your horse fill a bucket, with preferably warm water, and add your shampoo. Wet the horse thoroughly, again with preferably warm water.
Avoid spraying the horse in the face, as the majority don’t like this. Use your bath sponge to apply the soapy water to the horse and use circular motions.
You can use a short bristle, stiff brush to do some extra scrubbing. Wash the horse’s whole body, including giving the tail a good scrub.
Rinse the body and tail, making sure all the soap is gone. Clean most of the soap from your sponge, squeeze it, and then gently clean the horse’s face.
Use a sweat scraper to remove excess water from the body. Finally, run your hand down the leg, squeezing as you go. This will help remove some of the water.
To prevent scratches from developing on the legs, use a towel to partially dry the legs.
Check this video for demonstration:
Now you are all set! You can dive in a groom a horse with the best of them. Just follow the steps. It is not necessary to do a full groom every day if you don’t have time.
But do groom your horse every day, even if it is a quick brush with a body brush. Always pick your horse’s feet out every day.
- “6 Easy Steps for Proper Horse Grooming.” The Spruce Pets, www.thesprucepets.com/how-to-groom-your-horse-1886027. Accessed 2 July 2021.
- “Horse Grooming 101: A Guide for Beginners.” Horse & Country TV, 8 Sept. 2020, horseandcountry.tv/horse-grooming-101-a-guide-for-beginners/.
Do you have other tips on how to groom a horse? We’d like to hear that in the comments below!
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
Find her on FACEBOOK
Read her latest ARTICLES.
Learn more about HER