If you're getting your first horse one of the first things, you'll want to put together is a grooming kit. Grooming time is usually a relaxing time for both horse and owner. I get a great deal of satisfaction from removing dust or mud, de-tangling manes and tails and making hooves look neat and tidy. My horse loves it too. She'll stand for hours to be brushed and combed. She's the only horse I've ever met that doesn't mind having her mane pulled for a short time. There're a few spots that she likes me to scratch and spend extra time working on. Her lips twitch, and her whole body relaxes.
There are few horses out there that hate being groomed. Usually, there is a reason for this, and sometimes the solution is as simple as using softer brushes and a lighter touch. The article My Horse Doesn't Like Being Groomed may help if your horse objects to grooming.
Here are some suggestions for brushes and tools that will help you put a gloss on your horse's coat while aiding good health from ears to tail to hooves.
One of the most important things you'll have in your grooming kit is a hoof pick. This item won't make your horse prettier, but it will help keep its hooves healthier. Daily cleaning with a hoof pick means you'll be keeping an eye on what's happening on the underside of the hoof. While you're clearing out the dirt and manure that may be packed into the hoof, you'll also be able to check for things like thrush, stone bruises, punctures, white line disease or other problems.
There are a variety of hoof picks available. I prefer a pick with a stiff bristle brush attached and a comfortable handle. The old-fashioned metal hoof picks are certainly utilitarian and get the job done, but there are some other options. I find a hoof pick with a wide handle most comfortable to work with. Recently, I reviewed a hoof pick that featured an LED light, a stiff bristle brush and sturdy hook. Despite the variety of picks I own, I find I use this one the most. The light lets you get a really good look at the bottom of the hoof, and the brush is useful for whisking away bits of dirt.
A hoof pick is important enough to carry with you when you're out trail riding too. There area variety of lightweight and foldable picks available. So you might want to pick out one to carry in a saddle pack and your grooming tool tote.
A stiff curry comb is made of rubber, metal or plastic. Despite it being called a curry comb it looks more like a brush and is used for removing that first layer of dirt, loose hair and grime when you begin to groom. Currying is the first step when you're grooming. A curry comb is round or oval with several rows of solid teeth to really grab at dirt. There's often a strap that goes over your hand allowing you to keep a secure hold on the brush as you vigorously stroke your horse in big circles to knock out dirt. I dislike the metal curry combs that have a handle for anything but pulling out a shedding coat. I feel it's too easy to scratch the skin with these tools. Some horses might find currying too vigorous in some areas of their bodies such as the stomach or flank. Use a light touch in these areas until you find out what your horse enjoys.
To clean dirt and hair tap that the curry comb picks up, tap it repeatedly, teeth downwards on a hard surface such as a stall wall or rail. All the hair and dirt will come out easily.
A body brush has a plastic or wooden back with sturdy plastic bristles about 2 1/2 inches long. This brush is used to help finish removing dirt from your horse's coat. I use it in a vigorous whisking motion after I've finished currying. The body brush can be used all over your horse's coat, and I even use it to smooth out the mane and tail when I'm in a hurry. Use your curry comb or mane comb to pull dirt and hair from the bristles of your body brush.
Mane and tail combs come in several varieties. There are long and short ones, plastic and metal ones. I prefer plastic as I feel the metal variety breaks the hair more easily. To use the mane and tail comb, start combing the mane and tail from the bottom of the strands and work your way up. Be gentle removing any tangles. A grooming spray helps comb through the strands without breaking too many. Some mane and tail hairs will come out, and this isn't necessarily because you're breaking or pulling them out. Some hair loss is normal, just as it is when you comb your own hair. To clean out the comb, you can pull out any hair caught in the teeth with your fingers.
Some people forgo using a mane and tail comb altogether and substitute a cheap hair brush. I usually comb first and then brush to get the tail and mane really shiny and full looking.
A finishing brush has a wooden or plastic back with short soft bristles. Used after the curry comb and body brush, the finishing brush whisks away any remaining dust and helps bring out the shine on your horse's coat. I find a finishing brush with natural bristles the best for putting on the highest polish. Again, use a comb to pull out any hair that gets caught in the bristles.
A grooming sponge or cloth can be used to put the final touches on your horse. I prefer a cloth as I can toss it in the washing machine when it's dirty. Use these grooming tools to wipe around your horse's eyes, nostrils and under the tail areas. Sponges are great for splashing water on your horse if it is sweaty after a ride. Clothes or sponges can also be used to wipe on grooming sprays and fly sprays. Just be sure to use a separate one for each job and be careful with fly sprays around the eyes. This may also be called a stable rubber.
A shedding blade is the best tool to pull out winter coat as if falls out in the spring. If you try to use your curry comb for this job, it will get clogged very quickly. A shedding blade is usually a single serrated band of metal or plastic with a handle at each end, or a semi circle with a handle in the middle. Quite often there is a band of plastic on the opposite side of the teeth and this is used to pull water from the horse's coat—either sweat or water from a bath. Whether shedding or removing water from the coat, pull the blade across the horse' s coat. Be careful over sensitive or boney areas. Your shedding blade won't need cleaning out as the single row of teeth will pull the hair out but it won't hold the hair.
Scissors or clippers are handy to have for trimming bridle paths and clipping stray hairs. They're a necessity when trimming your horse for a show. To go through the mane when you're trimming a bridle path, they need to be sharp. I don't know how many cheap scissors I've gone through before I wised up and got a decent pair that could be re-sharpened and didn't break when I was half way through the job. Head to a sewing store for these.
A small pair of clippers is a real treat, especially if you are showing. The can be expensive but if you're doing a lot of trimming are worth it. Keeping blades sharp and oiled really helps you do a good job, while keeping your horse comfortable. Not all horses like the sound of clippers, so you may have to work slowly to introduce your horse to the idea.
Some horses will not tolerate being groomed vigorously with a regular curry comb. If your horse is very thin skinned you might want to try a soft brush made of rubber or gel like material. These are much easier on a sensitive horse's skin, while still getting the job done. They come in many textures and colors and are comfortable to hold too. Tap these out and clean them as you would a regular curry comb.
Cleaning Your Brushes
As I've mentioned above there are quick ways of clearing out dirt and hair and this can be done after each session. You'll also want to wash your brushes every so often. Use warm soapy water and rinse them thoroughly. Allow them to air dry. Be careful not to soak wooden backed or natural bristle brushes too long as it may loosen the glue holding the bristles. Ideally, each horse should have its own brushes, to prevent spreading skin problems should they crop up.