The Well-Groomed Horse

Originally posted on Academie Duello’s blog in April 2012

Grooming the horse is one of the most important skill sets a rider needs to have.  It allows you to check your horse for injuries, helps increase the circulation to his skin and muscles, prevents chafing from dirt under the tack, improves his appearance, and provides valuable bonding time. As you progress through your Horsemanship levels you will be expected to know how to perform a complete grooming, which can take up to an hour.  The requirements for level one are simpler:

5. Groom horse using basic grooming tools (dandy brush, curry comb, hoof pick) 

Using these few tools you can ready your horse for riding and ‘set him fair’ afterwards.


1. Begin with the hoof pick, starting at the horse’s near (left) fore, facing the rear.  Slide your hand down the back of her leg, squeezing the fetlock joint or tugging on the fetlock if she doesn’t pick up her foot immediately.  Hold the hoof by the toe, and keep your own feet parallel and away from her body.  Gently remove packed mud and debris from the hoof, making sure to thoroughly clear out the deep hollows on either side of the frog.  Take care not to damage the soft frog, or scrape too much on the sole of the foot.  Repeat, working your way around the horse counterclockwise.

2. Use the rubber curry comb in firm circular motions, starting near the top left of the horse’s neck, and working back towards the tail.  Only use the curry comb on large muscles, avoiding bony or sensitive areas such as the spine, face, lower legs and belly.

3. Again starting near the head, sweep the dandy brush in the direction of hair growth, flicking at the end of each stroke to lift off dirt, hair and dander.  Only use a soft-bristled dandy brush on the lower legs — if you have a stiff-bristled brush use your hand or a body brush instead to clean legs, face and belly.  The curry comb and dandy brush can be used at the same time, one in each hand.

Our horses spend much of their time outside, so we do not use the body brush on the coat with every grooming, as it removes oils that protect the coat and skin.

This video provides an overview of a full grooming, and good tips for any type of grooming.

Some notes:

  • This video shows using the dandy brush first to remove already loose hair and dust.  I would consider this a waste of time, since you’ll need to brush off hair stirred up by the curry comb anyway.  However, a shedding blade is a good first tool at this time of year!
  • Many types of conditioners plug horses’ pores, so they should be used sparingly, not at every grooming.  Vegetable oil makes a good tail detangler and is better for the skin in non-show situations.
  • Strapping (hitting the muscles to promote tone) is controversial, should only be done by an experienced groom, and only AFTER exercise.
  • It is best not to overuse hoof oil.  Although it makes the foot look nice, it actually interferes with the moisture balance of the hoof, which is meant to be dry on the outside and moist inside.

Question of the Week:  What is quartering and when is it done?

Next week: Parts of the saddle and bridle.

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