Let’s face it. We need to make the most of our barn time. Whether we are tacking up to ride with friends, squeezing a ride into our busy day, or simply getting ourselves up on a horse once in awhile – the whole process of grooming and tacking up takes time. In order to have more time riding we need to streamline our grooming routine.
Grooming our horse before every ride is a must for a lot of reasons. It’s the bonding experience between horse and rider prior to a ride, and it’s also the process that helps us pay the closest attention to possible health and soundness issues. Being observant and efficient in our grooming routine benefits both horse and rider…but it does take time.
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So, let’s take a look at how you can streamline your grooming routine…
Basic Horse Grooming Activities
Step One: Get Your Horse
Tip 1: Carry your halter so that it is ready to use when you get to your horse.
Take the halter in your left hand with the buckle or tie facing towards you. This allows you to easily set the halter up to quickly slip it on the horse.
Standing on the horse’s left side, slip the crown strap around the right side of the neck near the throatlatch and bring the buckle or tie up with your left hand. Now scoop the noseband over the muzzle while bringing the crown strap over the poll of the horse. Secure halter on the left side of the horse’s face.
Next, tie your horse up in grooming area. Use a quick release knot and be sure there are no buckets, rakes, tack, grooming tools or manure piles in your work area, or within reach of the horse. Consider his entire movement area as your work area.
Step Two: Have a Specific Routine to Groom Your Horse
Tip #2: Dig for grooming tools once.
Gather the three essential grooming tools needed: a curry comb, a dandy or body brush and a hoof pick. You can also grab the mane/tail brush if you need to get shavings out or plan to take a few minutes to fully brush the mane and tail.
Tip #3: Have grooming tools handy.
Place your grooming tools in an easy to reach area, but not under your horse’s feet. This is where a bucket, grooming caddy or grooming bag comes in handy – you can keep all the essentials in one place, use them and return them with ease.
Tip #4: Have two grooming tools in hand at once.
Take your curry comb in one hand and dandy brush, or body brush, in the other. Starting on the left side at the top of the neck behind the horse’s face, begin to curry using circular motions and leaning into the horse. Move all the way down the neck to the left shoulder across the back and over the left side of the horse’s rear. Curry the inside and outsides of the upper legs (left fore and hind), but not the lower legs as that is just bone and tendon.
Tip #5: Make the most of your steps.
Now switch tools as you walk towards the starting place again.
Brush hair going with the growth direction and use a flicking motion at the bottom of each stroke. This flick gets rid of the dislodged hair and dirt from currying. Go from front to back over the whole left side of the horse.
Switch to the horse’s right side and repeat routine.
Clean up right away. Return curry comb and brush to the grooming tool bucket or area where the hoof pick was set aside.
Step Three: Have a Specific Routine to Pick Your Horse’s Feet
Don’t skip this step! Numerous times I have dislodged a stone or a stick from the clefts on each side of the frog. I even removed a thumbtack that had pierced my horse’s hoof at one point – this is one step that can actually really make a difference.
Tip #6: Have a hoof picking routine and use it every time.
Your horse will anticipate each leg lift. I start with the left fore and go around the horse counter-clockwise.
How to pick your horse’s hooves
- Grab the hoof pick holding it with the pick end down.
- Start on the left side of the horse at the front leg.
- Stand facing the horse’s rear with your hip against the horse.
- Run your left hand down the back side of the lower left leg then squeeze slightly at the top of the fetlock (the joint above the pastern before the hoof).
- Lean into the horse, bend over and grab his hoof in your left hand as he lifts it. Hold leg steady with bottom of hoof facing up.
- Using a down motion only (otherwise you could slip and pick your face) remove the packed in dirt from the underside of the horse’s hoof.
- Be sure to clear the crevices on each side of the frog (v shaped area). Don’t poke the horse’s frog with the hoof pick. This could result in the horse squirming away and you then have to pick the foot up again to continue.
- Once hoof is cleaned, gently release hoof and let your horse stand on all four feet again. Watch your own toes here!
- Move to the left hind foot and position yourself in the same way. This time when the horse lifts his foot you can put in inside of your left knee/thigh under the horse’s leg (at the cannon bone) for more support, while continuing to hold the hoof in your left hand. Pick hoof as described above. Once finished gently release leg.
- Take a step to the left so the horse is now on your right side. Pick the right hind hoof then move to the right front hoof. Return the all tools to the grooming bucket.
Extra Horse Grooming Activities
There, now the essentials are done! If you are grooming a grey horse with a manure stain, take a damp sponge and scrub the stain away. A damp sponge will also remove the dusty look from a dark colored horse. If your horse has shavings in his tail take the mane and tail comb and pick out the shavings. If you have time you can brush out the mane and the tail. Start at the bottom if there are tangles.
If you find any issues while grooming, like lacerations, fly bites, ticks, horse bites or saddle rubs, evaluate them before you ride. Some issues can be treated after you ride and some are best taken care of before, or perhaps may require you to skip riding to care for the issue.
Streamline Your Grooming Routine
The number one thing to keep in mind is to develop a routine – everything you do must have purpose. Watch for times when you double track or go back to the grooming bucket or tack room to get a tool. These are time wasting activities. Work on streamlining those activities into one movement.
Now tack up and enjoy your ride and the extra time you have with your horse.
Photos: Leah Jantzen
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