Grooming for Health and Wellness

Courtesy of America’s Horse Daily

Grooming is about much more than getting your horse clean. Learn why it’s an overall horse-health benefit.

Riders know that for all of the time one spends in the saddle, there are hours spent with both boots on the ground grooming and caring for your horse. While grooming and grooming products are an important part of preparing your horse to ride and turning them out for competition, daily grooming is also an integral part of maintaining your horse’s health and wellness.

Daily grooming has both physical and psychological benefits for you and your horse. Taking the time to groom your horse daily offers an opportunity to build a relationship with your horse outside of the saddle. This bonding time, which is enjoyable for your horse (and beneficial to their health) and a stress reliever for you, will not benefit your relationship with your horse on the ground, but in the saddle as well. Connections built in this low-pressure environment will carry over to a positive working relationship on the horse, be it on a relaxing trail ride, or entering the ring to compete at the National Reining Championship.

Grooming also offers a time every day for you to “get your hands on your horse.” It’s a time to assess your horse’s muscling and weight and determine how your conditioning and training program is progressing. It’s also a time to see whether your horse had too much fun playing in the pasture with his or her friends and has sustained an injury. Removing mud and dirt, especially from lower legs, is important as it can reveal any cuts or abrasions, as well as prevent fungal or bacterial infections such as scratches and rain rot. Clipping your horse’s legs can also help as a preventative, as it keeps legs drier and makes them easier to clean. Applying a hair polish over the coat before clipping helps to reduce friction, which keeps the clippers cooler. This means clipping is more comfortable for your horse and that the life of your clippers will be extended.

It is also a time to be on the lookout for external parasites, such as ticks and bot eggs, that can carry diseases. Look for these under your horse’s jowl, as well as on their neck, chest, and legs. Additionally, grooming can be a way for you to notice indications of internal parasites that would otherwise be difficult to diagnose without a laboratory test. Is your horse itching all of the hair out of the top of its tail? Maybe he or she has a case of pin worms. Is your horse’s coat looking scruffy and lackluster? Perhaps you should ask your vet to test a manure sample to check for a possible parasite infection.

Before mounting up, it is important to do a pre-ride check of the legs, face, girth and saddle areas. Grooming those areas thoroughly will ensure your horse is comfortable under saddle and help prevent rubs or irritated skin. Also, brushing out their tail with a detangler can give your horse a big, beautiful, bushy tail that complements their strong, developed hindquarters, as well as additional fly protection.

Daily grooming contributes to skin and coat health by helping to spread naturally produced oils throughout the hair. These oils can often be diminished from sweating and activities like frequent bathing during a hot summer, resulting in a dull coat. Using a hair polish not only makes grooming easier and more effective, but also replenishes the coat’s shine and luster.

Having a healthy mane and tail not only improves your horse’s physical appearance, but also helps to increase a horse’s natural fly defenses. When two horses are standing together in a field, end to end, brushing the flies away from each other’s faces, it is important that we as owners have given them the best tool possible: a moisturized, tangle-free tail treated with a hair polish that will prevent future knots and snarls.

If your horse lives in or spends time in a pasture, you are probably familiar with your horse coming in with his mane and tail full of burs. Instead of inflicting a painful removal process on both yourself and your horse, and usually doing damage to the hair in the process, using a hair polish directly on the area can ease removal and keep your horse comfortable.

Post-ride grooming can be just as important as the time you take before you ride. Brushing after a hard ride can help to massage tired muscles and improve blood flow to muscles and tissues, helping them to recover more quickly. Using a hair polish after post-ride grooming or bathing will help to repel dirt and mud, keeping your horse’s coat clean and shiny longer. It also reduces static and prevents rubbing, so is a perfect product to use if your horse wears a fly sheet or light summer sheet on cool nights.

During the hot and sweaty months, baths are often the best way to thoroughly clean dried sweat and dirt from your horse’s sensitive skin. While a full bath is not a daily activity, having a shampoo that is pH-balanced specifically for horses is a must, and having a built-in conditioner is an added bonus! A sulfate-free shampoo is easier to rinse out, eliminating left-over residue that can dry the skin and coat.

No matter what activities you enjoy with your horse, be sure to carve time out of your day for grooming. You will experience the rewards of this time well spent both on the ground and in the saddle. Thanks to your elbow grease and thoughtfully selected grooming products, you will have a happy, healthy looking horse.