An Illustrated Guide
 To Grooming Your Horse

By Lin Stone


Horses have been part of the human family ever since Aesop was a baby.   One of his favorite bed time stories was about the time a horse and a man signed a treaty to catch a stag.  When the stag was caught the horse asked the man to take the bit from his mouth and the masked man responded, "Huh Uh Silver.  This arrangement suits me just fine."  Human beings have cherished the opportunity of keeping horses in the family ever since.

As a general rule of thumb, horses require more maintenance than the family sports car.  Their fuel tanks must be topped off about twice a day whether they have been driven or not.  On a hot grueling day their radiators can need as much as 20 gallons of extra water added.  Rips and tears in their upholstery must be treated quickly or else the whole coat could lose its beauty and charm in a matter of weeks if not days.

Taking care of the horse's upholstery is a unique process technically referred to as GROOMING.  

Most horses do enjoy the grooming process. If you've ever seen two horses facing each other with their necks intertwined you have seen horses grooming each other. They groom each other with their teeth.
Just like humans there are places horses can't reach on themselves. Consequently, they especially appreciate you scratching them in certain places -- like under their belly. Elfie Bowling, a full time wrangler at Horse Heaven Ranch Resort had one horse that was especially appreciative. "When I began scratching under his belly he wouldn't let me quit. When I wore out and had to stop he would walk back and forth using my hand as a stationary curry. He was really enjoying it."
 Elfie Bowling, a full time wrangler had one horse that was especially appreciative.  "When I began massaging his belly he wouldn’t let me quit. When I wore out and had to stop he would walk back and forth using my hand as a stationary curry. He was really enjoying it."

Not all horses will enjoy being groomed. Not all horses are the same either. For example, maybe one will like being groomed, but won't accept a clipping to save your life. Most horses also have times they don't want to be groomed at all. For example, if a horse tends to irritate easily or is grouchy, I would not groom him while he is eating, especially in a stall. "Just think about it," Elfie suggests. "If you are eating at your dinner table would you want someone raking a brush through your hair?" When you are in close quarters is no time to irritate your horse. Some horses are fine with this, but it is your responsibility to decide when it is safe.

Free Book by Lin Stone
Entire contents Copyright © 2006
by Browzer Books
ALL Rights to Original Work Reserved for the creators.

A Knotted Message
From Elfie

It is a naturally human plan to tie the horse up so he can't move at all, then just keep on working on him until he gets used to it.  "I use tying the horse up to teach manners and patience.  Standing for an hour or two a day is good for them.  I have a tie rope hanging from several trees, and this is where I tie my horses to so they are in the shade and it's close to the barn area so I can keep an eye on them too. (hitching rails are fine if they are secure in the ground and there are no sharp corners on them)   When I know a horse is good when I am brushing, spraying or cleaning them yes, I do tie them. 

Elfie prefers to give her horse more slack so he can look behind him and see what she is doing. "Horses I am not familiar with -- or if I know they are spooky I go easy and slow and prefer not to anchor them down. When I get ready to clip or something new they are not use to I do a fake tie so I am not worried if they get excited and feel the need to move away."

"Fake Tie" is where you draw a loop of rope through a ring slightly larger than two strands of the rope.  This causes a little bit of friction on the strand of rope the horse might tug on.  "While he thinks he is tied up, he isn't."   But, in an emergency the horse can easily get loose just by pulling a little harder.  This is especially nice for a horse that is new to grooming because they could hurt themselves if they are bound up too tightly. (I just ask them to step back up and use a lot of sweet talking to reassure them everything is cool) until I know they are comfortable I am not comfortable tying one to watch them set back and possibly injure themselves, trust me they can really do them some harm getting really scared."

The typical horse does not have a lot of common sense, so you have to do a lot of the thinking for him.  On the other hand, horses have a lot of power, where do you think the word HORSEPOWER came from?

A horse’s natural inclination to any confrontation is flight. They don't always make rational judgments when they are trying to flee the scene out of fear. I don't think they have any idea how badly they will get hurt when they run through a fence or set back so hard they flip over. So keep in mind you have to be the judge in what's safe for your horse. If it doesn't feel right -- go with your instinct! Even when I am riding I am always looking to make sure its safe for my horse to cross or enter the area

You want to be careful tying a horse up with a rope that is too long, They can get tangled up in it and. If they tear a post off or another object and take off with it dragging behind them it could snag on something and really hurt the horse. 

There is a halter created called "be nice halters."  These are designed for the horse that tends to set back. It puts pressure on the poll area when they pull back, they tend to get off the pressure when the metal nodules are inbedding in the poll area. 

"All horses that I am working with (young, older, seasoned or frisky) , I always show them what I have in my hand and if they want to smell it - I let them. Generally they will become disinterested in it right away and I move on the what I was doing with them. This way there is very little chance to have an issue and we can have a great session in minutes. Horses need to feel secure, so I do reward them with a atta boy/girl when I get the response I was looking for. A nice gentle pat will do. They look for your encouragement. You're the teacher -- they're the student. In some cases the horse can switch this role around if you are intimidated.  It ends up with them giving you a lesson! You must be prepared and schooled to handle horses and do it safely. "

How To Break and Train Wild Horses 

The Beginners Guide To Riding Horses  *  Break The Bad Habits Your Horse Has

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To make this information easier for you to study
we'll start  with the  most basic  grooming session
and proceed to the most important grooming session.

We will start with preparing for a simple, quick ride.  Your horse is in a stall nearby and all you have to do is bring him out where you can work with him.  You have wood shavings down in the stall because that really does keep horses a lot cleaner.  Consequently, this will not be a minute, in-depth inspection.  You will check your horse over quickly, but thoroughly.

Before you begin grooming, take your horse some place comfortable.  Nice, quiet places are best so that a horse doesn’t get startled.  Many people like to take a horse out beneath a shade tree, in a barn aisle, or wash rack area where they have behaved well before.  When you do it that way both of you will enjoy it.

The working space you bring your horse to for grooming should provide you with space between you and the horse. Ideally you want to work it so that you can invade the horse's space -- but you don't want him invading yours. Remember, you're the boss, so make him go where you want him to, not where he wants you to. 

Any time you are working with a horse it is imperative that you wear protective shoes.  That doesn't necessarily mean steel-toed shoes but it should definitely rule out flip-flops.  What you want as a minimum are shoes that cover your toes and stiff enough to afford some protection from half a ton of sudden weight..

Since you have a nearly clean horse to begin with and you are only going on a quick ride you will concentrate your initial inspection to the feet, saddle and bridle areas.  During any grooming session you'll want to pay attention to when your horse moves during the process so you'll learn which areas are most sensitive for him.

You will be checking for boo-boos and health issues.  Check the hooves and shoes first. You're looking for loose shoes, cockeyed shoes, nails coming loose.  If you find any of these you will want to call your farrier to get that fixed promptly. Check to see if the hoof itself is too dry.   If the hoof is too dry, it can become brittle. 

What causes a hoof to get too soft?  Have you ever noticed how soft your toenails get when you stay in the tub too long?  Well, the horse's hoof IS one big toenail and if he is kept on a surface that is too damp, his hooves can become soft too.  If the hoof gets too soft you could begin to see bruises or abscesses show up, especially if you're heading into rough country.

Do you see the WHITE section where the finger is pointing?
That is NEW growth, and

Now, inside that red circle near the bottom of the hoof is where you look for the horse shoe nail.  The nail is driven through the shoe from the bottom then clipped off here.  As time goes by these nails can work loose and wobble the hole larger.   As long as the nail isn't wobbling in the hole you are okay.  If it becomes loose to the touch it is time to consult your farrier.


A small pebble can work its up the hoof and lame the horse until it is gone.  This is known as gravel a condition in which a stone is in the hoof wall.  The pebble can work its way all the way up and hopefully pop out on its own if you don’t see it in time to extract it yourself.  If you can imagine a splinter working its way up the inside of your fingernail you can imagine the pain this horse was in.

One horse was given to Elfie because it was lame and the owner couldn’t take care of it. There was not any sign of what the problem was, but it actually popped out once it had traveled all the way up the hoof.

Once the pebble was out and the damage taken care of the horse was soon kicking up her heels and Elfie had a wonderful horse on her hands. - Free Advertising for the Western Community

There are currently FIVE pages of helpful grooming advice
Be sure to read the other four.

Legs  *  Bath  *  Show  *  Clipping


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