Q: What is a normal grooming routine?

A: A thorough grooming session will take up to 45 minutes. In South Africa, we commonly do not regularly groom our horses ourselves, but at least once a week it is worth making the extra effort to do this. Firstly, this provides a great opportunity to bond with your horse, as many horses love the grooming process. Secondly, it allows you to do a full body check to scan for any injuries or new lumps and bumps. And finally, it gives you some idea of the effort required to groom a horse properly. From outside the stable it is easy to assume that brushing a horse is an easy job, but once you are in there doing it yourself, you very quickly realise that a proper grooming requires much more effort than it might initially appear! Below is the standard routine employed in most grooming practices:

  • Using a hoof pick, clean out the horse’s feet thoroughly. Ideally do this outside of the stable – not on the bedding. You must always pick from the heel towards the toe, taking care not to damage the frog.
  • With a body brush in one hand and a metal curry comb in the other, use ONLY the body brush to give the horse’s body a thorough brushing. You must use firm brush strokes, and stand slightly back from the horse. Every few strokes you must draw the bristles of the body brush across the teeth of the metal curry comb to clean the brush. Every now and again tap the dirt from the curry comb – again it is best to do this outside, not into the bedding. Start to one side with the neck and then work down the shoulder and foreleg, over the body and hindquarters and down the hind leg. The process must then be repeated on the other side. Care must be taken over the legs, as these need brushing less vigorously than other parts of the body, and can be sensitive.
  • With a gentle, soft body brush or a specific face brush then brush around the head collar, being careful not to put your hand through the head collar at any point; should your horse pull away you could be injured. It is sometimes best to undo the noseband of the halter to get proper access. It is important not to forget the underside of the head, but you must be especially gentle in this region.
  • Carefully brush the mane and tail with the body brush, if necessary untangling knots with your fingers first. Hold the tail away from the horse’s body so that you can brush out one section at a time.
  • At this point a water brush (a brush with softer bristles than a dandy brush) can be dipped into water (not your horse’s drinking water!) and then used to dampen down the topside of the mane and the top of the tail.
  • Using clean water you can then gently sponge the eyes and nostrils. With a second sponge you can clean under the dock of the tail.