Groom like a PRO
Submitted by: Danielle Aamodt
Email Address: danielleaamodt(at)gmail.com
Date Added: 9/30/2014
For the last 15 years, I've been a professional groom (on & off) and I've learned a lot of tips and tricks of the trade. It's become so natural to me now; sometimes I forget that I have had to learn these things from other professionals or from experience. I can get a horse perfectly spotless for a competition using just one shampoo, a curry, a brush, (clippers, if they aren't clipped yet), a towel & a hoof pick.
Here are a few of my "DO"s & "DON'T"s on grooming. -keep in mind, these are MY methods. There are always other ways to do things, but this is what works best for me.
DO: Start at the top.
Wash the head & face first, then work your way down the neck & back. Finish with the legs & tail. (details to follow)
DON'T: Do not...NOT...blast your horse in the face with the hose. And do not get water in their EARS!!
The reason many horses are head-shy about washing their faces is because we humans aren't very careful about keeping water out of their ears. Just don't do it. If you're careful & use low water pressure (or start with a wet sponge), you CAN teach a head-shy horse to trust you with water. But you better earn it.
DO: Use a gentle soap.
If you want to be fancy: I like Corona shampoo or Effol Shampoo. They gently wash away dirt / grease without drying the hair & they both rinse easily.
If you need to be economical: Dawn dish soap does the same thing...washes away dirt / grease without taking the moisture out of the hair. Be sure to suds it up well with water & rinse well.
DON'T: Don't use harsh soaps.
Soaps that have tough chemicals will dry out the hair, which actually makes dirt STICK to it. It's very important to keep the natural oils & moisture in the hair. Even on white legs or gray horses, I've been able to make them sparkle with those soaps listed above & a little bit of 'elbow grease'. It's more effective to scrub it out than to expect harsh soaps to do it automatically.
DO: Scrub them well. Don't just run a sponge over them & expect that to work.
Get a curry or use your fingers & dig in. Give them a massage while you bathe. If you're headed to a competition, you can bet your breeches that the dirt hiding deep in their coat will show up the moment they start to sweat. If the suds / water are still coming off brown, you aren't finished scrubbing!
DON'T: Don't put too many sprays & junk on your horse after washing.
It will make your horse sticky & is most likely unnecessary. If you are going to a show, it's okay to use Show Sheen. But don't use it excessively at home-- the silicones will coat their hair & not allow it to 'breathe' or hold its natural oils. Show Sheen can add a barrier to keep the dirt off-- but again, if their hair is healthy & maintains the natural oils / moisture, it should do that on its own.
DO: Take your time with the curry.
Many people skip this step entirely, but it is so essential for many reasons. Not only does currying kick up all the dirt & dander that's hiding in the coat... but it also is a good way to assess your horse. As you go over them with a curry, you will find cuts or bumps that you can't always feel with a brush. You can also discover any sore muscles your horse may have. Even though currying stirs up the underlying dirt, if you just brush it over & keep it hidden, your horse's skin could end up developing yucky things like rain rot or rubs.
DON'T: Do NOT pick off any scabs.
(*unless it is rain rot, which is different*) Scabs are meant to protect a wound until the skin has healed. Unless you plan on scrubbing it & treating with a protective ointment & bandage-- just leave it alone! Scabs are there for a reason.
Now, as I mentioned, rain rot is a different story... it feels like scabs, but it doesn't have wounds underneath. Those SHOULD be scrubbed off, because the bacteria festers beneath the scab, using it for protection. It's fairly uncomfortable for most horses, so be gentle. (I also use either Dawn dish soap or Betadine scrub to kill the bacteria) Wash it often & leave it open to dry.
DO: When grooming, brush them well with a hard brush first, then a finishing brush.
Again, take your time with this step. After you've stirred up all the junk, it will take several swipes with a brush to get it off of the coat. (obvious tip: it helps to keep your brushes clean too!) When I first started grooming, I was told to brush each area of a horse about 10 times. If you do this, you'll find their coat will be much cleaner & much healthier over time.
DON'T: Do NOT rip their tail out !
Everyone has a different approach to caring for the tails. Some people strongly believe in leaving the tails completely alone & never brushing them. Others brush their horses' tail every day & leave them braided, etc.
I have found that it is best to brush the tail often... but ONLY if its done in the right way. Start brushing at the bottom of the tail. (the very end!) When you brush, DON'T RIP. If you rotate your wrist as you brush, the tangles will work out rather than just ripping through the hair. *Additional tip: if you gently brush the hair while it is clean & wet, the hairs will stretch rather than break.
If you insist on braiding the tail up, you MUST loosen some of the hair at the top of the braid--make it look like it was slept-on, so when it inevitably gets stuck on a fence board or on a buckle, the hair won't rip out from the root.
Personally, I think it works best to leave a tail out & clean / brush it at least once a week.
DO: Pick their feet well.
Horses 101, really. For thrush: while some people swear by Thrush buster & other products, I have found that those chemical-ridden products simply kill EVERYTHING on the top layer. But if the thrush runs deep, the dead-dry layer on top will trap the fungus underneath & allow it to continue to fester. The best natural product I have found is by Sassa Bella, which is made from plants with anti-fungal properties (& smells lovely!); it quickly defeats any fungus growing while still allowing the healthy tissues to breathe & recover. (Sassa Bella bodycare products are made here in KY by a local Farrier's wife)
It's really very simple. It just takes TIME & SCRUBBING to do it right; not necessarily a million products. Once, when I was grooming at a show, a lady complimented me on how great the horse looked & she asked me what products I use... I told her "a lot of elbow grease!" Then she asked, "where can I buy that?". It will always be effort, and not just the products you use.
Remember-- a healthy coat is best. Keep the natural oils and moisture in the hair, and you won't need sprays, oils or even green spot! (that's not 100% guarantee, but trust me-- poo will come out EASILY on clean, healthy hair!)
Best of luck & happy grooming !!!
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