Some horses are just plain bothered by grooming, to the point of pinning ears, swishing tails, and striking out or trying to bite. It’s up to you as your horse’s caretaker to figure out why, and then you can modify your grooming routine.
- Some common reasons for hypersensitivity include:
A thinner skin! Literally! Some breeds, like Thoroughbreds and Arabians are known for a thinner skin.
- An underlying injury. Muscle soreness, a spine that is out of alignment, and even an estrus cycle can create very uncomfortable feelings in your horse. Your Veterinarian can help you out if you suspect any of these issues.
- That’s just your horse’s personality!
- An obedience issue. If you observe similar cranky behaviors when you are leading your horse or cleaning his stall or any other time you are not grooming him, it’s likely the result of a horse that needs a refresher course on manners.
So you have an idea of why, now we can tackle how to groom your cranky equine more comfortably.
- Identify the “yes” spots and the “no” spots that your horse will tolerate.
Work lightly on a “no” spot, then reward good behavior and work on a “yes” spot. Work slowly and gently, reward often, and take breaks on those “no” spots. This will help if there is an underlying behavior that needs modification. Remember that if you make everything a non-issue, your horse can eventually learn to do the same. This is basically desensitization.
- Use HandsOn Grooming Gloves so that both hands can be on your horse at the same time. This allows you to feel shifts in his body, alerting you to sensitive areas that might need more attention. You can also vary the pressure here, some horses need less, some need more. The HandsOn Gloves allow tactical feedback so you understand what your horse prefers.
- Consider some new grooming tools.
Loosely translated, go shopping!! Or, use what you have around the house to modify what you already own. Can you use a washcloth for part of your grooming routine? Consider making a switch from plastic bristles to natural bristles, or to a softer natural brush.
- Alter how you use your tools.
If your horse is acutely sensitive, move slower and with a softer touch. For your brushes, lay them parallel to your horse before you sweep so that the pointy ends of the bristles don’t come into too much contact with your horse.
OR… consider using more pressure when you groom. You might figure out that his protests are him trying to tell you to scratch and rub and curry harder.
- Check again and again for proper tack fit.
A horse with tender skin will likely also be sensitive to his tack. Routine and regular saddle fittings are a must, as are soft and smooth saddle pads. Try and avoid pads with too much piping, it can lead to rubs and irritations.