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Month: November 2017

The many side effects of grooming your horse!

It’s no doubt clear that most horses benefit from grooming – they get clean, they get a nice little massage, there’s some bonding time going on. But it really goes beyond those benefits – and if you invest a little time and patience, you will start to see many things in your horse.

First things first – the main reason to groom your horse is not to make them spotless because that’s how they should live, it’s to make them spotless so their tack does not irritate their skin if the coat and skin are gritty and dirty. Imagine running a 5K with dirt in your socks!

Then you get into the handling and rubbing benefits of grooming. While not technically a massage from a licensed equine massage therapist, you will start to learn the places on your horse’s body that benefit from the grooming gloves. Your horse’s lips will wiggle, he might push against you, his head drops, he scoots his body so you can get just the spot.

Obviously all of this grooming time is bonding time, also. Of course we all know how therapeutic time with horses can be, and the bonding that takes place during a grooming session is equally valuable to us as it is to them! It’s all about stress relief!

Grooming time is also a fantastic time to work on training your horse. There is no reason to expect him to behave under saddle if he doesn’t want to behave when you are out of the saddle. Every second that your horse is calm and quiet in the grooming stall is a cause for a positive reward like a pat or scratch coupled with a nice word. Look for opportunities to reward your horse. Is he paying attention to you? Is he relaxed? Is he letting you handle his ears? Is your horse listening to your subtle cues to move over just a bit, or back up a step? Reward!

Grooming also has the benefit of helping your horse’s skin stay healthy. A horse will naturally produce sebum, which is the wonderful natural oil that creates shine and is aided in distribution by grooming. The bonus to sebum is that it also protects the skin, as it has some anti-microbial features as well. Remembering that skin is actually part of the immune system makes grooming more of a health care routine than a cleaning routine.

While you are spending all that time making shine – you will also catch things early! Skin rashes, cuts, scrapes, muscle soreness, hair loss, ticks…the list is long!

And last but not least….your own body will start to get warmed up for your ride. And who knows, maybe your grooming routine turns into your upper body workout so you can skip the gym and ride more!


Can any horse get dapples? Technically no, but some horses are more likely to than others. Dapples are the textured, concentric rings within the coat, and look like amazing darker circles of coat with a lighter color on the inside.  They are commonly spotted along the rumps, and sometimes bellies or necks, of some horses.  Dapples can be a sign of good health, but sometimes the overweight horse will dapple. Also know that a horse without dapples does not mean unhealthy.
Dapples are also possible if your horse has the silver dapple gene.  This gene is common in Scandinavian breeds, as well as a few American breeds.  The silver dapple gene is responsible for diluting the base coat color (normally black).  

You may also have a horse that dapples if he is true gray horse.  Gray horses are born black, or almost black, and over years and even decades will lighten up and eventually become flea bitten grays.  During this process, they spend several years as dappled grays.   

Let’s assume you have a non Scandinavian horse that is not gray, but instead chestnut or bay. There’s a chance that he can still display dapples – and it may take some experimenting to find them.  This is because genetics is infinitely more complicated than “he has the gene, so he will have them”.  
Some horses will dapple in the summer, but not winter. Some will dapple in the winter, but not summer. Some dapple only when fully body clipped. Others never dapple! What definitely helps bring out dapples for the horse that has them is daily grooming, coupled with a healthy diet including omega fatty acids and proper vitamins and minerals.

Tips for grooming the clipped horse in winter!

Winter time at the barn gives you one of two grooming challenges – the fuzzy horse, or the clipped horse! Then there’s the horse that’s partially clipped…. so when you think about a clipped horse, his hair is really shorter than even a summer coat! Which means you might want to make a few adjustments to your grooming routine.

Do you need to find some softer brushes for that short coat? For your grooming gloves, just vary the pressure that you use. But even a stiff brush used gently can be too much, so perhaps switch to softer brushes.

Watch out for rubs that can become sores. You will start to see broken hairs and maybe even hairless patches. This means you should add padding to blankets, change blanket brands, or protect tack with sheepskin fuzzies.

Keep your eyes peeled for sunburn. True white hairs have pink skin, which even the winter sun can burn. Use fly masks or fly boots for noses and chrome legs, and sheets for covering big surfaces of pink skin!

Clipped horses are definitely easier to keep clean – and stains can easily be swiped away with a barely damp and hot washcloth. You can also add dry shampoo and spot removers into the mix!

Happy grooming this winter!

How to hot towel your horse this winter for a deep clean!

The horse with a thick winter coat is a few things: adorable, warm, and really hard to clean! The long hairs of a horse in winter love to trap shavings, dirt, dust, dried mud, and basically everything that horses love to roll in and be covered by. And if we are riding, all of that fuzz plus exercise plus tack means sweat also. It’s often ideal for some horses to remain fuzzy in winter, but skin infections and discomfort are a real possibility.

So how do you get your furry horse super deep clean in winter? You hot towel him. This is actually a two for one special – as you will get a nice work out also. Your supplies:

  • Steamy hot water.
  • Washcloths and lots of ‘em.
  • Another bucket of water for rising towels.
  • A wool or fleece cooler for your horse.
  • Your HandsOn Gloves.
  • Maybe some dry shampoo – it’s optional.

Hot toweling your horse uses steam and curry action to get your fuzzy horse clean. Wearing your grooming gloves during this protects your skin from the repeated dunking into hot water and helps you curry the steamy towel into your horse.

First, groom your horse as usual, as best you can, to get all of the dirt and dust loose. Make sure any mud has dried and you have groomed it away. A grooming vacuum comes in really handy here!

Get a washcloth nice and wet in super hot water. It might be helpful to soak several at a time. Wring the washcloth until it’s barely damp. Some of the heat will also be removed, which is good. You don’t want to make your horse uncomfortable. The key is to keep the cloth fairly hot and steamy, and not so wet. Hold the cloth and use it as a curry comb, working in small sections to clean your horse. The more water you can wring out, the better.

If your horse is stained, adding a tiny bit of dry shampoo or spot remover to the hot water solution can help any discolorations come out. Also be sure to toss the used washcloths into a rinse bucket before you get them hot again. No use in making the hot water dirty.

Avoid letting your damp horse hang out, so after you clean and are switching out wash cloths, cover him with a cooler. If you are really diligent about wringing out the cloth, he won’t be wet at all. It also helps to work away from drafts and the wind!

You may want to use a stiffer brush to ruffle up the toweled areas so the cooler can do it’s job a little better. This is a long process to do your entire horse, so prioritize the areas that are covered with tack. No horse wants to wear tack that covers up a gritty coat!

Enjoy the new found clean horse after all of your efforts!

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