Author: HandsOn

The Benefits of Grooming Your Horse After Exercise

A horse that uses a horse curry brush.Groom after your horse exercises!

Most of us diligently groom our horses before we tack up and ride. After a ride is a particularly nice time to do this, for several reasons!

You horse might like a post exercise massage. Who wouldn’t?

You will be able to notice any cuts or nicks on your horse’s legs that he may have picked up while being ridden.

You might also find some sores or rubs from your horse’s tack.

You have another chance to stir up some loose hair to keep his coat tidy!

You will me bringing up more natural oils from his skin, helping to bring out that shine!

The footing or arena dust needs to come off.

You can check your horse for sore muscles after his exercise.

Many horses get a little itchy from the tack, this is a nice way to take care of that for your horse.

His body will need to come back to a normal temperature – in the summer he might need to cool off with a shower, in the winter he might need to wear a cooler for a bit.

It’s one more chance to bond with your horse.

It’s just plain good horsemanship!

Shiny Horse Myths

4 Myths about Shiny Horses!

There’s an old saying in the horse show world – BLOOM. This is the look of a shiny, well fed, and happy horse with a sparkle in his eye. Part looks, part personality. But there are a lot of myths about shiny horses… which we will start to debunk right now!

MYTH 1 – A shiny horse is a healthy horse. It’s true that some shiny horses are healthy horses – but not all. An overweight horse might be shiny, but he’s not healthy. His metabolism might be compromised, his joints overloaded, and he’s definitely more likely to overheat. Some unhealthy shiny horses are also that way because they are coated with products! This isn’t bad, it’s just not quite the same as a well groomed shine.

MYTH 2 – You can buff out a horse’s sweat marks to end up with shine. This would be lovely – if it was true! Sweat is basically water and electrolytes like Calcium and Magnesium and other salts, and it comes from the sweat glands. Natural oils are produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin and serve to protect the skin and hair. Sweat dries to a dull finish. You might be able to flake the sweat away, but it won’t turn to shine.

MYTH 3 – Using dish detergents and laundry detergents on your horse is safe. Any harsh detergent will actually strip your horse’s skin of his natural oils and protection – leaving a clean, but very dull finish. This creates a dry skin, which can crack, become itchy, and offer no protection. Only the mildest of horse shampoos should touch your horse – you want to maintain the shine!

MYTH 4 – All horse’s can be equally shiny. Wouldn’t that be nice! Stallions automatically produce more natural oil in their skin, making them generally shinier. Some breeds are also naturally shiny, while other hardier breeds with coarse coats are not so shiny. There’s a lot of genetics involved!

Rain Rot and Horses

Rain rot is a commonly used phrase to describe a flaky, scabby skin infection in horses. We sometimes call it a fungus, but it’s really a bacterial infection from the Dermatophilus Congolensis bacteria. We call it rain rot because it typically occurs on horses in areas that would be rained on – the face, the neck, the back.

rain rot skin hair mtg

The infection begins through an existing cut or break in the skin. Then you will start to see tiny scabs that are usually hot painful and usually not itchy. If removed, they also take the hair with it. Areas with rain rot can become painful, especially if the infections goes into the deeper layers of the skin or tack is placed on affected skin.

The area might also become a little itchy, in which case your horse will likely find a way to get some relief, and in the meantime spreading the infection through the act of scratching. Many horses get rain rot in the winter, and just as many get rain rot in the summer. The offending bacteria loves a humid environment – which in the summer is the weather, or frequent bathing. In winter, horses that sweat in their fuzzy coats create the perfect situation for rain rot, as does the horse in a blanket.

You can do wonders to prevent rain rot, including grooming and inspecting your horse’s skin daily. Any areas should be inspected by your Veterinarian for a treatment plan, which may range from a topical antibiotic to oral or injected antibiotics. You should also avoid using your horse’s grooming tools on other horses, skip sharing saddle pads and tack, and make sure you horse’s blankets, grooming tools and everything that touches his skin is clean.

Catch it early and it’s no big deal – wait too long and your horse can get secondary infections that are much harder (and more expensive!) to treat. Severe cases can also weaken your horse’s immune system, leaving him vulnerable to a wide range of viruses and infections.

A daily grooming session is your best chance at keeping rain rot at bay!

How to dry the damp or wet horse in winter!

Horses are amazingly adept at dealing with winter weather! Their coats are designed to keep them warm and dry, and for the most part being outside in a downpour can be just fine. The outer layer of hair allows the water to run off your horse. There’s also the instance in winter when your horse starts to sweat – in which case he’s getting wet from the skin. This can happen on an unusually warm winter day, or you have ridden your horse and the sweat starts coming!

coolers

It now becomes your job to dry your horse to avoid him getting chilled as your horse cools out. This prevents his body from swinging into hypothermia mode as he dries. The easiest ways to do this involve some elbow grease, some fleece or wool coolers, and perhaps even a walk around the property.

When you come back from your ride and have untacked your horse, toss a cooler over the sweaty parts to start wicking moisture from his skin and coat into the cooler. The cooler also serves to keep any wind from chilling your horse and helps his body temperature return to normal. 

Then you can go around him and ruffle up his coat with your grooming gloves. Think the opposite of smooth and sleek, you want the coat to get some air under the cooler and dry out.

You can also take him for a hand walk around the property. Be sure the cooler has leg straps so it doesn’t fly up. His walking will create some body heat to dry the hair, but not so much that he starts to sweat again. Check frequently on the drying status.
It does take time to dry the wet horse in winter, but use your grooming tools and a cooler to make it safer and more comfortable for your horse.
Curry on!

The start of winter tells your horse to start shedding!

This doesn’t make much sense…at first. In the US, we define the start of winter as the 21st of December. Around that time, and sometimes on the 21st itself, we have the winter solstice. This is the day where we have maximum darkness and minimum daylight. The day after the solstice is when the days start to get longer….with more light. 

In the summer, the longest day of the year happens around June 21st. The summer solstice is the day in which there is minimum darkness and maximum light.

glove shedding hair Both days trigger your horse to start shedding!

It’s a complicated process, and it’s also a gradual one, which is why horses take time to shed out, we just don’t arrive to the barn one day and see a pile of hair and a sleek coated horse. Initially, your horse’s eyes start this process. His eyes tell his pineal gland to make some hormones, which then work on the pituitary gland to make more hormones. This second batch of hormones works on the thyroid gland – which is ultimately responsible for telling your horse’s body to release the coat he has and grow a new one. 

That’s a lot of steps… Some horse owners might start to see the winter coat shedding out in mid January, and the summer coat shedding out in mid August. Of course every horse will be on his own schedule, and the shedding process will be complete on their own time. 

You may also know that some metabolic disorders in horses, such as PPID (Cushing’s Disease) interfere with the shedding and hair growth process. This specific metabolic condition affects the pituitary gland, and as a result many horses with PPID are extra hairy all year long.

Once you see the shedding process starting, there’s no changing it, unless the amount of light changes. This can happen if you move your horse from the deep south to Canada, or vice versa, or if you move to a barn that keeps the stall lights on. Eventually your horse’s body will figure it out!

In the meantime, keep currying with your grooming gloves, and happy bonding with your horse!

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!


Dapples

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!

How To Safely Decorate The Barn For The Holidays!

It’s always nice to share a little holiday spirit, and since we spend so much time at the barn, why not decorate that, too? A few things to be aware of, and then go nuts with the decorations!

Use lights in a smart manner. The newer, and more expensive, LED lights don’t heat up. There’s really no point in stringing regular holiday lights, as the dust, hay, and wood in the barn will just act as kindling. 

Be aware of extension cords, as well. These can heat up, cause a trip for horse or human, and also become an excellent treat for pests and rodents to munch on and cause damage, or worse, a fire. Overloaded circuits are a recipe for disaster.

Know that mistletoe and holly, while festive and lovely, are toxic to horses, dogs, and cats! If you crave that look, go for artificial versions of these holiday favorites. Poinsettia are mildly toxic as well.

Tinsel and garlands are lovely as well, but make sure your barn cats aren’t tempted to “hunt” these, then run down the aisle being followed by a long string of holiday spirit. When eaten by a curious horse, it might lead to a blockage.

It’s also a great idea to keep all decorations away from the reach of horses – which is quite longer than you might imagine if a horse is really determined to chew on a wreath. If your barn uses dutch doors or stall guards, keep decorations far away, or just supervise when your horse can look around.

Some excellent options for decorating barns include wreaths on the barn doors, outside lights, and even sleigh bells. Most barn dwellers like horses, the cats, and the barn dogs won’t fancy a bell as a snack.

Stick to the artificial plants, so you can avoid poisoning your pets and you have the benefit of re-using them! Additionally, any artificial pine will be better as it won’t drip sap everywhere!

Place your holiday decorations smartly so that no horse ends up with a new and festive toy.

Enjoy decorating the barn, and happy holidays from all of us at HandsOn Gloves!

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