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!