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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!

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!

Horse Grooming Hacks to Use All Year Long!

The key to successful stain removal on your horse is to curry it out first. This removes a large portion of the stain, and what remains can be wiped away with a damp towel and maybe a spritz of stain remover or dry shampoo.

When you are giving your horse a bath, put a dollop of shampoo directly onto your grooming glove. Sponges soak up product – which costs you money! The glove delivers shampoo directly to your horse.

After your horse is sudsy and bubbly, remove most of the shampoo with a sweat scraper. This saves water by not needing so much to rinse all of the bubbles away!

If you have lost your sweat scraper, you can use a piece of bailing twine pulled tightly between your hands to do the same job.

Use your grooming gloves to remove any dried clay poultice from your horse’s legs. No need to make a trip to the wash rack!

Make it a point to groom your horse after a ride, also! Loose hair and sweat marks disappear, and your horse gets a nice post exercise massage.

Before you hit the grocery store after the barn, use your grooming gloves to knock shavings and dust from your pants. Stray hairs from all of the grooming also disappear!

When the weather turns cold, wear your grooming gloves to turn sticky and cold faucets on and off. Extra grip without needing to touch anything cold. Also great to wear when filling buckets in the cold!

Take The Gloves Off HandsOn

Grooming gloves for horses (dogs and cats, too!) are a great way to bond with your horse AND get some feedback about how they feel! But sometimes you need to take the gloves OFF and use your fingertips and eyes. You might want to do these suggestions before you start grooming. If you find something suspicious, you might want to skip grooming that area.

Run your fingertips up and down your horse’s legs. This allows you to check for heat and or minor swelling. This indicated pain and injury, so skip grooming there. 

You will also be able to locate small scabs or ticks that are hidden by hair. This will allow you to investigate further and remove bugs if needed.

You can also check your horse’s digital pulse with your fingertips. This is the best way to see if there’s any stress in your horse’s hooves. You can learn more about that here: http://www.proequinegrooms.com/tips/grooming/find-your-horse-s-digital-pulse/

Using your fingertips to explore the tender skin inside your horse’s ear also lets you discover scabs and bugs. You will also need to use your fingertips around the folded skin of the elbow, another great place for scabs and bugs to hang out.

Then you can pop on your grooming gloves and curry away! With a gloved hand, you will be able to find muscle soreness, extra itchy places, and even patches of skin that might be starting to have a dermatitis type issue going on. Your horse’s own body language can clue you in. 

A sore horse might flinch or scoot over when being groomed. Sometimes, he might be telling you about a saddle that doesn’t fit, too many hills the day before, or some sort of injury from playing, among other things.

Extra itchy places can be remnants of an insect, an allergy, dry skin, lots of reasons.

You might find a patch of skin that’s dandruffy, has extra amounts of hair loss, or is already starting to be bald. All of your findings during the grooming process, with and without gloves, is good information to share with the Veterinarian. Grooming is one way to start a very helpful dialog with your horse, and they will thank you for it!

How To Remove Stains From Your Horse

There are few things more fun for your horse to do than roll. He’s likely going to end up with manure or grass stains, which are there no matter his coat color. You’re just more likely to see it on a white, gray, palomino, or other light colored horse. You will want to remove as much of the stain as possible, as it can become permanent if re-stained again and again. Manure and urine stains are also food for flies, so a stain free horse makes them less likely to be bothered by pests.

Your first plan of attack it to remember that your horse’s natural oils provide a stain barrier. Constant stripping of these oils with too frequent shampoo or a poor diet give stains a better chance of lasting. Daily and vigorous grooming is your best defense against stains.

First attack any stains with your grooming gloves. This gets any surface dirt up, and can sometimes remove a lot of the stain, too!

Try warm water first. One of the best stain fighters is a simple wash cloth that’s barely damp with warm or hot water. Wipe the stain away. You might want to lightly rub the stain. You might find that the more water you add, the more the stain starts to smear around instead of disappear.

Then move onto a spot remover or dry shampoo. Many of these also include odor neutralizers, which is good for your nose and hides the stain from flies. Same technique here – use a tiny amount. You might want to let it sit for a minute or two. Then wipe away with a dry or barely damp cloth.

There’s a good chance this will remove all of the stain! Keep up with the daily grooming to stimulate and spread around those natural oil that your horse makes himself. Treat the stains as necessary as soon as possible, and enjoy the grooming process with your horse!

What is the itchy horse telling you?

This might seem like an easy question to answer – but it goes a little bit further than the obvious sometimes. Of course the itchy horse is telling you that he’s itchy there! But when we take a moment to investigate why he is itchy, we might discover something more.

Some horses just like being scratched. It’s their spot, it feels extra good there, it takes them to their happy place. Simple.

But when a horse has a new itchy spot – it might be due to something else. It’s always a good idea to involve your Veterinarian if you find something new.

Bugs. Insects like flies, mosquitos, and various other biting critters think your horse is delicious, and in exchange for a blood meal they leave your horse itchy. You might find a raised bump, you might not. You can indulge your horse with some scratches and perhaps a topical anti-itch medicine to help.

Ticks. Ticks often leave giant itchy welts after they release, and in weird places like between the folds of skin around the elbows. While it’s true that some tick bites leave rings around the wound, you can’t see this on a horse with a hair coat and dark skin. Besides being carriers of dangerous diseases, ticks can cause significant discomfort.

General dermatitis, AKA a skin infection. Just like humans, a horse’s first line of defense is his skin. But sweat, dirt, and bacteria in the environment can sometimes cause skin infections. However – not all types of skin infections cause itchiness – which means your hands and eyes need to discover these possibilities.

A healing sore or wound. Scabs can be itchy! Even the smallest of scrapes can cause an itchy scab. The best course of action is to carefully avoid scratching off any scab, they will fall off in due time.

A sore muscle. Sometimes, a horse may decide that he needs a massage, and will be happy to lean into you to get some added pressure on a spot. You might also notice that your horse likes to move and adjust himself so you are working on the spots that need some massage.

Allergies. A horse with allergies can sometimes display itchy skin – which is your signal to investigate further. Many times an allergy is tricky to track down, but your Veterinarian can give you a plan to determine if allergies are the cause and which allergens are to blame.

Too much product! It’s in a horse’s nature to want to be dirty – which is fine! But when we start to shine them up, we sometimes use the wrong product or leave a product residue which might be irritating. Diligently rinsing and scraping off shampoos is key, as is using topical products in moderation.

It’s always a learning experience when you groom your horse – and the more you start to listen to his body, the more you can investigate and learn more about him. It makes for a great partnership and a healthy horse!

How to groom your fuzzy horse in the winter!

If you’re a horse, winter is the time to get fuzzy. Really, really fuzzy. A horse’s winter coat is signaled to start growing as the days become shorter. First he will decide to shed his summer coat, so you’ll have a lot of hair. Luckily, the hair is short so it seems like less than the spring shed. Then, his winter coat will start to come in. Some horses are clipped for a variety of reasons, but the fuzzy horse has some winter grooming challenges.

In the winter, skip the gym and head to the barn. A furry winter coat has extra challenges, so you will need to spend more time with your grooming gloves. Your horse’s long winter coat will trap dirt, shavings, sand, dust, stains, and sweat easier than in the summer. You also have a lot more hair that needs some protection from your horse’s natural oils.

There’s not much that can replace a heavy duty grooming session, but may opt to use any of these techniques to help your horse be comfortable and tidy in the winter.

Add a horse vacuum into the grooming routine! Most horses can learn to like the vacuum, and it helps remove every last bit of grit from your horse’s skin.

Use hot steamy towels to remove stains. Thoroughly groom the stained area, then thoroughly wring out a washcloth that’s been soaking in hot water. The steam can lift away a stain. You can also use a tiny amount of dry shampoo or spot remover.

Consider clipping the areas of your horse that get sweaty. Many skin issues arrive in winter as sweat gets trapped against the skin. You might have to supplement with blankets.

Use sheets to protect your horse’s hair from mud! It’s very difficult to remove all traces of dried mud from your horse – which can lead to discomfort under a saddle. Sheets provide a barrier.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the tail and mane – detanglers can help keep them knot free and help to resist stains.

However you choose to groom your fuzzy horse this winter – be sure to pay extra attention to all of his favorite itchy spots as you use your grooming gloves!

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