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Winter Horse Grooming Tools

For colder weather, you may consider changing the horse grooming tools in your routine to better deal with fuzzy winter coats! As you change out grooming tools, give your stored tools a thorough cleaning so they stay fresh until spring.

Keep the grooming gloves! They are not just for shedding and bathing – their nodules can get through the fuzziest of fuzzy horses, bringing dust and dirt to the surface. They are also super for removing clumps of mud.

Add in a stiffer brush. Stiff brushes, if tolerated by your horse, can be great for removing all of the dirt that your grooming gloves bring up. Their extra durability and stiffness can also get through more of a winter coat.

Add in some washcloths! A steamy hot washcloth is perfect for removing stains. Use a warm washcloth for noses and sensitive parts.

If you don’t have hot water at the barn, you can use an insta hot kettle. Perfect when you need to warm up a bit or remove a stain with a warm cloth.

Find a good grooming oil. This adds luster to a winter coat, repels stains, and can be used in hooves to help keep snowballs from forming. A little bit goes a long way!

Fleece or wool coolers. Super for helping sweat marks dry, and can be used by you to get warm at the barn! And, they come in a ridiculous number of colors and patterns.

A hoof pick with a brush if you don’t already have one! The brush is great for getting mud out of the nitty gritty areas of your horse’s hooves.

How else do you mix up your winter grooming routine?

Shiny Horse

What creates a shiny horse?

A shiny horse is always nice to look at – and sunlight seems to just dance off their coats. Some of us with more “mud loving” horses know the challenge – but a few simple habits to get into will create shine on your horse.

It starts with proper nutrition! High quality hay and feeds are best. Your Veterinarian can help you determine if your horse’s nutrition plan matches his lifestyle, exercise levels, and medial needs.

It also includes proper parasite control. Intestinal parasites harm your horse’s digestive system and create a dull and lifeless hair coat.

Groom until your arms fall off! Part of grooming is bringing the natural oils on your horse’s skin to the individual hairs. The oil, called sebum, is the skin’s first layer of protection and this is the shine!

Avoid too much shampooing. While it’s so tempting to keep your horse covered in suds, frequent bathing with shampoos can lead to a dried out coat. Using a mild shampoo is also best.

Deal with mud. Lots of grooming, and use a sheet for turnout when you know a roll is in the works. You can always rinse away any residue with plain water if the weather is nice.

Remove dried sweat from your horse! Sweat is dull and dusty when it dries, so a quick few minutes on sweat marks with your grooming gloves solves this situation.

Supplement your grooming routine with shine creating sprays. These products should complement the shine, not create it. Use sparingly, especially under the saddle area, and enjoy the stain repelling help.

Remember to groom daily, and grab your sunglasses to admire the shine you create!

Shedding Tips

Help your horse shed with these tips!

The fall will bring about a big change in your horse – the winter coat! You might think that the only big shed happens in the spring, but your horse will also shed his summer coat in the fall to prepare for winter. All of this is triggered by the diminishing daylight – as sun rises later and sets earlier, your horse knows to start letting go of the summer coat and grow a winter coat. Here are some tips to help your horse shed evenly and smoothly!

  • Get your elbow grease going. Use your grooming gloves before and after riding/turnout. Not only does this help the hair shed, it really spreads out your horse’s own natural oils so that his new winter coat comes in as healthy as possible.
  • Let your horse roll as much as possible! A nice patch of sand in a paddock or round pen is an excellent idea. Rolling is great for your horse’s back anyway, and the sand helps the shedding hairs come loose. Then just brush out the sand (and more hair).
  • Use a grooming oil or sheen spray on a cloth to wipe your horse. The oil will act like a magnet and remove any stray hairs. Bonus – your horse gets some more shine!
  • Use a horse vacuum! These are great for gathering all of the hairs that are loosened from your diligent use of grooming gloves. The vacuum also comes in handy after a sandy roll to help your horse be sleek again.
  • Keep exercising your horse! This promotes overall health, stimulates circulation, and helps create a healthy shiny coat. Even if it’s chilly outside, exercise will loosen up some of the shedding hairs and make grooming that much more effective.
  • Avoid metal blades. Not only can these rust, they can damage the hair coming in. And, you want to be able to groom your horse’s legs and face – which doesn’t works so well with a metal blade.

These tips will help your horse have the best transition between summer and winter coats! Happy grooming!

Grooming With Kids

Many kids want to learn how to groom horses – but we need to balance the fun of grooming with some simple safety tips so no toes get squashed in the process. Start with a happy and quiet horse, add in a safe space with safe tools, and do a little hands on supervision to help your child be safe around horses.

Make sure the horse is happy!

  • His belly should be full.
  • The horse should be able to see his buddies and not feel isolated.
  • Grooming after your horse exercises is also a good idea, just in case he has some energy to burn off.

Add in a safe space.

  • Use cross ties so that his movement is limited, but he can still see what’s happening around him.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of space between the horse and the walls or edges of the grooming space.
  • Use mounting block to help your child reach the high spots, but only if there’s ample room for the block.
  • Use kid friendly tools that are smaller for a child’s hand. Tools that stay put, like gloves, are also less likely to end up under your horse.

Hands on supervision.

  • Stand on the same side of the horse as your child. If you are on one side, and your child is on the other, a spook will knock one of you down. If you are on the same side, you can keep a hand on your horse to push away if need be.
  • Demonstrate safe techniques. Walk around the front, keep a hand on your horse, brush with the direction of the hair.
  • Use frequent praise for your horse, this sets a good example for your child to respect horses.

Have fun grooming with kids!

How Often Can You Bathe Your Horse?

This is often a tricky question to answer, because it’s not one size fits all. Horses have different grooming routines, different living environments, different access to mud…. But there are a few things to look for that will help you determine if you are over bathing your horse.

Ideally, your horse is super shiny from a naturally oily coat. This is the result of genetics, a good diet, lots of daily grooming with elbow grease, and perhaps a few hair coat products as well. The oil on your horse, called sebum, creates shine, helps with his immune system by coating the skin, and repels stains. A dry and brittle coat is a stain magnet!

photo courtesy of TAG Equine Services

The shampoo you use and how you use it can affect the amount of natural oils your horse has. Harsh shampoos left on for too long strip the hair. Mild shampoos can leave a bit of natural oil on your horse’s skin. If it’s a harsh shampoo, like the stain removal styles, you should go longer between shampoos so the oils can build up.

Consider the reason for bathing your horse. Did he just have a sweaty workout? Then a rinse with the hose or sponge off is fine. Is he head to toe in manure stains and you have a show in two days? Then bust out the shampoo! Does he have one or two smaller stains that can be treated with a cloth and some stain remover? Then that’s your plan.

Also think about his schedule. Is he showing frequently? In which case you likely want to use a milder shampoo more frequently, with extra curry glove sessions in between to bring out the oils. Does he stay at home? Then perhaps only shampoo when it’s really necessary.

What about the horse that looks great except for his mane and tail? Or his legs? It’s ok to do a spot bath in the wash rack when you need to. No use in wasting shampoo or stripping those natural oils if you don’t absolutely have to.

In between baths, keep up the daily grooming routine. A good curry session before a ride makes sure there’s no dirt trapped under the saddle or bridle. This also lets your hands do some checking to be sure his body feels good. After a ride, use your curry gloves again to remove dried sweat, massage your horse’s muscles, and work on distributing those natural oils.

How often do you bathe your horse?

The Horse Hair Shedding Cycle – This explains everything!

As horse owners, we have come to know that spring time is shedding “season” as our horses lose their winter coats in favor of a cooler and sleeker summer coat. But hair is constantly growing and shedding! It’s part of the life cycle of hair – which means year ‘round curry glove action is needed.

The three stages of a hair’s life cycle are anagen, catagen, and telogen. The anagen phase is happening when hair is actively growing. This is a function of time, not length. The length of the anagen phase is set, and it’s up to good nutrition, good grooming habits, and a healthy skin to make the hairs as long as possible during that phase.

Then comes the catagen phase, where the hair and hair follicle just rest. A new hair might be forming to take it’s place, but mainly there’s nothing going on. This phase might last a few weeks.

Lastly, there’s the telogen phase, where the hair falls out in preparation for a new hair to start the anagen phase.

This explains why your horse will lose hair all year long! A nice curry glove session in the heat of summer will loosen and remove those hairs in the telogen phase. Same in the cold of winter. This also applies to the mane and tail, which of course have much longer anagen phases. There is nothing to do to prevent this natural hair loss – it’s just the same and a human finding hair in their hairbrush.

Animals have one other trick up their sleeve when it comes to shedding and growing a new coat – the length of day. Fall shedding season happens as the daylight decreases, triggering the fuzzy winter coat. There are other minor influencing factors, but light is the big one. The same is true in the spring. More daylight tells your horse to ditch his winter coat for something more comfortable!

It’s perfectly normal to have your horse lose hair all year long. If you find that it’s not growing back, that’s a reason to call the Vet for some intervention! Otherwise, enjoy the daily curry glove grooming with your horse.

Top Five Things to Notice When You Are Grooming Your Horse!

There are dozens of reasons to groom your horse – but what can you learn from your horse as you groom?

  1. What’s going on with his skin? Do you see and feel dry patches, crusty spots, or other new skin things? These could be signs of a skin infection brewing, some rain rot, a rash, a cut or scrape, or even hives. The skin is your horse’s first line of defense in his immune system, so stay ahead of the curve on this.
  2. Did you find some extra itchy places? Maybe your HandsOn Gloves have discovered a brand new favorite place to be scratched. Or, there’s an insect bite, a tick, an itchy skin infection. Dig a little deeper to discern what’s going on.
  3. Are his muscles sore? Using varying pressure as you groom is a great way to check on how your horse’s body feels. A horse that is sore might flinch, move away from you, pin his ears, swish his tail, or otherwise change his demeanor. Sore muscles might mean tack that doesn’t fit, soreness from a work out, or even a brewing lameness.
  4. Are his legs swollen? A daily leg inspection is a good way to make sure there’s no heat or swelling in his legs. It might be something simple, like a new cut that’s swollen, or it might be something more serious like a tendon injury.
  5. Is he sweating? Or not? A horse that sweats is not an alarming thing, it’s his way of cooling down. But, a horse that is sweating excessively might be nervous, or might be in pain. A horse that is not sweating, but should be, is also cause for alarm. Anhidrosis (non-sweating) in horses, needs to be managed so they don’t overheat.

The daily groom can give you a lot of information about how your horse is feeling! Work closely with your Veterinarian if you notice things that have changed about your horse – his skin, demeanor, legs, muscles, and everything else that you touch and see when you are grooming.

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