Sunday, March 10, 2013

Grooming Kit 101

Everyone's grooming kit is a little different - we all customize to our horses needs as we come to understand them, but most grooming kits should have the same basic tools:
Other than being a bit heavy on the curries, this is actually a decent pic. 

Hoof Pick - 
I like the type with the brush, and tend to like the more blunted "tip" of the brushed picks in comparison to the cheapie ones with a sharper end. I have one of each now, but especially for inexperienced hands, the blunter tip is probably safer and prevents any unintentional injury from a slipping hand. The brush is nice for getting the last bits of grit out. 

Curry Comb(s)-
This photo shows several. For basics, I like a gelly-scrubber type, with the larger knobby side and a softer side. If something is uncomfortable on your skin, I would be very very careful (or not use it at all) on the face, legs and only gently on the belly. In shedding season, you tend to collect curries - have a soft one with long bristles, a gelly scrubber, a standard "classic" curry comb and a shedding blade. The shedding blade is used very gently for removing long winter hair. I like a stiffer curry for removing mud, and use a soft one (either the soft side of the gelly or the long bristle) on legs and faces, as well as "ticklish" spots.

Stiff Brush-
The stiff brush is used in a flicking motion to whisk away the dirt brought to the surface by the curry comb, which is used first. I like a plastic, medium length bristle for ease of cleaning and since my stiff brush is my favorite mud tool, it's an important consideration. Shape and size also make a difference - think about brushes you've really liked or try out several in the store to find one that is comfortable to hold and feels "right". 

Soft Brush-
Another brush you can collect several of. I have a soft version of my stiff brush and a few of the wood backed finishing brushes with the leather handle that have very soft bristles. These brushes get off  the fine dust and a great for ring side grooming and making your horse look nice and shiny. Because they are often made of finer materials, such as goat or even horse hair, make sure to use them on a clean horse to preserve them. 

Sweat Scraper-
These come in both the "stick" form and the crescent shaped "squeegies". The sweat scraper is used to scrape water trapped between the hairs out, allowing a horse to dry more quickly after a bath. Eventers and endurance riders also use them to slick away water in the cooling out process, as leaving water on the horse when they are very hot simply heats the water. By slicking away the water as it warms and applying more cool, you are able to drop a horse's body temperature quickly in the vet box. Scrapers are easy to use- just gently scrape in the direction of the hair and watch the water magically disappear! 

Mane Brushes and Combs-
A brush is a nice thing to have, for neatening up after pulling a mane or just for daily maintenance. Remember your horse does have nerves there, despite the old sayings, so brush gently. With the tail, I like to grasp the while thing below the bone to keep my de-tangling from pulling on the hairs and irritating the mare. I wouldn't suggest brushing a horse out too often or you can pull out a lot of hair and make the mane or tail thin. For a comb, I usually just use a pulling comb if I need one.

To pull a mane:
1. Look at the mane. Select a length that works well for your needs (consider if your horse has a mane that will stick up if its too short) and start by grabbing the long pieces that hang down below the mass of the mane.
2. Holding only those hairs, back comb the rest out of your way.
3. Slide the comb through the small bit of hair that remains, wrap the hair around the bridge (back) of the comb and pull straight down. 

I'm not a huge fan of pulling, and Foxie has a thin mane, so I use a Grooma "Mane Master" that follows the same steps as pulling but instead of doing the wrap-and-yank, you slice the hair rather than pulling it out. For some manes, or very uneven ones, you may have to do a combo of pulling and "Grooma-ing". 

My grooming kit occasionally contains grooming additives, as well. I like a bit of shine spray now and again, and I know a lot of people like the Cowboy Magic products for de-tangling. I also have Quick-braid in my kit, as I braid when I show. It's all a matter of opinion - find what you like, and what agrees with your horse.

Keep an eye out in the next few weeks for hopefully a few videos I've had brewing in the old noggin - a wrapping tutorial and a braiding/mane pulling one. Maybe I'll even make a saddle fitting one if that will help someone! 

Ashley & Foxie

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