If you’re just gearing up for the season, riding for hours on end probably isn’t in the cards just yet as both you and your horse get fit. That doesn’t mean you have to cut your barn time short. Spend some quality time with your favorite equine companion by getting him prepped and ready for spring with a spa day! While it’s still too cold in most parts of the country to do a thorough bath, here are some ways to bolster your bond with your horse while helping him look and feel great.
- Groom him deeply, beginning with a curry comb or rubber mitt to raise the dirt from his coat, followed by using a hard brush and flicking motions of your wrist. Finish by going over him with a soft body brush and a rag to get every last speck of dirt and dust from his coat.
- Pay special attention to the areas under his jaw and around his ears, as well as in between his back legs. These areas are prone to irritation and itchiness.
- Use a vacuum if you have one (and your horse is used to it); this tool is great for lifting deep-down dirt and grime.
- Consider hot toweling your horse if you don’t have access to a vacuum to really pull out dirt and dust. To hot towel, you will need a bucket of very warm water. Dip small towels or wash cloths into the water and wring them out completely, then hand rub your horse from head to hoof. You can then dry him off with additional towels and place a cooler on him.
- Pull or trim his mane. It can be easier to do this after a ride, when his pores are open. If you’ve let his mane grow all winter, it might be helpful to pull it in small sections, especially if he doesn’t particularly like having this done. Another option is to use an old clipper blade, which will thin the mane without making it look like it has been cut with scissors.
- Clean your horse’s hooves very well, removing dirt from the grooves in the shoes and from around the clips if he has them. Oil his hooves after all the dirt has been removed.
- Trim his face and legs, paying attention to the longer hairs that grow under the jaw and down the back of his legs.
- Wash and deep condition his tail, if you have access to warm water. Tails can become caked with manure from being under blankets and in mud all winter, causing breakage and thinning.
- Apply a shine enhancer to your horse’s coat, being careful to keep it from where your saddle will sit.
- Pick protruding chestnuts and ergots to create a cleaner-looking leg. If they don’t peel easily, rub some baby oil on them and work on them the next day. The baby oil will soften them so they peel easier.
- Use baby wipes on your horse’s face to remove stubborn stains and lift dirt from his face.
- Scratch the itchy places! Your horse will tell you where feels good—some prime scratching locations include between the front legs, on the withers where the blanket sits and on either side of the tail.
- Massage your horse, paying special attention to the big muscle areas like the haunches and neck. As you run your hands over him, feel for any knots or lumps, then knead these areas to help him relax.
- Shower your horse with treats! A spa day isn’t complete without at least a few treats to satisfy his sweet tooth.
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Sarah Coleman has a soft spot for chestnuts with chrome, including her two off-the-track Thoroughbreds that she competes in the hunters. Based in Lexington, Ky., she is the Director of Education and Development for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.