Speed Grooming

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Time, or more specifically a lack of time, seems to dictate our lives these days. Our horses are often an escape from the pressures of the outside world, but even barn time sometimes succumbs to real-world demands. As much as you like to linger over grooming your horse, flicking away the stress of the day with every brush stroke, there are days when that’s a luxury you simply can’t afford.

Currycombing a Horse

Before You Begin

Fortunately, there are lots of shortcuts you can take and still have a very presentable horse. Some of these tips involve advance planning and prep. Look at the time spent as an investment; it will pay off when you’re in a hurry but still want your horse looking as good as possible.

For starters, although you’ve probably heard it before, a truly shiny horse is a reflection of overall health and good nutrition. No amount of last-minute bathing, brushing and product application produces the same luster.

Next comes the most effective coat conditioning product: elbow grease. This means currying and brushing your horse as much and as often as you can. Not only does this remove dirt and dander, it brings out the coat’s natural oils and distributes them evenly.

Tools for Success

Organizing your brush box or grooming tote is one of the keys to successful speed grooming. Having everything you need in one place makes a big difference. In addition to your usual assortment of grooming tools, include items to help when you need to speed-groom. Here’s a suggested list of items and their uses.

Basic Brush Box Contents:

  • Hoof pick
  • Curry comb
  • Medium to stiff body brush
  • Soft body brush
  • Mane and tail comb or brush
  • Towel
  • Scissors

Suggested Extras:

  • Hoof pick with brush to help remove dirt. Use the brush to help remove clumps of dirt or dried mud, and to thoroughly clean the sole before applying hoof conditioner.
  • Soft curry. Use this to help loosen dirt and dried sweat from areas where a regular curry is too hard, such as lower legs and head.
  • Small stiff brush for removing wet mud from hooves. Having a stiff brush dedicated to cleaning muddy hooves saves your other brushes.
  • Shedding blade. Even in non-shedding season, a shedding blade can help remove mud or dirt, but be careful to use it gently.
  • Sheepskin grooming mitt, chamois cloth or microfiber towel. Use one of these instead of a regular towel to give your horse a final dusting; any of them will pick up more dust and dirt than terrycloth.
  • Baby wipes are great for several things, such as wiping off the face, cleaning a dirty muzzle or nostrils and swiping out ears. They’re also handy for flyaway hairs on manes and tails; simply wipe on to help lay the hair down.
  • Waterless shampoo or spot cleaner. Use on cold days or when you need to clean a small area.
  • Coat conditioner or polish: Spray directly on the horse, or use it on a brush or towel to help bring out your horse’s shine. It’s also good for reducing static.
  • Detangler is always handy for manes and tails.

The Routine

Now that you’re well supplied, try this routine the next time you’re in a hurry to get a clean horse.

  1. Pick the hooves. By doing this first, you won’t forget later.
  2. Apply detangler to the mane and tail.
  3. Use the shedding blade on the horse’s body to lift up dirt.
  4. Use your medium or stiff brush, always brushing in the direction of the hair.
  5. Spray coat conditioner on your grooming mitt or towel and wipe your horse, reapplying the spray regularly, and going all the way down the legs. By spraying the mitt or towel instead of applying directly to the horse you’ll avoid wet, blotchy areas. Remember to skip the saddle area if you’re using a “slippery” coat polish.
  6. Brush out the mane and tail. (By now the detangler will have penetrated any snarls.)
  7. Use a baby wipe to lay down any flyaway mane hairs and the top of the tail.
  8. Wipe the face, muzzle and ears if needed with baby wipes.

That’s it! Your horse should be very presentable, if not sparkling, and you’re ready to tack up and enjoy some time in the saddle.

Molly O’Brien owns two Morgan mares and competes at Morgan shows in the New England area.


This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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