Grooming for Halter and Showmanship


Quarter Horse halterOne of the things that draws us to horses is their beauty. In halter classes, this attribute is center stage. Both grooming and health care play a role in creating an eye-pleasing picture.

  • The single best thing you can do is grooming your horse from head to tail every day with a rubber curry. This promotes coat sheen, improves circulation for a long tail and mane, massages muscles and is a good way to check for sores, cuts and other problems needing attention.
  • Although not required, mane banding is still in fashion because it makes the mane lie still and pulls it down on the neck, giving the illusion of a longer, slender neck.
  • Over-shampooing dulls the coat. For an occasional wash, use your curry first to loosen dirt. Whatever product you use, the secret to success is using lots of water. If you think your horse is wet enough to shampoo, go over him one more time. Soap in a dry spot will cake there. Mix the soap with water rather than applying directly. Too much soap will wash out the natural oils. Rinse, rinse and rinse again, since soap residue is the dulling agent. Go over the coat with a towel in the direction of hair growth to finish up.
  • Clipping is a must—bridle path, ears, nose, under chin, around the fetlock and hoof area.
  • Too long a tail is detrimental, especially if it’s false. If your horse steps on it when backing, he’ll pull it out. Ankle length is a safe bet. If you bag your horse’s tail, take it down and groom it once a week to prevent knotting. Braiding should be done loosely (too tight damages hair) and start below the dock so you don’t interfere with circulation.
  • Check with your vet regarding any nutrients the hay in your area might lack and how to supplement accordingly. The best feed in the world is useless without routine deworming and teeth floating.
  • Use face shine products sparingly. After applying run a towel over it, especially when it’s hot. If you overdo it, the excess product will run and create a mess.
  • Daily exercise will help your horse build muscle, so he’ll look his very best come show day.

Rhonda Quaid is a freelance writer based in California.


  1. Good article, but there’s one thing that I wish they had mentioned, and that is white markings. I have a paint and we have to scrub at least every other week to make it manageable for when we do outings and shows. Blueing shampoo is great and a little bit of whitening spray (from the tack store) can make those seemingly permanent stains disappear!

  2. Victoria of Jacksonville:
    My cousin has a paint stud and he, like so many paints, knows EXACTLY where to roll in the pasture. I mistook him for her dark bay once. No lie. She always used Dawn Dish Detergent (diluted of course) and you would never have known that he rolled! Curry first, soak him, Dawn, rinse rinse rinse, squeegee…good as new! 🙂

  3. Tide with bleach works great for our paints!!! They too love to roll in the dirt and look more solid than not. Tide is great…it doesn’t stain them blue, hurt their skin or anything! Good Luck!

  4. For paints I recommend SuperPoo Shampoo. Smells like granny apples.
    Anyway I have a bay tobiano paint. More often then not he looks like a solid as everyone else. Anyway, I’ve tried all the dishwasher, clothing, and horse products to keep him clean. Sometimes I get him clean, but he smells horrid, or he smells great, but is stained yellow, blue, red, or some other color instead of white.
    Until I found Superpoo Shampoo. His coat is ALWAYS super soft – plush soft. It feels a lot like rabbit fur. And it smells great.
    He stays this way until natural oils or dirt build up. It’s safe to use daily as it promotes good hair growth and does not cause damage.
    Nothing takes the place of normal daily grooming. I may not have the perfect confirmation horse, but he is one of the better looking ones.

  5. Dawn is not a good choice for bathing horses, it strips all the natural oils out of the coat and can make it dull and brittle. Whitening shampoo is a much better idea. My favorite is shimmer lights, you can find it at th beauty supply store. Be that you don’t leave it for more than 15 minutes or you will end up with purple markings instead of white. Also, using a coat spray like show sheen or laser sheen on the white markings after they are clean will help prevent more stains by repelling any new dirt. And for brightening white markings before you show, corn starch. It’s cheaper and easier on everyones lungs than chalk or baby powder. Just put it in a tbe sock, tie off the top and you’re ready to go. You can pat or rub with it and work the corn starch into the coat. Don’t forget to brush out the excess. Shaving white leg markings helps make them appear whiter also. Of course as the owner and trainer of several fairly wildly marked APHA horses, It’s sometimes hard to know where to stop shaving. I recommend the Western Horseman booklet on grooming by John and Cindy Weaver. They show Quarter and Paint horses and have some exceptional tips.


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