Grooming for top professionals on the West Coast has been a series of incredible opportunities. Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way!
Avoid the soft periople...
If you haven’t heard of it before, the periople is an anatomical part of the hoof that includes the bulbs of the heels and the top ½” - 1” of the hoof. It is soft, rubbery, and serves to regulate how much moisture is needed while protecting the sensitive margin between flesh and hoof. The periople then turns into a hard shiny layer that controls the amount of evaporation from the rest of the hoof wall. When the horses are trimmed or shod, our farriers often buff away this shiny layer. As a result the hoof can no longer retain necessary moisture on its own. We apply a thin layer of hoof oil or conditioner to this area to prevent the loss of natural moisture from the hoof. This “rubbery” band of growing hoof is supposed to breathe and we only oil the area right before the horses walk into the show ring for aesthetic purposes.
Have an overabundance of rags...
You can never have enough rags. I recommend having a system of sorts to keep organized. You need different types for different tasks. Wiping eyes and noses, buffing coats, cleaning tack, and drying legs are among many other miscellaneous dirty chores. You don’t want to be dusting off freshly polished boots and then wiping goopy eyes. We use different types of white towels for each job, mostly because I personally can’t handle a rainbow of rags all over the barn. Keep an assortment in your regular work areas and in the trailer, horse show kit, and ringside bag. Get caught without a rag and you’ll be using your shirt!
Use shine spray before you curry...
Our favorite coat spray is Cowboy Magic Super Bodyshine. Most people go through their whole grooming process and then finish with a nice coat spray. While this adds a little sheen at the end, the best way to really make your horse sparkle is to start with coat spray. Knock off bulk dirt with a stiff brush and then spritz the whole body and legs with Super Bodyshine (or whatever your favorite is!). Take a rubber curry and go over every inch of the horse. Take your time and pay attention to your horse’s reactions. Not only are you bringing out that shine, but this is crucial to see where your horse might be sore or sensitive. Put a final spritz of coat spray directly on your curry before gently going over their face. Follow with a stiff brush, soft brush, and buffing rag. I’m confident you’ll see a healthier and shinier coat both immediately and long term!
Hot cloth after body clipping instead of bathing...
For many years I bathed my horses immediately after body clipping. I thought it worked just fine to remove hair and clipper oil. And that’s just it… it works fine. What works great is hot clothing. Use a stiff brush to dust off the majority of hair that is on your horse. Start by adding an ounce or two of Splosh Wash in a bucket of hot water. You want the water to be as hot as possible, but comfortable enough to put your own hands in. Soak a textured towel in the mixture and ring it out as much as you can. Begin buffing your horse’s coat with similar motion and pressure to currying. This first rub down removes clipper oil and cleanses the skin. Soak the towel in the hot water each time you feel it starting to cool. Once you’ve gone over the whole horse, empty and rinse the bucket. Then, mix a squirt of Shapley’s No. 2 Heavy Oil with some more hot water. This time use a microfiber towel and go over the horse again with the same currying motion. Hot clothing works so much better because it removes hair and clipper oil while the warm massage soothes the skin and returns shine to the clipped coat.
Sweat scrape as you rinse...
At home we use the adjustable sprayer on “flat” to power wash sweat or soap off of the horse’s body. Start as high up the neck as your horse will allow and work your way across and down. Hold the nozzle a few inches from the horse and go with the direction of the coat at a 45 degree angle. However, more often than not you will come across hoses with the ends cut off at horse shows. Whether you are hosing off sweat after a ride or giving a full bubble bath before tomorrow’s class, start using your sweat scraper while you’re still rinsing. Keep the hose along the topline of the horse to allow the water to run down the body and squeegee until the water sheds off completely clear.