Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wofford's On Grooming


Buy a small grooming kit, and keep it well stocked and clean. At a bare minimum, your kit should contain a curry comb or a curry mitt, body brush with soft bristles, dandy brush with stiff bristles, mane comb, hoof pick, hoof dressing, fly spray for summertime, antiseptic salve for minor wounds, and a clean rub rag. 

Stand your horse in cross-ties in a clean, level, well-lit place. Pick out his feet, sweep the dirt off to the side, and dispose of it. Start the grooming process on his near side with the curry comb in your left hand and the dandy brush in your right. Place the curry comb behind your horse's ear, and use circular strokes to dislodge dirt, dander, and dead hair. When you use the curry comb, press your weight into it. You are trying to reach your horse's pores and dislodge any dirt that might be in there. Every ten circles draw the dandy brush across the curry comb to strip out any dirt that the curry comb has picked up. Continue this action along your horse's body until you have reached the left hind leg. Switch sides, chance the curry comb and dandy brush into opposite hands, and work your way down your horse's off-side. By the time you have finished this part of the process, you will be a little arm weary.

Take a deep breath, move back to the near side, put the body brush in your left hand and the dandy brush in your right, and start drawing the body brush down his neck, starting behind the left ear. Again clean the body brush with the dandy brush every ten strokes. While you used a circular motion with the curry comb, you should only work with the grain of the hair when using the body brush.

Put your shoulder into the grooming stroke with the body brush. You should feel as if you are mildly thumping your horse when you start the stroke with the body brush. The intensity of the stroke should vary according to the location on your horse's body. You can press harder on his neck and hips than you can over his loins. This causes blood to rise to your horse's shin and improves his circulatory system. It also produces healthy skin oils.

Use the body brush all the way down to the coronet band on all four legs, and then take another deep breath. You will need it, as by this time your arms will feel as if you have been working out with Muhammad Ali. Your horse is not the only one who will benefit from daily grooming; your upper body strength will improve markedly after a month of daily exercise like this. Stand in front of your horse, and carefully use the curry comb on your horse's head. Repeat the process with the body brush, remembering to clean the body brush with the dandy brush on a regular basis.

Move to your horse's hind end, stand to one side, and gently comb out his tail with the mane comb. Any tangles should be picked out by hand. If you are pulling out tail hairs, you are going to fast and using too much force. A well-groomed horse has a full, clean, healthy tail that you can put your fingers into at the top and pull straight down without meeting any resistance or tangle. This will take some time with most horses, so work on this gradually.

During this process, you should have become aware of any minor cuts or scrapes and applied some antiseptic salve to the affected areas. Finish the job for the day with a coating of hoof dressing, and wipe your horse down with a clean rub rag before returning him to his stall. Remember to sweep the grooming area. A good horse-woman or horseman always leaves things cleaner and neater than he or she found them.

Shampoo gets dirt out of your horse's coat, but it is not 'grooming.' Grooming is the application of your very own elbow grease, applied liberally every day. A good horseman can instantly tell the difference between horses that are clean and horses that are well-groomed. A horse that is being groomed daily will have a bloom on his coat that no amount of shampoo, additives, or cream rinse will supply. By a bloom, I mean a bronze tint that your horse's coat will show in direct sunlight. It is easier to see a bloom on bays and browns, but palominos and greys get a bloom as well.

If you are diligent in this process, I guarantee that in thirty days you will have a new horse on your hands. Your horse will be healthier and you will be fitter, and those are both good things.

-James Wofford

I have a few notes to add to this. 1) Grooming like this breaks up fascial adhesions and acts as a minor massage every day for your horse - increased circulation reduces injuries, accelerates healing, and allows for maximal suppleness. 2) Grooming in this manner allows you to intimately know your horse. Were you doing a lot of collected work and now his hindquarters are sore? Not only will a good massage make him feel better, but it will allow you to know that today we shouldn't be jumping the big stuff, nor should we slowly amble up steep hills! There's a reason that grooms are so well trusted at shows - it's because they know the horses. You can know your horse too, and this is a great way to do it. 3) I do a thorough rub down with the cloth, which Wofford glosses over. I like feeling the shape of the muscles under my fingers, it allows me to hunt out pressure points or stiffnesses, and allows me to feel heat or hypertrophy.
On the note of hypertrophy? Hypertrophy is when, due to increased strain on the muscle, the fibers grow stronger. Hypertrophy is what a body builder undergoes to have such eye-poppingly large muscles. It's a good thing in our horses, but it also limits flexibility and traps heat in the horses body. This is yet another reason why thorough grooming is so important - if the fascial adhesions never form, the muscle is primed for full suppleness and full range of motion. This allows for heat dissipation and therefore keeps your horse running with energy for longer.  


  1. i have a feeling that this was for me and camou because he is SUPER dusty

    1. Nah I just thought it was a pretty succinct way to describe grooming for asthetics AND for health

  2. great post and reminder to be diligent during grooming. it's especially too easy with the shaggy winter coats to say 'eh whatever' and just vacuum them off and call it a day...

    1. No kidding! I love the look of a well-groomed winter coat but I get pretty lazy!