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A Guide to Grooming Supplies

The wide array of horse grooming tools and horse grooming supplies available to equestrians today is exciting. Traditional brushes and curries used by horsemen throughout the years are supplemented by innovative products that can enhance the grooming process.

If you're just getting started in building a grooming kit- perhaps you've just leased your first horse- the many choices of grooming supplies can be overwhelming. Or maybe you're a parent hoping to surprise your youngster with their own grooming kit to take to their weekly lessons, but you're uncertain about which types of curries and brushes are best for them to learn on. This article is for you. It explains how various tools are used and breaks down the process of building:

  • An essential grooming kit for every equestrian
  • A deluxe grooming kit for salon-style horse care
  • A kit for kids packed with colorful and fun-to-use tools

For a guide to building a bathing kit, refer to Tips for Bathing Your Horse.

Essential Grooming Supplies for Every Equestrian
Every grooming kit should have, at a minimum, a curry comb, stiff brush, soft brush and a hoof pick. Here is an overview of the basic tools required to groom a horse.

Rubber Curry Comb - An economical, long-lasting and essential tool for every grooming box, the rubber curry comb is available in large and small sizes to accommodate large and small hands. Its short rubber teeth softly stimulate circulation in the horse's muscles and skin while loosening debris and shedding hair as the first tool used during the grooming process. If you can only have one curry comb in your kit, this curry is the one to choose.

Sarvis Curry Comb - Another budget-friendly and versatile item for most grooming boxes, this tough plastic curry has long teeth that stand up to long winter coats and is effective on dried mud and manure stains. Some people use this type of curry for the dual purpose of combing manes and tails; others find it useful at bath time as it lathers soapy water on the horse's coat.

Stiff or Hard (Dandy) Brush - Most grooming kits should contain a very stiff bristled brush. This type of brush is generally used just after currying to whisk away the heaviest layer of loosened dirt and hair, and is handy for removing dried mud from a horse's legs. It may also prove useful for brushing mud off hoof walls. The bristles may be made of synthetic fibers or coarse natural animal hair, and the back may be made of either plastic or wood. Extremely sensitive or thin-skinned horses may not tolerate the coarseness of the stiffest of brushes, so check for degrees of coarseness from very stiff to medium stiff to suit your particular horse. Dandy brushes are rectangular in shape with grooves or contours on the sides of the handle for comfort in the hand.

Medium Stiff/Medium Soft Brush - A medium brush is a must-have item for virtually everyone, especially those people with a sensitive horse that cannot tolerate the coarseness of very stiff bristles. Different manufacturers refer to medium brushes as either medium stiff or medium soft, but a medium brush can prove useful when your horse does not require the heavy duty action of a very stiff brush. Medium brushes can be found in both synthetic and natural styles.

Soft Brush or Soft Body Brush (sometimes called a Finishing Brush) - This type of brush is another essential tool for every groomer, and is used last in the grooming session. Its soft, fine bristles are positioned very closely together to remove the finest dust particles from the horse's coat and to smooth out the hair, which enhances natural sheen. You can find soft bristle brushes with synthetic, natural or a blend of both bristles, and with both plastic and wooden handles. Body brushes are oval in shape and usually have a leather strap placed over the handle, while dandy brushes are rectangular in shape.

Hoof Pick - The most necessary tool in the grooming kit is the hoof pick. You can find them in all sorts of styles: those with brushes for flicking away dried dirt and bedding, those with fun shapes and colors, and those that are ergonomically designed for comfort in the hand. There are magnetic hoof picks that stick to any handy metal surface to prevent misplacement, and those that fold away into a pocket. No grooming box would be complete without a hoof pick to remove manure, mud, stones and debris from the horse's hooves.

Pulling comb - Though some breed-specific guidelines allow for long manes, many horses used in sport disciplines such as hunter, jumper, dressage and combined driving have thinned and shortened manes. Shortened and managed manes make braiding possible for formal events. The simplest tool to pull manes is the pulling comb. You'll find small pulling combs that easily slip into a pocket, and those with either metal or wooden handles that are especially easy to hold.

Shedding Blade - This tool has tiny metal teeth that target loose hair and caked-on mud. Many groomers favor its use during shedding season when lots of hair has to be removed from the horse. Because of the slightly abrasive nature of the teeth, a shedding blade should be used with care and only on the fleshiest parts of the horse so as not to abrade the boney areas such as prominent hips, the horse's face and the legs. The shedding blade can also serve a dual purpose at bath time, as you can use the smooth side to remove sweat and water from your horse in place of a sweat scraper.

Grooming Box/Tote - You'll find all sorts of ways to store your grooming tools conveniently, from fabric tote bags to boxes with lids, buckets and totes. Two of the most popular and traditional methods are the plastic grooming box or tote and the fabric grooming tote.

Complete your essential grooming kit with a couple of household items. Add a soft towel or rag that you can keep washed and clean. You'll use it for wiping your horse's eyes or nostrils, and for wiping his lips if they're foamy after riding. A separate rag can be handy for wiping sweat or debris from your horse's sensitive parts such as the rectum, sheath or teats. Also add a pair of scissors, which can come in handy for many purposes such as trimming your sport horse's tail or bridle path.

Consult your farrier to find out whether your horse should have some hoof dressing or ointment, and if so, your grooming kit is the perfect place to store it. In summertime, be sure to add a bottle of insect spray too.

Helpful Tip: Removing Bot Fly Eggs
If you see tiny yellow spots stuck on your horse's coat, you're looking at bot fly eggs and you'll need a tool to remove them too. The bot fly typically lays her eggs in clusters on a horse's legs, flanks, chin, shoulders or mane, but they can be laid anywhere on the horse's body and can be somewhat spread out. Her goal is for the horse to scratch himself, or a pasture buddy, with his teeth and ingest the eggs so that larvae can mature inside the horse (where it can cause health and digestive problems in its host). To prevent your horse from ingesting the eggs, remove them promptly using a bot egg knife or a Slick N Easy Grooming Tool.

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