Grooming do’s and don’ts!! (and a few NEVERS)

Grooming is the first and most basic of the tasks a new horse lover needs to learn.  Although it seems pretty straight-forward, brush the dirt off, pick the hooves out, comb the hair… there are some do’s, don’ts (and a few NEVERS) to be mindful of.


  • When you curry your horse, use firm circular strokes over his body (though not on his face or his legs).  Start at the top of his neck and work back to his hindquarters; then switch sides, and do the same thing.
  • When you brush your horse, work in the direction of his hair growth. Use a stiff brush to flick dirt and dust off his body; a softer brush to smooth the hair back down.
  • Watch your position relative to your horse. If he spooks, he could jump on you, knock you down, or accidentally step on you – and it could happen at the speed of light.  Also be careful that you don’t have your head too close to his. The first time he swings his head around and knocks you out, you’ll remember this article!
  • Rest a hand on your horse as you work with him.  Not only will it help to keep him calm, it will give you an instant update if he shifts his position or starts to move abruptly.
  • When you need to move to the other side of your cross-tied horse, go around behind him.  There are two good ways to move around behind him: either well out of reach, in case he kicks or backs up, or close against his hindquarters, with a hand on him at all times, talking to him so he knows you’re there.


  • Don’t use anything but the softest brush (or a towel) on your horse’s face, and be very careful around his eyes. Your hands can sometimes be the best tool of all, since you can gently remove dried mud and dirt with your fingers in places where anything else would be risky or painful.
  • Don’t try to brush straight through a matted tail or mane, you’ll rip out some of his precious hair!  Instead, use a conditioner like Show Sheen or my personal favorite, Vetrolin Detangler first, work the mats out with your fingers, then slowly comb through the hair.
  • Don’t sit or kneel around your horse’s feet. You need to be mobile when you’re working around your horse so that you can react quickly and get out of the way if necessary. You could easily be stepped on or kicked if your horse is alarmed or becomes aggressive and you’re camped out underneath him.


  • NEVER!!! wear flip-flops, sandals or go barefoot!  Toes get stepped on sometimes, but you’ll at least minimize the damage by wearing good paddock shoes or boots.
  • NEVER!!! approach your horse in a straight line from the front or the back – always come at an angle so he can see you and doesn’t become alarmed.  Speak to him, and make sure he knows you’re approaching. He could be asleep, even though he doesn’t appear to be, and your arrival could scare him silly.
  • NEVER!!! duck underneath the rope you have your horse tied with in front, under his head.  Though tempting and a relatively bad habit many horse people engage in, it only takes a split second for your horse to spook, run over you, and/or for you to get tangled up in the rope.  Just don’t tempt fate :)

*Courtesy of

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