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Horse Writing Tips: Grooming

May 21, 2015
These are two different types of curry combs. The green one is for everyday use, and the rider rubs it in circles against the horse's fur in a massaging motion. The spiky one is specialized to get more fur out, and the rider lightly drags it in the direction of the fur.

These are two different types of curry combs. The green one is for everyday use, and the rider rubs it in circles against the horse’s fur in a massaging motion. The spiky one is specialized to get more fur out, and the rider lightly drags it in the direction of the fur.

Hello! Welcome to another tip for writing horses, or in this case, the care and keeping of them. Before riding, before even putting all the horse’s tack on, every rider grooms their horse (or they hire a groom to groom the horse for them, so they can jump on like in the movies). Grooming gets rid of your average mess of dust, but it’s also important for the horse’s safety during riding. And it feels good! Like with grooming people, grooming horses involves brushes, sprays, washcloths, and goops. I’ll give you an introduction to each common tool.

First thing after hitching the horse to a post (or what have you), riders use a curry comb. Curry combs stir up the dirt stuck in the horse’s fur. Like other outside dogs, cats, and deer, horses grow extra fur during the cold months and shed during the warm ones. When they’re shedding, riders use curry combs extra to dislodge more fur and speed up the process. Also, sidenote: if a rider is grooming a horse before a performance, they often skip using a curry comb because they want the horse to look at clean as possible. No need to make that any more difficult.

After the curry, the rider uses a hard brush, aka a brush with stiff of “hard” bristles to sweep up all that riled up grit. Like the curry comb, riders do not use the hard brush on the horse’s legs or face. Those places are too delicate, and, to accommodate this delicacy, riders use the soft brush.

The hard brush. These things last forever. I've had this one since I bought Penny, over ten years ago

A hard brush. These things last forever. I’ve had this one since I bought Penny, over ten years ago

Next, riders use this tool called a hoof pick to pick all the dirt, stones, poop etc. that’s stuck on the underside of the horse’s hoof. See, human feet aren’t like horse hooves. Human feet stay flat on the ground, while a horse’s hooves are a bit curved. That’s why junk gets stuck up in them, which is understandably painful, especially if it’s a stone. Hoof picking is the most important step in the grooming process, because it removes any potential stones. Even a tiny pebble can cause a horse to go lame.

After a hoof pick, a rider can paint a horse’s hooves with hoof dressing. Hoof dressing acts like a moisturizer and helps keep the hoof from cracking during dry weather. If a rider’s going out in mud and wet weather, they would not put on hoof dressing. If a hoof becomes too moist, fungus and rot and overall bad stuff can go on.

The last(ish) step is to spritz fly spray on the horse. Riders also spray the stuff on cloths and run the cloth around the horse’s face, inside the ears, neck, barrel, butt, and legs. Fly spray does what you think: it keeps flies away. There are lots of different brands, from eco-friendly marigold mixes to outright poison that kills flies within one second of contact. Flies are a serious problem in the horseback riding community, since flies thrive on dirt, animal warmth, and poop, and it would take a whole ‘nother blog post to explain different ways of dealing with the buggers. Needless to say, I hate flies.

The soft brush. These definitely don't last as long as the hard brushes.

A soft brush. These definitely don’t last as long as the hard brushes.

After the fly spray, a rider is ready to put on a saddle and generally tack up. They can also brush out the horse’s mane and tail (and there’s a plethora of detanglers, hair moisturizers, and other products to help with that). That requires a regular old hair brush, but usually riders buy one specially designed for horses since the hairbrush must be extra sturdy to survive the procedure.

Huzzah! Grooming is a simple horse activity that can loudly show your characters’ states of mind: do they brush briskly, harshly, or lazily? Are they methodically picking out the hoof, or are they attacking it? Do they let others groom with them, or is it a solitary activity? It all depends on disposition and temperament.

Happy writing and see you in June! I hope you enjoy the pictures in this post. There are a lot of them and they’re fun to take!

A hoof pick. These come in a variety of different styles and colors, but I like this one best. It's really sturdy.

A hoof pick. These come in a variety of different styles and colors, but I like this one best. It’s really sturdy.

Hoof Dressing. This is Rain Maker brand

Hoof Dressing. This is Rain Maker brand

A horse hair brush. These also tend to break a lot and need replacing, despite the extra sturdy-ness of the design.

A horse hair brush. These also tend to break a lot and need replacing, despite the extra sturdy-ness of the design.

An aerial view of my tack box! A tack boxes are popular places to store various grooming supplies

Bonus: an aerial view of my tack box! A tack boxes are popular places to store various grooming supplies

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