Grooming your horse over winter can be a lot tougher than any other season. Not only do we have sticky wet mud everywhere, if your horse is clipped out the temperature can often be too cold to pull all the rugs off at once to give the horse a good groom. So how do we keep our horses clean and happy over the next few months?
Quartering is where you groom the horse in four sections (hence the name.) This is done by splitting the horse in half, head and shoulders and then quarters. This done on both sides splits the horse into four sections. Grooming a quarter at a time means that the horse can be covered up with his rugs during the groom which will prevent him getting too cold. This is particularly important on horses that have been clipped as when the temperature is low the horse can get cold very quickly. Cold horses will prance around and become uncomfortable which can become dangerous. Remember to always think safety first and ensure that the buckles on the rugs are always unfastened in case the horse moves and the rugs slide back. Having the buckles untied will ensure that the rug will not get wrapped around the horses legs causing them to panic if the rug does slip.
If a horse is clipped then the skin is a lot more sensitive and although it is tempting to use harsh dandy brushes to remove unwanted dirt this can cause pain and discomfort to your horse. Always consider the brushes you are using on a clipped horse. Soft flicker brushes or body brushes work best it’s best to avoid anything too harsh. Watch your horse’s reaction when grooming if the horse becomes unsettled or flinches then the brush you are using may be too harsh.
The dreaded mud can often cause cracked or sore heels on a horse. Prevention can be using lotions or creams specifically designed as a barrier against the wet and mud. There are loads of products on the market that are designed to act as a barrier to mud and moisture for your horse. Ask other people who use these products for their recommendations if you are unsure which to choose. Vaseline works as a good as a barrier against the mud and wet. Cover each of your horses heals and any pink skin with plenty of this before they go out into the field. When you bring your horse in rinse off any wet mud and rub the legs and heels with a towel to dry them. If there are any sore spots use a healing cream and reduce turnout in wet areas where possible.
Our horse’s feet are the part that spends the most time in the mud in fact its unavoidable if you are turning your horse out. Hose any mud off the feet when they come in from the field and apply hoof grease again like barrier creams there are plenty on the market to choose from however avoid hoof oils unless it’s for the show ring. Make sure your horses feet are picked out well to remove mud and any stones that can get stuck.Over winter it is vital that your horse has regular visits from a blacksmith to ensure that shoes are kept tight and the hooves are kept in the best condition. If your horse has particularly bad feet then they will be able to suggest products and tips to help improve the quality of your horse’s feet. Poor feet can lead to lameness and make things very uncomfortable for a horse. Excessive wet weather can make a horses feet deteriorate and therefore they need more attention over winter. If you become worried about your horses feet then a blacksmith can advise you on the best course of action to prevent any further damage.
Bathing your horse in winter is difficult. If you must then warm water is really the only option and making sure your horse is kept warm as it dries is a must. Alternatives to bathing include hot oil clothing which is using a flannel or small towel dipped in hot water with a small amount of baby oil. Rubbing the wringed out towel over the horse’s body can help lift the dust and brighten the horses coat without soaking it through. It’s important to make sure the towel is damp but not dripping wet and that it is warm but not too hot as you don’t want to scold the horse.
Horses love rolling in the mud and particularly if they are suddenly being stabled after the lengthy summer. When they get out in the field it gives them a chance to stretch their legs and gives them space to roll freely. That often means a lot of grooming and mud to remove. Using a coat shine product prevents the mud from sticking too much. Sadly unless you wrap your horse from head to toe nothing will prevent the mud completely but anything that helps is worth a try. Using a turnout rug with a full neck can not only keep your horses neck warm whilst turned out it can also protect it from the mud and wet.
If you are trying to ride in the evening you haven’t got much light spending the most of it grooming isn’t ideal. Giving your horse a quick groom by removing dirt and mud that will go under any tack and grooming your horse fully after riding can give you maximum daylight to ride in.
There are many different supplements on the market that can help keep the coat and feet in good condition. Using supplements to improve coat and feet condition will not keep your horse clean but they can make grooming easier. Although grooming a horse over winter has its challenges if you keep the horse warm and look after the feet and coat then your job grooming should be much easier.