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Grooming your horse or pony is not only a satisfying and worthwhile thing to do, it is also essential in order to keep him clean, massage his skin and tone up his muscles. Grooming also helps to establish the bond between you and encourages your horse to be affectionate, whilst simultaneously allowing you to spot any potential medical problems. The main component of the grooming routine (apart from you and your pony of course) is a fully equipped grooming kit. The main items are: a dandy brush to remove mud and dried sweat; a body brush which is soft and short bristled and is used for the head, body, legs, mane and tail; a rubber curry comb to remove thick mud or matted hair; a metal curry comb to clean the body brush; a water brush which can be dampened and used on the mane, tail and hooves; a stable rubber to polish the coat; a hoof pick, and several sponges for cleaning the eyes, nose muzzle and dock. Whatever items become fashionable, or are redesigned in some way, these essential tools will always form the core of your grooming kit and have stood the test of time. All equipment should be kept in tip top condition and housed in a suitable container. It is also essential that you have separate kits for each horse that you own to avoid the risk of infection should one of your horses become ill. There are several stages of grooming and you will be required to undergo all of them at some time or other. ‘Quartering’ is normally carried out in the morning before you ride. After collecting your horse from his field, or visiting him in his stable, tie him up in a suitable place and pick out his feet. The next task is to dampen a sponge and clean his eyes, muzzle and dock. If he has been rugged for the night undo and take off his rug. If it is very cold weather then you can just fold back the rug whilst you use the body brush on his head, neck, chest and forelegs, folding it the other way to gain access to his rear end. If there are any stable stains on his coat remove them with a water brush and, to complete his quartering, brush his mane and tail with the body brush. Once your horse has been exercised he will require a thorough grooming which is called ‘Strapping’ and you should always allow your horse to cool down completely before undertaking this. Tie him up then pick out his feet. Using a dandy brush remove any dirt, mud or sweat paying particular attention to any girth or saddle marks and of course his legs. Working from ears to tail, near side then off side, brush lightly all over. Pick up the body brush and use it firmly starting with the mane which should be pushed to the wrong side to allow cleaning of the roots. Next brush the forelock then start on the body using a circular motion and brushing in the same direction that the hairs lie. If you flick the brush outwards at the end of each stroke this will push any dust away from your horse. As you are brushing use the metal curry comb to clean the brush every few strokes; if you hold the metal curry comb in one hand and the body brush in the other you will find that it is quite easy to do this. Remember to regularly tap the metal curry comb on the floor to empty the trapped dirt and dust as you go along. Brush your horse’s head next using the brush firmly but gently and finally brush the tail, a few hairs at a time, making sure that any tangles are removed. The next step is to ‘Wisp’ for which you simply use a small bundle of hay that has been dampened and twisted into something resembling a rope. Using the wisp helps to tone up the horse’s muscles and aid circulation. Slide the wisp of hay along the coat, not against it, and be careful around bony areas. Once wisping has been completed dampen a sponge and wipe around the eyes, lips, muzzle and nostrils before moving on to wipe around the dock and under the tail with a separate sponge. Now it is time to pay attention to the mane with a water brush before using the same brush to clean the outside of the feet. Once the hooves are dry apply hoof oil and finally, use a dampened stable rubber all over the horse’s coat for a final polish. At first strapping will take quite a long time but with practise you should eventually be able to complete the whole process in about thirty to forty five minutes. It may seem a long time but it is time well spent as your horse will be glowing and you will feel a much closer bond with him. Finally, at the end of the day when your horse is being turned out or stabled for the night, a quick grooming procedure called ‘Setting Fair’ is carried out. Simply brush your pony with the body brush, wisp and put his night rug on if he wears one. Should you be getting your horse ready for a show there will be lots of extra things you will have to do, not least bathing him. There may also be a requirement for clipping your horse at some time and, whilst these are both less regular procedures, you must make sure that when the time comes you do them both correctly. Regular and consistent grooming has many benefits and should never be neglected. Whilst you are grooming, or indeed at any time, you can run your hands over your horse’s body to become familiar with it. By doing this you will get to physically know your horse very well indeed and you will be instantly alerted to any problems such as injury, bites, scratches, bruises or inflammation. Have fun!
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