How to Groom a Horse as a Beginning Rider

When you are just learning to ride, it is essential to learn the responsibilities of caring for a horse before all else. This can seem like a difficult, and potentially enormous task, but it is a necessary part of horse care that must be learned and respected early on. Grooming the horse is important to prevent a variety of skin problems, hoof problems, and to check for any cuts, injuries, sores or swelling. Once you get into the habit of grooming before and after every ride, it will become second nature to you. It's not really all that difficult, as you'll soon realize; all you need are some guidelines.


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    Find or assemble a grooming kit. In many stables, each horse has a grooming kit of its own, or in others, brushes are placed in a central location and shared. Find out how your stable stores its grooming gear, and either take the grooming kit, or get what you'll need -- at least one currycomb, dandy brush, soft brush, face brush/cloth, hoof pick, and comb.
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    Begin by using the currycomb. These come in many different styles, but are essentially a sturdy rubber or plastic brush with little points sticking out. The purpose of the currycomb is to loosen the dirt and dust in the horse's coat. To use it, brush the horse's coat in circular motions.
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    Use the brushes to remove the grime that you worked out of the coat with the currycomb. Do this by brushing in the same direction, to smooth out the horse's coat as well. Start with the dandy brush, which has stiffer bristles, and then clean up with a softer brush. You can also use the soft brush on the horse's legs, if your instructor gives you permission.
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    Using a very gentle brush or face cloth, carefully brush around your horse's face, being certain not to irritate his eyes or nose.
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    Pick out your horse's feet. Remove the dirt, manure, and other debris that may be stuck in there. This is done with a tool called a hoof pick, that can come in many different styles, but usually has a pointy end for removing stuff and often a brush as well. To pick up your horse's foot for picking, run your hand down his leg, squeeze the lower part slightly, lean on his shoulder, and pull up. Your instructor will help, if necessary. Then, hold the hoof comfortably and begin cleaning it.

    Hoof picking is one of the only parts of grooming that really involves anything besides common sense. When You pick up the horse's foot, you'll see that's oval-shaped, with a "V" in the middle. The "V" is called the frog, and it is very sensitive. Do not touch it with the hoof pick, but clean in the crevice around it. Carefully dislodge any stones, if you find them, and get all the dirt out.
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    Stand at your horse's head and gently comb out his mane and forelock (the little bit of mane that goes between his ears). Use conditioner, if you're having trouble and your instructor suggests it.
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    Standing at the side of the horse and facing his tail, gently pull his tail over towards you and comb it out, as well. You must always do this from the side, so that you'll be less of a target if he kicks.
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    Put away your grooming kit, clean and sweep up your grooming area tack up, mount up, and get started with your lesson.


  • Traditionally, horses are handled from the left side. Obviously, it would be very difficult to clean a horse's right foot from the left side, and trying is not recommended, but things that are only done from one side, such as combing the tail, tacking and mounting should only be done from the left side. Combing the mane should be done from the right side, as the mane should lay to the right side, away from the side you would tack or mount.
  • It's okay to be a bit intimidated. If your horse does something that makes you nervous, ask your instructor about it. If you really don't feel comfortable doing something, such as picking the horse's hooves, let them know and they'll help you.
  • Ask your instructor about your horse's quirks. They shouldn't let you ride a horse with a major kicking or biting problem if you're a beginner, but knowing about little things that they might have forgotten to tell you, such as your horse's habit to toss his head after he gets his face brushed would be good to know. You'll also be better prepared and sound like you know what you're doing.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions about anything. That's what you're there for -- to learn.
  • Always stand to the side of the horse, even when brushing his tail. Standing right behind a horse's legs is a great way to get kicked.


  • Watch the horse's body language -- if he's snorting excessively, stomping his back foot, or laying his ears back against his head, he's mad. Get away from him and let your instructor know so that he or she can calm him down.
  • Horses and ponies are large animals that must be handled safely at all times. A beginner rider should be supervised by a professional or someone with horse experience at all times while learning how to handle a horse or pony.

Things You'll Need

  • Grooming kit, including:
    • Currycomb
    • Hard brush or dandy brush
    • Soft brush
    • Face brush/cloth
    • Hoof pick
    • Mane/tail comb
    • Tail conditioning spray
    • Alcohol for sweat marks
    • Hoof Polish
    • Fly Spray, if necessary

Article Info

Categories: Horse Grooming