How to Groom a Horse

Two Methods:Grooming Your HorseStaying Safe While Grooming

Grooming is very beneficial for horses, not only because it cleans their coat and it adds beauty to their appearance, but also because can promote healthy emotional bonding and trust between the horse and the person. Grooming a horse encourages healthy blood circulation and helps to release natural oils into the coat that help protect him from natural elements such as wind and rain. Grooming stable horses should be done on a regular basis to keep a horse's coat and skin healthy. However, horses that live more naturally, as in a large pasture, groom themselves by rubbing on trees or fences and rolling. Believe it or not, dirt and mud are part of your horse's natural grooming regimen! Grooming also gives you the chance to check over your horse's body to make sure that your horse is healthy and has no external wounds, particularly on parts of the body that will be touched by tack.

Method 1
Grooming Your Horse

  1. Image titled Groom a Horse Step 1
    Secure your horse. Although some horses are trained well enough to stand still while grooming, many will feel the natural need to move their feet and shift around. Keep your horse in place by tying the lead rope above the height of his withers. Use a quick-release knot, securing him to a post, or have a friend or colleague hold the rope.
    • If you're tying your horse to a ring or post, always use a quick-release knot. A horse that spooks while he is tied often tries to escape by pulling back against the rope with all of his force. This is dangerous for both you and the horse. He may break his neck and you may be seriously injured.
    • You may wish to keep a Marlinspike in your grooming kit, which is a tool that can loosen too-tight knots or cut a rope in an emergency.[1]
  2. Image titled Groom a Horse Step 2
    Pick your horse's hooves. To pick up her foot, run your hand down her leg and gently squeeze her tendon. If she doesn't lift her foot, lean against her shoulder and lift it off the ground. Using a hoof pick, start at the heel of the foot and pick forward to the toe, carefully removing all rocks, dirt and debris. Make sure to clean the grooves on either side of the frog, the V-shaped part of the hoof. Do not dig deeply into the grooves. If the frog is unhealthy, that is, it is very black, squishy, soft and foul-smelling, be very careful with the hoof pick and have your farrier or veterinarian advise you.[2]
    • By picking out your horse's feet, you can help prevent lameness by removing stones or foreign objects like a nail or screw that could pierce the frog or cause bruising. Picking the hooves out before riding is essential, especially if your horse is wearing shoes.
    • A shod foot does not clean itself when a horse moves, so cleaning can make walking much more comfortable for your horse.
    • Picking your horse's feet can also help remove and prevent thrush, a sticky black fungus that develops around the frog.
    • The best times to pick your horse's feet are before and after a ride.
  3. Image titled Groom a Horse Step 3
    Use a curry comb to remove loose hair from the horse. Rubber curry combs are made to loosen up dirt, mud, and bits of things caught in your horse's coat. Currying should always be performed before brushing for the best results. Use the curry in vigorous, small circular motions over the horse's muscles, and be extremely careful on bony areas like the face, spine, and legs.
    • On one side of the horse, work your way from the neck, to the barrel, and all the way to the rump. Then, repeat on the other side of the horse.
    • The curry comb should be rubbed in a circular motion in the direction opposite of the hair growth. This will pull up loose hairs and dirt that otherwise would just be brushed over.
    • If you find “itchy spots” on your horse, he may make a funny face, pushing his nose away from his lips, or he may even try to groom you. Be careful; if he wiggles his nose on you, he may also try to nip you just the same way horses groom each other. A horse doesn’t understand that grooming you could hurt you, but your skin is much thinner than a horse's. If he tries to groom you, just push his nose away and know you found an “itchy spot” and he really enjoyed that good scratch.
  4. Image titled Groom a Horse Step 4
    Use a dandy brush (also called the hard brush). A dandy brush is a hard-bristled brush used to take off the dirt and hair brought out by the curry comb. Brush in short, straight, flicking motions to allow the bristles to get all the way through the coat and whisk the dirt out. Start at the neck and work towards the tail. It's not recommended to use a hard brush on the horse's legs, as they are much more sensitive than the body. The legs are bony and narrow and it is uncomfortable for the horse if brushed too hard with the dandy brush.[3]
    • Do not use on the face, ears, mane, tail, legs, or any clipped area, as this can cause the horse to be in immediate discomfort.
    • If necessary, use a soft cloth or sponge on any sensitive parts of the horse where the dandy seems to bother or irritate her.
  5. Image titled Groom a Horse Step 5
    Clean up with a soft brush (also known as the body brush). The soft brush, as its name suggests, can be used on all areas of the horse as a result of its texture. You should still be careful and gentle around the face and around the eyes, ears, and muzzle. The soft brush removes any remaining surface dust and hair. Finish up your body-grooming by brushing down the entire body, including sensitive areas like the face and legs.
    • If you want to use a separate brush for the face, use a face brush. They are designed for brushing horses' faces. They look like miniature soft brushes and are much easier to fit on a horse's face.
  6. Image titled Groom a Horse Step 6
    Clean the horse's face. Take a damp sponge or washcloth, wipe your horse's eyes, and clean out his nose. Use a different sponge/cloth/wipe for the dock area (under the tail). Because these areas are constantly moist, dirt and mucus build up and need to be cleaned out. Always remember to be gentle when doing this; these areas are sensitive.
    • Use different brushes, sponges, and cloths for each horse if you are grooming multiple horses. Infection and skin fungus, like ringworm, can be spread by sharing grooming tools.
  7. Image titled Groom a Horse Step 7
    Brush out the mane and tail. Use a wide-bristled mane comb or brush to get tangles out of the mane and tail. Before you start, use your fingers to separate the hairs caught in large tangles. Hold the whole tail/large section of mane in one hand (to avoid tugging) and brush it out with the other. Continue taking small pieces from the side of the tail until you have brushed the whole tail.
    • When brushing the tail, stand to the side of the horse. This way, if the horse kicks out, you are in a safer position and less likely to be hurt.
    • Make sure to talk to the horse and keep your hand on the horse to keep her attention on you.
    • If you want to use a hair product, use natural mane/tail sprays that are all-natural rather than silicone-based. Spray it on and work it in; other than helping with the detangling, it will moisturize and make the hair look shiny.[4]
  8. 8
    If it is summer or hot out, you may want to spray the horse with fly spray. Flies can be a major irritant to your horse. They can build up around the face, spread infections, and large flies, called horse flies, can bite and cause pain. The flies will most likely annoy you, too. Just spray the solution on the horse, being careful to avoid the face. There are both natural and chemical fly sprays on the market.

Method 2
Staying Safe While Grooming

  1. 1
    Never stand directly behind your horse while grooming. Stand always to one side of the legs. If he begins kicking or moving, you will not be in danger of getting kicked.[5] If you must be behind his back end or hind legs, keep a hand firmly touching him and speak to him so knows you are there.
    • You can also cross behind him by simply crossing well beyond the reach of his legs.
    • Don't ever try to cross in front of a horse. You can get tangled in his rope, trip, or be crushed or kicked if he jumps or moves forward.[6]
  2. 2
    Approach your horse at an angle. Your horse has blind spots directly in front of and behind her. To avoid surprising her, make sure you approach from an angle or the side so she can see you, and announce your presence in a calm voice.[7]
  3. 3
    Move calmly and deliberately. Your horse will be reassured by calm, slow, deliberate movements. This also gives you a chance to watch for his reaction — if your horse shows signs of agitation when you touch a specific spot, you know to be more gentle or leave that spot alone.[8]
  4. 4
    Wear the proper shoes. Your horse may accidentally step on your foot, and if you are barefoot or wearing sneakers or sandals, your foot will get crushed (horses generally weigh over 1,000 pounds). Wear sturdy boots that will protect your toes.
  5. 5
    Be ready to move. Your horse has the nature and speed of any prey animal when startled or frightened, and you need to be ready to get out of the way if she gets scared. Sitting, kneeling, or lingering around your horse's feet may not only make her nervous, it may make it more difficult for you to move to safety.[9]
    • Instead, you can crouch, squat, or bend over if you need to get low on your horse's body.[10]


  • If the horse is dusty or has dried mud, curry very thoroughly to bring it to the surface. Then take a slightly damp terry cloth towel and lightly run it over his coat. It will pick up a lot of dirt.
  • Put the most effort into currying! It will really get your horse nice and shiny.
  • If you notice scabs or fly bites while grooming, inspect your horse carefully. Small scabs could be ticks, lice, or allergies. If you have any concerns, contact your veterinarian.
  • If your horse is a gelding or a stallion, you should have his sheath cleaned every six months or so. This is something an experienced person or a veterinarian can teach you. Many male horses will kick at you when you try to handle their penis.
  • Have a good farrier. Your horse will need her bare feet trimmed every four to six weeks; hooves with shoes need to be changed or reset every six to eight weeks. This is a very important part of your horse's health.
  • If you are wearing gloves, remove them before grooming so you can feel for any abnormalities, such as heat, lumps and swellings. If you find things like this, consult with your veterinarian or someone with a lot of experience with horses.
  • Make sure you are careful when grooming sensitive areas such as the flank and girth area, as this can cause the horse to feel uncomfortable and possibly fidget, misbehave, or kick at you. If this happens, consult an experienced horse trainer to help the horse accept your touch in sensitive areas.
  • Grooming a horse daily isn't necessary, especially if he lives in a pasture. You should groom your horse at least once a week to help keep the coat and skin healthy; however, it's recommended to groom your horse before and after you ride.
  • Use a stable cloth and run it on your horse at the end of grooming to get a really good shine. It really helps on presentation at shows.
  • Be careful not to brush your horse's mane and tail too often. If you do, your horse could have a frizzy mane that looks unhealthy. Save the brushing of the mane and tail for shows; that way, they stay healthy-looking and shiny. Some combs and brushes break the hair, too, causing it to look untidy.
  • Before riding, always brush thoroughly under the girth area with a soft brush to remove mud. Mud can pinch under the girth and cause discomfort for your horse. Also remove any mud where the bridle sits, as this can cause discomfort, too.
  • Never, ever groom the horse under the knees and elbows, or you could hurt the horse.
  • Use the soft brush gently on your horse's legs, especially if you know he will be wearing boots.
  • Reward your horse with a treat after you groom it, or even before you groom it.
  • Talk to your horse while grooming it so it can recognize your voice.
  • When you are standing near the rear of a horse in an area that you could be kicked - and this is including in the rear belly area of a horse - stand as close to possible to the horse. That way, if they do kick you, it's more of a push than a kick, a lot less painful.
  • Brush under the horse's stomach before tacking up. Dirt on the horse's stomach can rub against the girth, causing discomfort.
  • Be careful with the horse's hooves. They are sensitive.
  • Always clean your horses hooves before and after riding.
  • When working behind the horse, stay close to the legs and try to keep contact with his body so that he both knows you are there and if he does kick, the impact will be with much less force.
  • If you notice your horse's frog is quite dirty, use an old damp facecloth to clean. Remember to be gentle.
  • If your horse has dried mud on their coat, try using a shedding blade to get the mud off.
  • If riding try to groom before and after,so they don't get saddle sores and to get excess sweat off after


  • These are only guidelines and you are encouraged to seek the advice of a professional horseman.
  • Don't use too much pressure while brushing/currying the horse's legs. The skin is very close to the bone here and can hurt the horse if you use too much pressure.
  • Don’t groom the horse in his stall, as it makes the bed dusty. If the horse has breathing problems, it’s best to groom outside.

Things You'll Need

  • Curry comb (essential)
  • Hard/dandy brush (essential)
  • Soft/body brush (essential)
  • 2-4 sponges (optional)
  • Fly Spray and Fly Boots (only for when the flies are bad)
  • Plaiting Bands (Only if you are braiding)
  • 2 towels or more (optional)
  • A grooming box or bag to hold your tools
  • Possibly a stool
  • A metal curry comb for cleaning the brushes (optional)
  • A shedding blade for removing winter hair. (optional)
  • A pulling-comb(optional).
  • A mane-grooming device such as a mane comb or brush.
  • A hoof pick (essential)

Article Info

Categories: Horse Grooming