How to Groom and Tack a Horse

Grooming and tacking are important parts of horse care. This article will tell you in an easy, simple way how to do it.


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    Let's start off with grooming. Take a rubber curry comb and brush your horse in strong, circular motions. Do not use the curry comb on sensitive areas such as the face and legs. On meaty areas like the rump and shoulder, you can really get into it. Currying helps loosen dirt, dust, and dead skin. Most horses enjoy currying, since it is kind of like a massage.
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    Next, get a body brush and a soft brush. Body brushes have harder bristles,and soft brushes are soft brushes. Use it in short, flicking motions, moving from the front to the back of the horse, with the grain of the hair. This removes all of the debris that the curry comb brought up. Make sure you really do this step well. This time, it's okay to brush the horses face, but only with smaller version of the body brush. Take a mane/tail comb. Work out all tangles from the base to the tip of the hair with your fingers. It is best not to comb the mane and tail every day, as this can pull a lot of the hair out. To comb the mane and forelock, do it soft and gently, not yanking out the hair. If there are difficult knots you may want to use a little bit of detangler. To comb the tail, stand off to the side to avoid being kicked. Hold the tail to you and brush from the bottom up, doing small sections at a time. Be very gentle, as it takes a long time for ripped out hair to grow back.
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    Take a clean damp (not soaking wet) sponge or towel, and wipe out the eyes and nose. Make sure that all debris and gunk is cleared from the horse. This is optional, as some stables do not allow for sponges and rags to be in the barn.
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    Take a new clean sponge or towel and wipe out the dock area, standing slightly off to the side so as not to get kicked. Again, ensure that the area is clean. This is optional as well.
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    Take a hoof pick and lift up the foot. Do this by running your hand down the horse's leg, then squeezing gently to get the horse to pick up his foot. Saying, "Hoof" also helps the horse understand what you're doing. Pick out rocks and dirt with the pick, and use the brush part to sweep out dirt. Avoid the frog, which is the V-shaped area. Touching the frog could cause serious damage. When picking out the feet, never go directly behind one, as the horse could also kick you. Instead, stand next to the horse as you lift the hoof.
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    Cleaning tack is simple. If you have a leather saddle, wipe it down with a dry towel to clean dust and dirt off. Next, get glycerin saddle soap, in liquid or bar form. Mix it in a bucket of water so that it's bubbly, or spray it on a rag. Take a sponge or rag and dip it in the water, and squeeze as much of the water out as you possibly can. Then, wipe down your tack, gently scrubbing at any built-up dirt or grime, making sure to clean the various crevices and seams where leather is joined. You may want to use a very soft, clean toothbrush. Do not allow your saddle to become thoroughly soaked, as this may damage the leather. Pure glycerin soap is very gentle, and excellent for cleaning saddles; other types of soaps or detergents are discouraged, as they are often damaging to the leather.
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    If you have non-leather tack, cleaning is even simpler. Take any cleaning wipe and remove the dirt with that. Make sure to get in the crevices, as quite a lot of dirt can get in there.
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    If you want to, you can shine up the stirrups with rags or wipes. It is also possible to use silver polish (the good ones should contain grit to scrub away at any dirt or tarnish that might build up). Use a tiny dab on each stirrup, and buff the metal clean, using a dry rag or toothbrush with the silver polish. Wipe each stirrup down with a dry, clean cloth afterward.
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    To clean the bridle, again use glycerin soap and a very slightly damp rag or sponge. Clean off all dirt and dust, Making sure you are not cleaning the bit, the piece of the bridle that goes in the horses mouth.
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    Oil the bridle. Use very light coats of neatsfoot oil or leather conditioner, and coat the entire bridle evenly in an extremely thin coat, including the reins. Let the entire bridle dry completely before adding another coat. Additionally, leather conditioner and neatsfoot oil may permanently darken light colored leathers; make sure to oil the entire bridle evenly. Again, remembering not to touch the bit.
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    Shine up the bits and curb chain if you want to, using either clean water and a clean rag or sponge. However, do not use soap on any part of the bit that goes inside of the horse's mouth; use only water and a clean towel.
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    For the saddle pad, use a stiff brush to loosen debris, and follow care/laundry instructions, if provided.
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    If you need to wash the saddle pad by hand, use a small amount of soap. Wet the saddle pad, and rub the soap in circular motions, until the entire saddle has been lathered up. Proceed as you would hand-clean any other piece of fabric, then rinse and allow to dry completely before using it on a horse.
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    Remember, tack cleaning is not necessary every day. Cleaning it once a week or even once every month should keep it in a good condition


  • If you're a beginner, make sure to check with your instructor. There are many different types of saddles and these steps could damage them if you have a special kind. Additionally, the instructor may have additional insight and suggestions to prolong the life and increase the flexibility of the leather.
  • Make sure that an instructor is with you to make sure you are doing everything correctly, and to demonstrate steps should you have any problems.

Things You'll Need

  • 100% glycerin soap, in bar or spray bottle form
  • Neatsfoot oil or leather conditioner
  • Lots of clean towels and/or sponges
  • Rubber curry comb
  • Dandy "hard" brush
  • Body "soft" brush
  • Mane/tail comb
  • Time and patience

Article Info

Categories: Horses