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Step-by-Step Horse Grooming: The Beginner’s Guide

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My grandchildren often get frustrated waiting for me to groom the horses before they ride. They think I’m old and slow, so I decided to teach them how to groom their horses. After all, it is an essential part of being an equestrian.

The three primary steps to groom a horse are to brush its coat, comb through its mane and tail, and take care of its feet. Start with a curry comb and brush the horse’s entire body; use a comb to detangle the mane and tail and pick the hooves.

Horse grooming is an essential part of caring for your horse, but it can be a challenging process. In this guide, I will take you through step by step and explain everything you need to know to groom your horse.

Picture of a woman grooming her horse,

Grooming gear you’ll need.

Many people think that horse grooming is a simple task, but it takes time and knowledge to do it right. If you intend to groom your horse regularly, make sure you’re equipped with all the necessary tools for safe and effective grooming!

There are suitable horse grooming kits available that come in a handy carry case. But be aware that some kits have useless accessories, and others are explicitly made for kids, so check them out good before buying one.

I like to buy my grooming tools separately because I like specific brands. But you can find some well-equipped grooming kits, but before you decide to buy one, review the list below to ensure it has everything you need.

It’s always a good idea to assemble your tools and grooming supplies before starting the grooming process. Here is a list of things you’ll need:

  • Curry brush
  • Mud brush
  • Medium bristle brush
  • Hoof pick
  • Comb
  • Coat conditioner
  • Hoof conditioner or sealant
  • Tail conditioner and detangler
  • Sheepskin mitt
  • Horsefly spray
  • Towel
  • Sunscreen

The Steps to Groom a Horse

1.   Curry (massaging)

Start with the rubber curry comb; it loosens dirt, dead skin and removes old hair. Rub your horse with it all over, using it in circles. Be gentle on areas with any cuts, injuries, and where there is little fat or muscle.

Currying relaxes the muscles and hair follicles which makes the hair lay flat, enhancing shine. It also brings dirt and debris to the surface, making it easier to remove.

Pro tip: While you groom, watch out for bumps, scratches, or irregularities. Gently use the curry brush to massage the cannon bones of all four legs.

Always ‘listen’ to your horse – every horse has a different tolerance level – so watch out for signs of pain or discomfort.

Picture of a person brushing their horse

2.  Remove stubborn dirt (flicking)

If your horse is filthy, use a mud brush to flick out the clumps of mud. You can also use the medium bristle brush to perform the ‘flicking. Mud brushes typically have inch-long tapered bristles to reach deep between hair shafts and loosen and remove crusted mud and dirt, dandruff, and dead hair.

Flick against the skin using short, hard strokes. This movement helps remove the mud near the skin and also eliminates dander while distributing the skin oils. Thus, regular brushing gives your horse a natural shine.

Always move from the neck to the rump using the flicking motion. It is best to use short strokes and brush in the same direction as hair growth. Brush on both sides of your horse and repeat the process with longer strokes to do a thorough job.

Gently brush your horse’s face too.

Pro tip: Use soft or small brushes for the face and larger ones for the body.

3.   Brush out its tail

Brushing out your horse’s tail is essential to keeping it healthy, shiny, and beautiful. It also promotes growth which is necessary for horses that have a difficult time growing a long tail.

When brushing your horse’s tail, use the comb, start from the tail’s bottom, and work your way up. Be gentle if there are tangles because you can hurt your animal. Apply tail conditioner or detangler to help you get through mats and tangles.

When these commercial products were starting getting popular, I was skeptical about them. However, over the years, I’ve learned that they work and save time.

If you have a horse with a thick mane and tail that gets tangles, buy some detangler. I find most brands work about the same. You can find Mane n Tail Detangler on Amazon; it’s the go-to brand for many equestrians.

Pro tip: Never rip your comb through the middle of the tail in a hurry. It will cost you dearly later.

4.  Grooming the mane

You can groom even the most challenging horse’s mane and make it look more attractive, neat, and healthy.

The grooming process for your horses’ mane starts with:

  • Brushing and combing out the knots.
  • Removing debris from the hairs with a comb or stiff brush.
  • Trimming off the ends of split or matted hairs.
  • Train the mane– Horses with thick manes may need it pulled to lie over. Don’t attempt to pull your horse’s mane unless you have an experienced person with you. Pulling the horse mane thins it using a comb, you wrap the hair around the comb and pull out small sections. Another way to train a mane is to place a hot towel (not too hot-check the temperature first) on the mane to tame it – heat helps it lie flat.

Pro tip: If you want to tame the mane further, use a little beeswax pomade to make it smoother.

5.   Take care of your horses’ feet.

One of the most important parts of horse care is picking out your horse’s feet. This is because a lot can happen to their feet in between groomings, and it’s crucial to keep your horse’s hooves healthy and clean.

Picking a foot may seem like an easy task, but there are actually many things to consider when you’re doing this, such as checking for any stones and assessing the shape of their hoof walls. It’s also super important that you check for any wounds, thrush, and abscesses in their sole, especially around the frog area.

If your horse’s hoofs are dry or cracked, you might have to use a sealant to keep out moisture or a hoof oil to seal the moisture in. Apply the hoof oil to the coronary band but avoid applying it on the soft coronary bands or heels.

Hoof conditioners not only treat your horse’s hoofs but also make them look good. A hoof conditioner I find works well and is reasonably priced is Farnam Horseshoer’s Secret Deep-Penetrating Hoof Conditioner, but there are plenty of other good brands available. I do strongly recommend you have some hoof conditioner on hand.

Pro tip: Use a lanolin-based hooves conditioner once a week to protect and condition your horse’s hooves.

Picture of Farman hoof care

6.  Treat common skin issues.

Horses typically have a sleek, shiny coat. However, some develop skin diseases that profoundly affect the way they look. The most common of these is called rain rot. This condition causes the horse’s hair to become brittle and fall out, revealing irritated red skin.

To treat rain rot, bathe your horse with a medicated shampoo and applying a topical solution to the area to keep it from getting too dry. This will also soothe any pain or irritation in the area. Absorbine Fungasol Ointment is a good choice because of its consistency; it keeps moisture out and protects them against infection.

Horses are also prone to get ringworm which is contagious. You need to isolate your horse, clip the hair around the ringworm and apply antifungal medication. If the condition persists, contact your vet; he may prescribe a more aggressive treatment plan.

Pro Tip: Never share brushes between horses as that could spread infections around.

7.  Apply coat conditioner.

Some horses have dry hair that is thin and breaks easily. This makes their hair look dull, and it can also be painful for the horse. To fix this, use a coat conditioner.

Spray-on conditioners are the best way to keep your horse’s coat bright and shiny. Simply spray on some leave-in conditioning treatments after you’ve finished brushing your horse coat.

I like to spray the conditioner on a mitt or towel and wipe down my horse from neck to rump. You can use the sheepskin mitt to provide a final smoothening touch, bringing extra shine to the coat. Don’t forget to wipe your horse’s eyes, face, and mouth with a moist towel.

Pro tip: Know where your horse’s ticklish areas are and avoid the same.

8.   Finish up

  • If your horse has light or pink skin, it needs sunscreen, and now is the time to apply it. Use a high-SPF sunscreen and put it on its muzzle and other spots with sparse hair. You can also get a fly mask with UV protection.
  • Give your horse a good going over with an effective horsefly spray.

How long should it take to groom a horse?

Horse grooming might be the most tedious of all equestrian tasks, but one that is necessary for a healthy horse. To groom, a horse takes time, especially for a beginner, but you’ll get quicker after a few months.

I usually give myself an hour to groom my horse thoroughly, but that includes taking breaks. If I worked at it straight, I could easily groom a horse in 30 minutes or less, depending on the horse’s condition.

Many people spend just a few minutes on grooming before they ride, which is fine. I typically check the horse’s feet, give the horse a good brushing and throw on a saddle; this usually takes no more than 10 minutes.

After riding, I typically do thorough grooming of at least 45 minutes to an hour.  Grooming after a ride is not only good for the horse physically, but it’s time to socialize and bond with your animal.

Should you groom your horse every day?

Ideally, you should groom your horse daily, even if it is kept in a stall. You need not do all of the steps but brush and check your horse’s feet before riding. It also allows you to evaluate the health of your horse.

How often you groom a horse depends on how dirty it gets and how often you take it out. If you rarely take your horse out, then you can cut back the grooming to three times per week. Grooming not only massages your horse but also redistributes the skin oil to impart a natural shine.

What does it mean to rub a horse down?

The phrase “rubbing down a horse” is when you use a curry comb to groom your horse. You hold it in your hand and move it in circles. It looks and feels like you are rubbing the horse with your hands.

Rubbing down a horse is an integral part of grooming which helps the dirt and hair come out. Horses also rub themselves down to exfoliate their skin and remove dirt and mud. They do so by rolling in the hay or rubbing their bodies against the trunks of trees.

You can rub down a horse before you ride to remove sweat, dust, and debris from your horse.


How often should I bathe my horse?

Depending on how often you take your horse out, you may want to bathe it once a week. The number of times a horse needs bathing depends mainly on the use of the horse. Avoid giving baths in winters when it is freezing. Horses can get sick if not dried properly. In summers, you could bathe your horse more frequently.

Should you brush your horse’s teeth?

Horses do not need teeth brushing. You could use products to remove tartar buildup, but brushing isn’t necessary. Ensure you have your horses’ teeth checked and floated once or twice a year to keep its teeth healthy.

Key Takeaways – How to Groom a Horse for Beginners

Horse grooming is an essential chore that all equestrians must perform on a day-to-day basis. Grooming massages your horse, removes dirt and debris, and prevents skin problems from escalating. It is also a great way to foster a loving bond between you and your horse.

The basic steps of daily horse grooming include currying, flicking, conditioning the coat, detangling the tail, and setting the mane. You can perform these steps before or after a ride. Every once or twice a week, trim the hooves to prevent them from causing discomfort to your horse.

With regular grooming, your horse will be a pleasure to behold!