Apart from keeping your horse clean, grooming him also provides the two of you with an opportunity for bonding, as well as for discovering and nipping in the bud any incipient skin, leg or hoof problems before they escalate and cause bigger health issues later.
It is recommended that the daily grooming of your horse should take no less than 30 minutes. However, if you cannot allocate this much time to him daily, be sure to groom him as often as your schedule can allow.
Some of the most basic grooming tools in your tack box should include a hoof pick, a tail brush, a mane comb, a rubber curry comb, a soft brush for the face, legs and other delicate areas, a hard brush for removing tough dirt as well as a metal curry comb for sweat and mud removal. Each horse should have its own tools to avoid the spread of fungus and other skin diseases, and the tools should be kept clean always.
Legs, Feet & Hooves
In addition to being a necessity just before and after every ride, picking your horse's feet should be a daily routine. If he is shod, ensure that his shoes are safely tight. Check the hooves for any signs of heat exposure or abnormal cracks. Look out for any bad odor or discharge when you are cleaning his feet. Thrush is a common hoof infection that causes this too, but it is easily curable. Talk to your vet or farrier about all these issues.
As you brush his legs using a soft brush, gently rub your palms against them to feel if there are any abnormal lumps, swellings, cuts or bumps. Patchy or bumpy parts of skin along the rear part of the pasterns or legs could mean he has been scratched or he has been infected by mud fever, also called dew poisoning or grease heel.
Mane & Tail
The process of combing the mane and brushing the tail of your horse may seem quite simple tasks to accomplish, but they are very important when looking for any issues with him. For instance, warm weather may introduce ticks that could infect him with the dangerous tick-borne ailment, Lyme disease. A tail that looks and feels like it is being rubbed a lot could be an indication of itching caused by parasites.
Apart from the daily brushing and currying, paying keen attention to your horse’s skin is very crucial as well. This way you can come across cuts, bumps and lumps that need to be taken care of. Being rained on could also lead to rainrot scabs, typically along his rump and topline. If you find any of these issues, talk to your vet.
Bathing your horse too regularly may actually lead to problems rather than health and hygiene because soap can get rid of natural oils from his coat. Even if you compete quite often and he becomes sweaty, sponging or hosing him down with cold water -- and no soap -- is sufficient. Otherwise, one annual soapy spring bath, and maybe one more in late summer, are just enough. Whenever you wash him, thoroughly get the water off his skin using a sweat scraper.
Image source: flickr.com
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