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Frugal Grooming –Take your horse from nag to nagnificent without busting your budget
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Frugal Grooming –Take your horse from nag to nagnificent without busting your budget

You go to the barn with the goal of turning that mud monster standing in your pasture back into a horse, only to find out not only are you out of Showsheen again but you're down to the last drops of detangler as well. So what do you do? Below I've compiled a list of do-it-yourself recipes, remedies and grooming solutions with ingredients that are not only pocketbook friendly but you can probably find in your house right now.

1. Use a mixture of bran or soybean oil and water to remove manure and grass stains from your white horse's coat. Here's what you do: After hosing down the stained area make a paste from the water and bran. Apply the paste to the stain and thoroughly scrub it into the coat with a fingernail brush, rubber curry, or curry glove. Leave the paste to soak in his coat for two or three minutes, then hose off and dry.

2. Another white coat stain remover is lathering the stained area with water and a bar of glycerin soap –the sort used for cleaning tack. You can even try this on their mane and tail –the soap will act as a detangler to their hair.

3. Speed up mane and tail grooming with a mist of silicone spray. This helps reduce the amount of hair damaged and removed during brushing, and will soften the knots and mats prior to combing.  It will also make easier removal of burrs and weeds after your horse has had a jaunt in the pasture.

4. White vinegar can be used to soften and remove stains in your horse's coat and apple cider vinegar can be used as a detangler for manes and tails. You can dilute both with some water and store in spray bottles for easy application. Brushing a mixture of olive oil and vinegar into your horse's coat three days before a bath will help restore that luster to faded hair, and giving your horse's coat a rinse with apple cider vinegar after the bath will give them a show-ready shine.  It will also work as a natural fly repellent.

Adding apple cider vinegar to your horse's diet will help repel flies in the summer, encourage a healthy digestive tract, add shine to your horse's coat and keep mosquito larva out of your water troughs.  Depending on the size of your trough or bucket you may add between ¼ cup to 3 cups. Start out with a smaller amount and when first introducing it to your horse. Be sure to add it to a bucket or trough they are already used to eating or drinking out of, since its smell can make them suspicious if introduced in a new pan or bucket.

5. You can use baby oil to soothe fly bites, scratches, and dry itchy skin. It will also soften knots, mats and mud in your horse's hair and on his coat; soften stubborn chestnuts; and loosen the dirt and debris that accumulates on your mare's udder and gelding's sheath. Use it to add shine by brushing it into a dull coat and tail, as a finishing polish for the hooves, rubbed onto the muzzle before a show, or as a fine conditioning spray applied right after a bath for that extra special sheen.  It can even be used to moisturize the dry or flaky coat by mixing some with their conditioner or rinse water, to help alleviate the agitation and itching that leads to rubbing. Adding baby oil to your commercial sprays and detanglers is also a great way to help stretch their use when they are running low.

Like with everything else, too much of even a good thing can be a bad thing. Overuse of these oils can make your steed go from glistening like goldust to a downtrodden dust magnet. It may cause sunburn on some horses, so exercise caution if you have a thin or light-skinned horse or live in a hot climate.

6. Petroleum jelly is also a nifty choice for the frugal horseman. Dabbing a ring of it around your horse's eyes before bathing will help keep suds and shampoo from running into his eyes. It is also yet another show ring nose shiner, as well as a great soother for fly bites in summer and for chapped skin in winter. As with the mineral oil be careful to not to inadvertently cause your horse sunburn.

7. Supplements such as stabilized rice bran, flax seed, or even vegetable oil can bring out a luster and shine that rivals (or even exceeds!) that which more expensive supplements might bring out in your horse's coat. A soft, vibrant coat is a healthy coat and though investing in supplements might seem like an extra expense initially, it will in the long run save you time and money on grooming sprays, shines, conditioners, and extensions that can never look as great as the genuine article. It will also prevent unneeded vet bills as well because you will be meeting the finer points of your horse's nutritional needs. Purchasing the straight ingredient will give you more bang for your buck than purchasing commercial supplements that have diluted ingredients, fillers, and additives.

Homemade Show Sheen Recipe:

Ingredients- 1/4 (one quarter) cup hair conditioner 1/4 (one quarter) cup baby oil 2 tablespoons vinegar (to keep flies away, this is optional) 1/4 (one quarter) cup water Mix and use as you would any other store-bought spray.

Homemade Mane and Tail Detangler Recipe:

Ingredients- Calgon bath beads or flakes Water

Mix equal parts Calgon bath beads and water in a spray bottle. Use sparingly.

Other grooming tips:

  • Groom head to tail. This might sound silly, but grooming in this order saves you extra work -you won't be brushing dirt, dust, and stray hair onto areas you already groomed.
  • Pay careful attention to how your horse responds to different parts of his body being groomed. Flinching, pinning of ears, tightening or twitching lips, or quivering skin beneath your brush may indicate sore muscles or some other sensitivity. Some horses are naturally more thinly skinned and will need to be groomed with a softer touch.
  • Spray the mane and tail with a detangler before grooming the body so it has some time to soak in and soften the mats and tangles in their hair. That way when you begin working them out it will take less time and pull out less of his hair.
  • Don't be in a hurry. Grooming is a great way to have some one-on-one time with your horse, and in the winter it's a great way to get out of the house for some fresh air and burn off those extra calories packed on from the holidays.
  • Following the natural patterns and direction your horse's hair grows will soften and smooth his coat and give it that extra special shine.
  • Dampening the bristles of your brush with a wet sponge between strokes will help remove dust that stubbornly clings to his coat.
  • Clean your brush every few strokes with a curry or shed blade to remove any hair, dust, and dirt that accumulates in the bristles.
  • Dawn dishwashing detergent -the original blue formula, not ultra- works great to bathe your horse with -it makes him shine and is inexpensive.
  • When bathing your horse mix your shampoo with a little water in a big spray bottle. After wetting them down take your spray bottle in one hand, and a soft rubber curry in the other to bath them in record time.

Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! Any nifty tips or tricks you've learned over the years with your horses?

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Voted! Great grooming tips. I'll certainly be getting some apple cider vinegar for flies from the inside out. I like the tip about getting the brush damp to remove dust. Doing that will also help remove some static electricity when humidity is low. Please check out my blog : Controversial Diatomaceous Earth. Vote & or comment if you liked it. Thank you.
    1. Barnboot Bailey
      Barnboot Bailey
      Thanks, I'm very glad you liked it! I'll definitely check your post out! :D
  2. PonyGirl
    Another good post! I've had luck getting stains out of white horses' coats with rubbing alcohol. I use this in the winter when it's too cold to give them a bath. The alcohol has the added advantage of evaporating very quickly, which keeps the horse from getting chilled. I just put some on an old rag, and rub the stain out. For home made concoctions, I've found that most supplements used to keep a black (or bay) horse's color are mostly paprika. Just out of curiosity I started feeding my old horse straight paprika, As far as I could tell, it worked as well as the expensive supplement. (And my horse loved the taste.)
    1. Barnboot Bailey
      Barnboot Bailey
      PonyGirl, thanks for sharing -that is very interesting with the paprika! Thank you again for your kind words.
  3. jst4horses
    Great grooming tips. One I learned at horse handling school where the Director taught me to train horse handlers for licensing by CTHRB was the hard circular curry and the swift thick black body brush. doing both in a fast circular motion, in both directions gets the hair so shiny and dappled. I also use the little rubber mitt, just while standing around talking to friends, to get legs and other bony areas really clean and shiny. Our shoer makes his own secret mix of oils and it keeps out fungus and thrush, as well as helps hooves grow stronger, and faster.........of course in advantage to the shoer.:) I use baby oil on the face and clean nostrils with a mix of either vinegar, or listerine mixed with water to get bad bugs out. When you slop a blop of shampoo in the pail, and wash the horse with a big horse sponge, starting as you say, at the face and working back then spray the horse clean, like a big horsey car wash I always feel, it makes the hair shiney, clean and does not take so long to spray out as shampoo put directly on the horse. Rene, I just wipe a woolite drier sheet over the mane and tale to remove static. Sometimes just the metal on a metal bath scaper does the trick too.
    1. Barnboot Bailey
      Barnboot Bailey
      Those are some interesting tips! I will have to try them next time I'm grooming -I'm especially curious about your advice with the hard circular curry and body brush. :) Thank you for reading my post and providing such helpful feedback!
      1. jst4horses
        So many people read Black Beauty, there are references to grooming with the hair patterns, it is not valid. grooming in the circles (kind of wax on/wax off from Karate Kid, except both hands going one one way the other another way works for me) works fast and really well. My mare Liberty had a tree in her paddock when she first had her foal, Justice. One day I saw her rub on the tree, and then on the back fence. I saw Justice watching her carefully. Then Justice went to the fence and swished her back end back and forth. She had a look on her face that seemed to say "not sure why, but Mom does it". THEN, she got it. She got joy on her face and got busy scritching and scratching her rear against both the fence and the tree. The pressure horses put on their body when rubbing or rolling is more than any human could ever exert on any area. Many people groom softly. That too is invalid, Horses rub on trees, and roll to loosen and get rid of loose hair. They have a "like you" nibble along the mane and even the tail base that owners hate, it thins the hair and often makes the mane and tail look really raggedy. BUT, the horse still likes it when you rub and groom and loosen up hair and remove it.

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