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Keeping horses’ coats shiny and healthy in winter is easier said than done, especially if they are unclipped or have had minimal hair taken off. But professional grooms have trade secrets for keeping their charges presentable.

“I don’t groom horses who are living out and not working because they need the grease in their coats as a waterproofing agent,” says Elaine Thompson, who freelances for event and racing yards.

“But to keep an unclipped or partially clipped horse clean, use the bed bath technique.

“Groom as normal, then get a bucket of clean, hot water and soak a piece of towelling or a face flannel in it. Wring out as much water as possible and use the flannel in a circular motion, rubbing hard to lift the dirt.

“It’s important to rinse the cloth frequently in clean water and keep changing the water, so you’re not rubbing dirt back in.”

Chris Higham, who looks after hunters through the winter, and broodmares and young stock in the summer, says that people don’t get results because they use the wrong grooming implements.

“Rubber curry combs are excellent for getting dirt out of the coat, but no good for cleaning brushes as you go along,” he says. “To keep a body brush clean you need an old-fashioned metal curry comb so that you can tap out the grease on the floor.

“I use a rubber curry, then a ‘flick brush’ — a brush with long, soft bristles that you use to flick the dust off — then a body brush with a padded back that’s comfortable to hold. You’ve got to put your weight behind a body brush — they don’t call it elbow grease for nothing.”

Owners often fail to appreciate the importance of keeping a grooming kit clean.

“Rinse brushes at the end of the day, leave them overnight to dry and wash them in horse shampoo every week,” he says.

Marie Rayner, who breaks and schools youngsters and runs a livery yard, asks owners planning to send horses to her to rug them up early.

“If the owners start with lightweight rugs at the end of August, the horses grow finer coats, which are easier to clean.”

Stain removers for greys, and coat gloss are essentials in Marie’s grooming kit.

“If you wash a tail and spray it with coat gloss when it’s dry, the gloss coats each hair and helps to repel dirt and dust,” she says.

  • This “tricks of the trade” feature was first published in Horse & Hound (11 November 04)


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