It might be nearly the end of the season, but Heythrop stud groom Tony Stroud gives Horse & Hound his top tips for turning your horses out perfectly for a day’s hunting
1. I always wash the hunt horses all over the day before hunting, and chalk white socks when they are still wet and bandage over the top of them. Take the bandages off in the morning, brush off the chalk and you’ve got gleaming white socks. But don’t do it on a grey horse because the legs will be whiter than the rest of him and look a bit odd…
2. Manes are always thicker at the top, so pull more out there so it is more even to plait. When you are plaiting, part the mane properly with a comb first to make the plaits neater and more defined.
3. If you plait tails up to keep them out of the mud, stitch them up rather than using tape — it looks much smarter.
4. Keep on top of clipping. I clip about every 10 days up until Christmas, and keep clipping off ‘cat hairs’, especially on the face, right until the end of the season. I always clip with fine blades as you get a more polished finish, but using fine blades can make a grey horse look a bit untidy unless you are careful.
5. On a hunting day I always hot-towel the horses with a small amount of Dettol in extremely hot water. Wring out the towel until there is very little moisture left and wipe all over the horse’s body just before you tack up.
6. I add baby oil to black hoof grease to make it shinier.
7. Correctly fitting nosebands make a big difference to a horse’s appearance — I hate flash-straps which are too low on their nostrils — and check when you tack up that the noseband is straight.
8. I jam elastic bands under keepers on the bridle to keep them in place.
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9. When cleaning tack after hunting, I put a squirt of Head & Shoulders 2-in1 shampoo and conditioner in the tack-cleaning water; it cleans well and seems to condition the tack a bit as well.
10. After hunting I towel-dry the horses’ bodies after washing them off, rather than leaving the moisture to wick through a cooler rug, and never leave them overnight with a cooler under their night rugs — always change them into dry rugs before you finish for the night.