Q: I own a six-year-old 15.1hh Thoroughbred mare who is good-natured until I try to groom her. She becomes irritable and fidgets when I brush her, often trying to bite me, and has occasionally lifted her back leg and threatened to kick me. How should I deal with this problem and how can I encourage her to relax and enjoy being groomed?
Liz Clemence replies: Maybe rough grooming in the past has caused your horse’s apparent dislike of this activity, or she may have a physical reason causing her discomfort. It might simply be that, like many well-bred or fine-coated horses, she has sensitive skin and finds the brushes irritate her.
Sensitive handling should help to build her trust. Do not groom your horse for any longer than necessary. Remain calm and be sympathetic but firm when you are handling her. She must be made to realise that kicking and biting is not an option.
Avoid sudden movements and talk to her soothingly if she becomes agitated. For best results, groom your horse after exercise when she is warm and her pores are open.
She is also less likely to fidget once she has been worked.Tie her up in a suitable place, away from draughts and on a fairly short lead, so she can’t bite you. Put a rug over her quarters to keep her warm.
Groom her using a natural bristle body brush. Avoid hard or plastic-bristled brushes and take care brushing bony or sensitive areas.
A goat hair body brush is soft and ideal for use around her face and sensitive areas.
Alternatively, wash the worst of the sweat from dirty areas, using a sponge and warm water, then brush when dry.
Giving her a small haynet to eat while you are grooming may help.
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