Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Do I Keep My Horse Looking Beautiful?

Continuing on our grooming topic, here's another basic set of tips that are in my repertoire. These are the basics ~ weekly maintenance clipping, regular baths and tail care.

We’ll start with clipping. Maintenance clipping is just what it sounds like, maintaining the horse in a neat and tidy appearance. Included in my weekly clipping regimen are the bridlepath, long eye feelers and muzzle whiskers. For show horses I’ll also give them a quick once over on the ears, legs and face once a month. I also like to keep all horses’ faces clipped during the Winter months, which makes those halters and bridles fit so much better plus it makes my job easier when it’s time for show clipping! The only thing I need to be careful of is doing a nice smooth, pretty job on my show horses, for obvious reasons! The last thing I want is a choppy looking clip job come show time, they’re too hard to clean up.

I prefer to keep the show horses under lights, but sometimes that's not entirely realistic, in which case during Winter months they'll be bodyclipped. That, of course, means blanketing (a topic we'll cover here in the future), being diligent about keeping the coat looking it's best and a good feeding program (something else we will cover in upcoming installments of this blog).

Next comes the maintenance bath, during which I will generally concentrate on the mane, tail, forelock and head. Only once per month will I fully scrub legs for a good maintenance bath, but I do religiously use Show Sheen or a suitable alternative on the entire horse to help keep them clean. My shampoo of choice is anything I can find in a one gallon bottle at my local beauty supply store, though I always use Quic Silver on my grey horses and all white markings. In the Summertime, baths are done weekly with a good dose of a quality conditioner. When Winter comes, especially if you don't have access to warm water, baths can be every other week, but I prefer not to let my horses go a full month, and here's why: While some folks say too much bathing is a bad thing and will dry out the coats, likewise too few baths will lead to skin conditions and other preventable issues.

Last is tail care, which is probably the most important aspect (aside from your good, balanced feeding program) of maintaining a gleaming, healthy appearance in your show horses. Once the tail is clean, sprayed, combed through and dry, I begin my braid three or four inches below the tail bone and braid it tightly all the way to the tip, pulling some of the shorter hairs at the top out to allow the horse something to swish flies with. I don’t like to use rubber bands unless I have to, with a horse who tends to get that tail down all by themselves, for instance! I bend the last six to ten inches of the tail back and wind it up through itself, then loop the tail up through the top of the braid (taking care not to pull too tightly on the tail bone) and wrap it up. I generally will not use tail bags, I prefer them wrapped and my wrap of choice is Guardtex, though VetWrap, CoFlex or a similar alternative is just as effective. As long as tails are put up weekly in the Summertime and at least every two weeks through the Winter, your horse will have a luxurious, long tail.

For those who for whatever reason do not want to keep their horses' tails done up, at least making sure the tail is clean and gently combed through on a regular basis will help to maintain it's appearance. Since my horses (and those of my clients) are show horses, keeping a quality tail is mandatory. For the broodmares, I'll also keep them wrapped up in case baby acquires a taste for tail hair! ;)



  1. OK, so I'm trying to put the tail up because I want the darn thing to grow - it got chewed off by a pasture mate this summer. Washed it, conditioned it, braided, wrapped in Guardtex, looks perfect. Went to the barn the next day and he had it off. How do you wrap it so the bandage doesn't come off? Is there some trick to it? Help!

  2. Maybe I can explain the tail process a little bit better. :)

    After I braid, I'll fold it over itself, wrapping it through the top of the braid two or three times, depending on the length of the tail.

    Then, as I have wrapped the Guardtex around the tail five or six times, I'll wrap it directly under the bottom of the folded braid a couple of times, then pull some of the wrap across the top of the braid (push it over the part of the tail that's folded over the braid itself, just below the tail bone) and afterward continue wrapping the Guardtex around the braided tail again several times.

    That's how I keep them from getting the tail wrap off!

    I can get pics one of these days when I re-do my tails, if that would help with a visual!! Today being Thursday is clipping, bath and tail day ~ not sure if I will have a photographer available, but I will try to do a photo-essay on doing up tails.

    One other very important note to make ~ especially since your boy is a grey: DON'T use colored wrap!! I always get the white, but Guardtex comes in blue and green, too. This is especially important if you have to use Vetrap, Coflex or another one of the other wraps in a pinch because you don't have access to Guardtex!! Those colored wraps will stain a light colored tail. I learned this from experience many years ago. ;)

  3. Is the sequence: braid, wrap with GuardTex, fold, wrap bottom, loop GuardTex through top, wrap? or is it braid, fold, wrap bottom, loop Guardtex through top, wrap the whole mess?

    And thanks for the tip about colors - I got teal blue, so I'll trade that in for white!

    Looking forward to pix and thanks!!

  4. Your first sequence is what I do ~ braid, loop the tail up through the top of the braid (several inches below the tailbone), wrap, fold the wrap to cover the bottom of the braid, take a loop of wrap across the top where the braid is looped up, then wrap again. Voila, wrapped tail. :)

    Didn't get pictures today, but I am going to see if I can get some this weekend.

    Definitely make sure you trade that teal and get the white!! Years ago we wrapped a client's grey gelding with the pretty the next show upon taking his tail down to wash for a class, it was streaked with blue. Ugh, not attractive to say the least! :-/


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