Grooming, Clipping and Bathing Your Horse

A clean, shiny, well-groomed horse is a pleasure to look at. But though it takes hard work to achieve that healthy glow, there are additional benefits beyond just appearance.

A thorough daily grooming loosens up, and then removes, dead hairs and dandruff/dead skin from your horse's coat. It spreads the oil from the sebaceous glands (in the skin) evenly along the shafts of the hairs. This natural oil is what gives your horse's coat its shine. Skin diseases and infections are rare in horses that get daily groom time. This is also a good time to give your horse a check-up for any new injuries that he may have gotten in the pasture or on your trail ride – cuts or scrapes, swellings, painful areas, bumps, etc. A true horseman should be able to identify his horse blindfolded just by palpating the horse's legs. That's how well you should know what is "normal" for him, and it makes it easy to spot a new problem. Prompt attention will then hopefully keep it from turning into a bigger problem.


The lower legs are more sensitive and have more nooks and crannies than the body. Scrubbing here requires a red rubber mitten with nubs or a circular tool with flexible rubber fingers.


Even if you never plan to enter a horse show, your horse must learn about electric clippers. If he gets a wound in the pasture, the veterinarian will need to clip all the hair away from the injury before she can clean it up and assess the damage. And trimming a 1-1/2 inch bridle path just behind the ears makes haltering and tacking up a little easier.

Older horses and ponies that get Cushing's disease will often grow an overly long, thick hair coat and then fail to shed it out in the spring as the days get longer and warmer. For comfort (not to mention cleanliness and grooming), these horses will need to be body clipped one to three times a year.


Grooming is a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun. It is a great physical fitness activity for you at the same time that it is giving your horse's muscles a good massage.

Spending non-riding time with your horse also gives you a chance to better get to know each other. He is your partner and hopefully your best friend. If you know his favorite itch spot, you can give him a good rub there when he jumps a clean cross-country course for you. And when some little thing starts to go wrong, you'll notice it right away and be able to take prompt, appropriate action.

So as long as you are as well-turned-out as your horse, the two of you will give the judge a great first impression when you trot into the show ring!