Thursday, February 26, 2009

How do you groom?

It's shedding season, early as it seems.

With only a few days until March, the horses are about to look as bad as they ever do: muddy, tufty, dull-coated (old winter coat, no matter how clean & shiny it's brushed, just has that sun-faded look, doesn't it?) & motheaten. The barbering jobs several of them have courtesy of the sheep they share their waterer with won't help.

Today's snow had melted & frozen on them here & there in miniature icicles dangling from their sides. Then there was the hay adhered in odd places after I got through toting pitchfork loads to the feeders - they will insist on standing in the way, and end up freckled with fallen bits which I usually brush off. Tonight's chaff just stuck to the ice. None of them were cold, though, so I fluffed them out as best I could and left it at that.

My weapon of choice against hay debris & dried mud is usually something really similar to one of these handy little Rubbermaid numbers (a whopping $2.50 - I get the generic kind about half that). They have nice stiff bristles, a handle, and they work pretty well for removing crusted on dirt, hay & dust.

Also good: they are mane & tail safe, as long as I'm careful. Twigs & random hay bits come right out.

They aren't so great, however, when the horses start shedding. Oh, the hair comes off, but it tends to get stuck well up into the bristles, and I have to clean the brush out every 30 seconds or so.

So when shedding season starts I turn to my old pal, the rubber curry. When I was a kid, I used one of these on my pony. It was huge for my (then) small hand, had a woven canvas handle, and was quite stiff.

Today's models are much more flexible, and seem to be somewhat smaller in size. (At least, I don't think it's just 'cause I'm bigger!) The one on the right from Country Supply at is even available in two sizes, full & junior.

Now I know that some people like shedding blades & metal curry combs. But I'd never been a fan of the way they strip the hair off. So not mane & tail friendly.

If they get damp, a lot of them rust, and they're also prone to getting bent. You can't really use them on anything much below the knees, as there simply isn't enough meat in those areas to make it feel pleasant for the horse. Not to mention the fact that if I use one without gloves on, I always seem to end up bleeding, and how horse-friendly can that possibly be? Not.

My other pick for spring grooming? Well, Arabians, at least most of them, have lots of mane. And in spite of my best efforts they quite often manage to acquire a 5 AM, bedhead-worthy collection of dreadlocks, wind tangles, elf-locks and what have yous. So a nice, sturdy, wide-toothed plastic comb is also a must. I usually pick up several at a time, as I'm apt to either break the teeth out accidentally prying at something, and/or they just disappear - much like those socks the dryer is always eating.

Expensive isn't necessary - those Oster ones made special for horses? They don't last much better than the cheap people kind you can buy at Wal-mart. But I do avoid the hand-size, fit in your pocket ones you can get for $.19: they tend to have sharp edges, and just aren't comfortable to hold onto for any length of time.

Probably the most helpful thing for spring shedding season, though, is getting them out on grass. Spring greens gloss them up in no time. But edible pasture won't happen for a while yet, at this rate. It's snowing again. Yuck.

So, anyone have any favorite shedding-season tools? Does anyone use a vacuum? When I was out east they used a vacuum routinely on some of the lesson horses, and they never seemed to mind. Crazy!

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