Grooming Go-Tos

1. When braiding your horse, use a rubber band on your comb to mark the width of each braid. Your finished braids will all be perfect! (Well, at least they will all be the same width.) Be sure to thin your horse’s mane so it’s even from poll to withers, so your braids are equally dense, too.

2. Use an empty feed bag to easily load a hay net. Place a flake or two in the feed bag, then slide the net over the feed bag. Flip over and remove the feed bag. You can also use empty feed bags for loads of other things; they are handy to slide in between tack trunks to use as trash bins.

3. Use a pair of socks with the toes cut open as lower leg protection for your horse. This can help keep bandages in place, keep the bugs away, or keep legs white before a show. The socks shouldn’t get wet, so keep an eye on the weather.

4. Use the little trays from mushroom containers to hold and catch the spills from your favourite hoof dressings. Or leaky, cracked or drippy bottles. Really, anything that needs some containment.

5. Plain white vinegar is a great post-shampoo rinse to get rid of all suds, add some shine, and repel bugs. (Some bugs are attracted to vinegar smells, though, so do some experimenting.) Vinegar is also great for cleaning around the barn.

6. If your horse looks like he was dropped into a burr and wind-knot machine, use some leave-in conditioner/detangler to loosen and condition the hair so you can get those burrs out and the knots removed.

7. If your horse gets rubs on his fetlocks from laying down, get a thick pair of bell boots and put them on upside down for protection. You might need to find the bell boot variety that has some fuzzy stuff on the cuff so rubs don’t happen.

8. Use horse undies, also known as jammies, to help train a mane to lay to one side. Horse undies are also good after a bath if your horse likes to roll while wet. Let him! Take them off after a good roll so he’s able to dry.

9. Use a fair amount of detangler product on your horse after a bath and before a clip. This makes your clipper blades glide through the hair. You can also use a grooming oil.

10. If your horse gets dented hairs from his blanket on his chest, use a leg quilt over the blanket’s neck opening to alleviate this. You shouldn’t need another blanket to hold it in. If it comes out, at least it’s soft and maybe your horse will use that as a pillow and not a pile of manure.

11. Use old clipper blades to shorten a mane. Backcomb the hair and use the old clipper blade to chop off the end of the hair. Some clipper blades can only be sharpened once or twice, then they can live on in your grooming kit as a mane tool.

12. Using a dish brush with soap in the handle is a great way to scrub horse’s legs or buckets. For legs, fill your brush with shampoo; for buckets and feed tubs, fill with dish soap.

13. When clipping your horse, toss your hot blades on an ice pack to cool down quickly. Be sure to wipe any oil or spray lube from the ice pack before it goes back in the freezer. Also know that hot clipper blades are a sign your clippers are working really hard, which happens if they need sharpening or your horse is not super clean and slick. You may also need to add OIL, not coolant. If you use coolant, follow up with oil. In fact, you can never really use too much oil.

14. To create hot towels in the cooler weather for stain removal and warming up the bit, use a (supervised) crock pot with water and small dish towels. You can also use an instant-hot kettle. Hot toweling is a great way to clean your fuzzy winter horse! Also a nice way to add hot water to your horse’s meals, or if you need to dissolve some meds into his food.

15. Hang a hoof pick on your horse’s stall door to pick his feet before you exit the stall. This keeps your barn aisle tidier and creates less mess to sweep later. Hoof picks are also great for installing screw eyes at horse shows and leveraging open tubs.

16. Hang your horse’s bit in a sunny window on chilly days to warm it up as you groom. For really cold days you might need to dunk it into hot water. An instant-hot kettle is the quickest way to achieve this.

Around the Barn

17. Get creative and hang a wood shipping pallet on the wall. It makes an easy shelf, or you can use one to contain rakes, forks, and keep any long-handled stuff tucked out of the way and secured. This is also an easy way to store the broom bristles away from the ground so they stay stiff and long, instead of getting squashed in a corner somewhere.

18. To keep shavings inside the stall, you can create a soft, hoof-friendly lip with a piece of stall mat. You can also use the cut-down bristle end of a copuple of old push brooms. The mat or brooms are better than a board across the stall threshold if your horse likes to whack his hooves around.

19. Use a tire rim as a hose holder to make the most awkward horse barn chore of rolling the hose up easier. Better yet, get some of those shrinking hoses that you have seen on TV ads they are amazing and save so much time and hassle.

20. Use a PVC tube with a closed end as a whip holder. Mount on a wall or post and drill a hole in the bottom for drainage, just in case.

21. Have some shatterproof mirrors around so your horse won’t get lonely in his stall, the trailer, or for when you need to see just how bad your helmet hair really is. Shatterproof mirrors have been known to help the horse that weaves, too, as this vice is derived from stress, not boredom. Showing him an identical buddy may soothe his nerves.

22. Keep a tennis ball on the end of the cross-ties to avoid the super-annoying clang when they drop open. Also, it may give your barn dogs something to stare at for hours. This can also discourage a mouthy horse from chewing the cross ties when he’s being groomed.

23. Toss limp carrots into a bucket of cold water to revive them. Throw out or compost any slimy carrots. This actually works for just about any piece of veggie; you can even perk up your salads at home in some cold water.

24. When it’s super rainy and mucky, you can use big chunky mulch at gates. This is also great for shows, just outside of the stalls, to help keep the mud and water outside and not in your horse’s house.

25. Bell boots that you pull on can test your arm muscles and your patience. Soak them in some hot water before you use them so they are more pliable! You can also get the velcro kind, but for horses that need to live in them, the pull-on varieties are often better.

26. Use a few rubber braiding bands as bridle keepers until you can make it to the tack store to pick up some replacement keepers.

27. To keep track of whose polo wraps belong to whom, use a pair of scissors to cut a design into the ends of matching polo wraps. You will always be able to match up the correct pairs, even after they are rolled. You can cut a notch out, clip off one of the corners, create a zig-zag, etc.

First Aid Fixes

28. Diapers are great for wounds and also packing hooves. They serve as wraps for hoof poultice or packing, and can be wet and frozen for icing weird horse leg areas, like fetlocks and knees.

29. Keep panty liners in your first aid kit for instant horse-size band-aids. These are not as bulky as diapers and can be easier to wrap on your horse. And because they come in all thicknesses, you can be prepared for anything.

30. Veggie baby foods are great mixers for gross-tasting medicines! Be sure that you pick a flavor that your horse will like, like carrot or apple, and stay away from broccoli and other veggies that are toxic to horses.

Bless the Baling Twine

31. Use baling twine as a saw to cut through other bailing twine if you don’t have a knife handy. Hang onto each end of the V-shaped piece and quickly saw back and forth. Tah-dah!

32. Use baling twine as a sweat scraper. It’s nice because it can go over bumpy, bony areas. Just hold it taut over your horse and squeegee along his body. You will want to use a towel on his face and legs, but the baling twine is great for other parts.

$$ Store Finds

33. Microfiber car cleaning gloves will remove the last bit of dust from your horse, your tack, the top of your tack trunk, you name it. And then toss it in the washing machine.

34. Double-sided scrubby sponges. Good for water buckets, feeders, bits, hooves, super dirty tack.

35. Stackable storage containers are great for tack cleaning stuff or washcloths. Larger bins could store polos, boots, bell boots.

36. Dish gloves that are sticky on one side are super for scrubbing buckets and feeders, especially in winter. Gardening gloves are great for blister prevention and a bit of warmth when you are in a stall-cleaning marathon.

37. Fake flowers! Great for jumps, dressage letterboxes, or just tack room prettiness.

38. Awesome barn-worthy dinnerware. This stuff is safe, no glass to break, washable, and not so expensive that you will feel bad if the barn dog runs off with it and buries it.

39. Aloe vera gel. Great for human and equine sunburns, as well as scrapes, cuts, abrasions.

40. Socks. Cut the toes away for your horse’s lower legs (see #3), and also good for a spare set when the wash rack attacks and you are squishy with every step.

Household Helpers

41. Raid your kitchen for cornstarch or your bathroom for baby powder. Both powders help chrome legs stay nice and bright for the show ring! After your horse’s lower legs are dry, sprinkle them with baby powder for a blinding shine. This works best on legs that have been clipped.

42. If you have a horse that likes to chew on wood or stall parts, rub a bar of strong soap (like Irish Spring, which is is particularly potent) on the chewed parts to deter more damage.

43. Use dryer sheets as rodent and fly repellents around the barn. You can also get rid of static cling and electric shocks in your horse blankets by rubbing the underside of your blankets with a dryer sheet.

44. Use a brush attachment (instead of a flat head or Phillips head) to your screw gun to deep-clean buckets, feeders, troughs, trailers, stall walls you name it.

45. Use some Vaseline to soften chestnuts and ergots if they have reached prehistoric size.

46. Use a loofah glove for deep cleaning some of your horse’s tack. This is great for nubby reins that accumulate a lot of goop and the rough side of billets. Be careful if your tack is super smooth, as you may scratch it. You can also use these to clean buckets and bits and anything else that needs some grip and texture. Also good for the wash rack for dirty ponies.

47. Save the desiccant packs from your supplements to store with your rarely used tack. This will help keep mold and mildew away. You can also toss a few into your helmet or tack trunk for some moisture control.

48. Use a pool skimmer to clean water troughs. This is especially handy after a windy day, anytime in the fall, or if there are a lot of bugs floating around.

49. Use a dog hair slicker brush to fluff up sheepskin and fleece. And maybe your dog, too! This is especially helpful after the sheepskin has dried and the sweat and crunch is easy to remove.

50. Use a lingerie bag to wash and dry your polo wraps. This prevents the dreaded “spaghetti” effect of untangling your polos.

51. Bring an old yoga mat to the barn. It’s great to cut up and cover saddle racks with to keep the dents out of your saddle’s flocking and padding.

52. Skip spending big bucks for fluffy furry earplugs for your horse; just get some soft little cat toys instead. Look for round cat toys (not the mouse-shaped ones) that are soft, fuzzy, and definitely don’t have a squeaker or bell inside!

53. Add dental floss to your sewing kit for horse stuff repairs. It lasts a lot longer, is stronger (and also fights plaque)… You might need to get a heavy-duty sewing needle with a larger opening.

For the Rider

54. Wear wet socks to help break in a new pair of boots. This helps to stretch out the leather a bit and conform it to your leg and foot and ankle. An alternative is to dunk your boots in water (GASP!) but I would only try this on paddock boots. Spraying the inside of the boot with water might help, too, but not as effective as squishy, soggy socks.

55. You can prevent blisters by using a body glide type of product like runners and hikers use. Use it on your own blister-prone areas, and on your horse if he gets rubs or sores.

56. Use polo wraps as half chaps if you forget yours. Or you just can’t find your half chaps in the trunk/secondary barn storage of your car.

57. If you forget your gloves, use some vet wrap around your ring and middle fingers. Vet wrap is also great to use over your fingers if you are pulling a mane or braiding your horse.

58. If you get nice and sweaty under your helmet in the summer, consider wearing a bandana to help keep your hair smooth and your helmet not so … icky. Your bandana will absorb most of the sweat and your helmet can stay fresher for a longer period of time.

And NEVER, ever….

It is NEVER okay to use household cleaners and detergents on horses. Sure, there are some things that we “borrow” to use on our horses, such as baby oil. … which goes on babies, also. Would you put glass cleaner on your baby? Likely not.

Pledge furniture cleaner for tails. Your horse is a living, breathing creature, not a coffee table. There are tons of safe and horse-specific detanglers, conditioners, grooming oils, and tail spritzes that work better.

WD 40 for anything that could possibly touch your horse’s skin. Read the can. Super gross and dangerous, not to mention the absolute myth that it’s made from fish oil. WD 40 has zero fish products of any kind in it.

Dish soap, detergents, Orvus, and Oxi-Clean for horses. There is literally only one case in which I think dish soap as shampoo is a good idea, and that’s if your horse has legitimately been caught in an oil spill. But what if your horse doesn’t have crude oil on him? That soap or detergent is going to take every last bit of wonderful, natural, immune-boosting shine and oil he has.

Hacksaw blade for shedding. I can see how this one happened; there are a lot of metal types of curry combs out there (of which I despise each and every one of them). Metal doesn’t yield or give. You can’t use metal over bony parts, on faces, down legs. Do you trust a rusty metal blade to not damage your horse’s coat? Tetanus, anyone?

Soaking your cracked leather tack in olive oil. Nothing is going to bring cracked leather back to life. You can get it softer, sure, but it won’t be strong. As leather dries out, its protein bonds shrink and break, creating brittle and easily-breakable leather. Save your olive oil for the kitchen, or for leather that isn’t cracked!

Ketchup for whitening up horse tails. I’m not entirely sure if this is wrong, it’s more of a possible waste of time and perfectly good ketchup. Once you load up your horse with ketchup, you have to wash it out with shampoo! So why not use a high-quality shampoo to start with?

Anything bleach – wipes, for thrush, for tails. Horses are not kitchen counters, and bleach has no business being on your horse. Especially for thrush, which is essentially a wound in which bacteria are eating your horse’s hoof. When used on tails, bleach can damage the hair, causing breakage and more stains.

Motor oil on hooves. Just NO. It is gross, toxic, and there are far more safe and pretty hoof polish alternatives out there. This horse hack needs to die just like the dinosaurs that turned into motor oil.