Horse Grooming Tips for Top Turnout

By Emma Ford
Brought to you by Shapley’s Grooming Products, the Official Grooming Product Sponsor of Pony Club

When preparing to ride, you and your horse should always look presentable, tidy and know that your tack is safe to use. When preparing for a lesson, rally or show, how you present yourself tells your instructor, judge and peers how much you care about your ability to look after your horse. I hope this article gives you some advice that will help you not only in passing the turnout inspection test, but also to take pride in your overall horsemanship skills.

Step 1: Bath Time
If possible, give your horse a really good bath the day before or morning of the inspection. Once you have rinsed down your horse, use a curry in a circular motion to really get through his coat and bring dirt and dandruff to the surface. For the mane and tail, put shampoo directly onto the dock and crest and thoroughly rub into the hair. Pay close attention to make sure you are reaching the roots by parting the mane/tail hair and checking that the roots are wet. For the head, stand on a mounting block and carefully use a sponge around the eyes and ears. Please do not spray your horse’s face with a hose unless he is one that drops his head while you are doing so. If you have a grey horse or one with white markings, using a bluing shampoo such as Shapley’s Purple Equitone Shampoo will truly help get them white and sparkling.

Thoroughly rinse out all suds, making sure the water is coming off without soap. Dry your horse with a towel, paying close attention to the legs and head. Comb his mane over to the correct side, in most cases the off side, and if possible spray a detangler such as Shapley’s Magic Sheen in the tail. Wait until the tail is completely dry before combing it out. Combing a wet tail will break hairs. I also will spray Magic Sheen on white socks or stockings to prevent staining from manure and urine. DO NOT spray all over the horse’s body, as these sprays contain silicone and this will cause your saddle to slip.

Step 2: Grooming
Once he’s dry you can give your horse a good groom, making sure you have cleaned every hard to reach place. Pick out his feet and brush out any debris from the soles. If there is mud on the outside hoof wall, clean this off with a stiff brush or wet sponge if needed. Allow the hoof wall to dry before applying hoof oil to the sole, frog and outer hoof walls.

Curry your horse and then use a long bristled brush to flick off dirt. Use a soft body brush to encourage hairs to lie flat and bring up a shine to the coat. If your horse has “bed head,” or hair that looks ruffled from sleeping, you will have to completely wet these areas at the beginning of your grooming session, brush the hair in the correct direction and then allow it to dry.

Should your horse’s mane be wild and not lie flat, take a warm wet towel and lay it over the combed out mane. This will encourage the mane to stay flat for some part of the day. For the tail, finger groom it first, pulling out any shavings, straw or leaves with your fingers.  Using a wide-tooth comb start at the bottom of the tail, slowly combing through.  Never try to pull a tangle out; use the comb to gently tease out any hairs. If this is hard, try applying more detangler spray to the affected area and allow it to dry before having another go at combing it out.

Using separate sponges for the dock, nose, mouth and eyes, gently wipe these areas clean. If your horse allows, spray some witch hazel on a towel and wipe out the inside of the ears. I also like to use a damp sponge to clean around the sheath/udder. Be very careful doing so, as some horses object to this being done and may react strongly. Pay attention to the ears and facial expressions, always using your free hand on the rump to feel tension.

Step 3: Final Touches
Before final touches are applied, run your hands all over the horse’s body. Feel for sweat marks or dirt that might have been missed, including areas such as the belly, in between front /back legs and around elbows. Check for dandruff at the roots of the mane and tail. 

Spray witch hazel on a towel and wipe over the whole horse. This will help to pick up any dust/dandruff on the coat without leaving behind a film of grease that some coat products can.

Before putting on your bridle, rinse out your horse’s mouth with a couple syringes full of water. This helps remove any remaining grain, hay or grass from the mouth and prevents the dreaded green drool when he is wearing a bit.

Once tacked up, do a final wipe-over with a towel, check the feet and comb through the mane and tail. 


About Shapley’s — Official USPC Grooming Product Sponsor
Shapley’s has been producing superior equine grooming products for over 85 years, and top riders and horsemen trust Shapley’s for their horse’s health and shine. Learn more at Shapleys.com


A version of this article originally appeared in Pony Club News.

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