Tips and Tricks of the Trade is an article series that gives you the industry secrets from the best grooms in the country, and it is brought to you by Athletux.
My name is Laura Holland, I am the head groom for Dani Sussman, the rider and owner of Aspire Eventing located in Colorado. Living in Colorado, the cold weather is inevitable. As the head groom, my job is to keep horses and rider looking and feeling their best at all times, which includes when the temperatures are low. Here are some tips for showing in not so ideal conditions.
Let’s start with tips for the rider. We have all dismounted in winter and it feels like our feet could shatter from the cold. I have found that a good pair of wool socks is key to keeping feet feeling their best. I like the brand Smart Wool best. Wool socks wick away sweat from the skin and are also very warm. Finding the perfect wool sock is as easy as going to your local outdoor store, making sure to find the right thickness for your tall boots. While you are there, pick up some Hot Hands to keep in your pockets, your hands will thank you.
Now to the hands, I have two pares of gloves that I think are a must have. You need a glove for riding that has just enough lining to keep your hands warm but not too much where you cannot feel the horse’s mouth. For back at the stalls, I love more of a rancher type glove. This glove has more lining and is perfect for getting all the work done when not on a horse.
Now that I have given you some tips for keeping your feet and hands warmer, let’s talk about keeping the rider warm before entering the show ring. We all want to look our best in the show ring, which means a gigantic parka isn’t an option. I have found that adding a down vest over the top of a show jacket, to keep the rider warm during warmup, is a very nice touch. Just don’t forget to take off the vest before entering the show ring.
Now let’s talk about getting your horse looking it’s best during colder weather. We all dislike our show horses growing a winter coat, it makes our jobs so much harder. Body clipping is the best option and there are many styles, so choose the best style for you and your horses. I prefer a full body clip including legs. I always like to bathe our horses at home before heading to the show, that way I have more control and access to hot water. Adding liniment to your horse bath is a little trick that will help your horses dry faster.
After a bath, you’ll need a cooler to help your horse stay warm and dry more quickly. My go to coolers are an Irish knit and a Wool, ideally having two sets per horses. After bathing, I like to put on the Irish knit first and then the wool. The Irish knit will help wick away the water and the wool will keep your horse warm. I like to change the Irish knit out when it seems wet for a new one, as this will help your horse dry faster; you may also want to change out the wool. If you do not have a wool, you can use a fleece. I also like to take a towel to the horse legs and face to help in the drying process. In addition, if your horse is well behaved, a blow dryer is a great tool to use.
Now we have a nice clean horse and want to keep them looking nice throughout the show. One of the best tricks I have learned when it comes to a nice clean shiny coat, even when they may not be so clean, is taking a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water in a 50/50 ratio and spraying it on the horse or brush to help lift away dirt. You will need a soft brush to do this. I find that on a nicely clipped horse you can spray directly on the horse’s coat and then brush. For a longer coat and the face, it works best to spray the brush, then brush the horse. I like doing this when I am grooming and also right before Dani gets on. One thing to avoid using on the body is Show Sheen, as we have all heard stories of saddles sliding.
After a workout, the best way I have found to remove saddle marks and sweat is by spraying the area with rubbing alcohol and rubbing with a rag. The rubbing alcohol will help the horse dry faster and rubbing with the rag will take away the marks. In addition, the alcohol removes the sticky feel of the sweat from the coat. Spraying a rag and rubbing the horses face will remove bridle marks. Rubbing alcohol is also very useful for your horse legs, as a type of liniment. If you feel like you must bathe your horse after a ride, I would follow the suggested plan I used earlier to keep the horse as warm as possible.
I hope you find my tips helpful and the best of luck.