Tips and Tricks of the Trade is a new article series being provided through a partnership between Athletux and the USEA.
Winter can be a hard time to keep your horse looking clean and tidy, especially without access to warm water. Some days, even with warm water, it's just too cold to bathe them at all! In any case, a good rubber curry is your best friend, along with a good set of brushes and a strong hoof pick.
Even if you don't have time for a full grooming session, the most important thing is to make sure your horse's feet get picked out. Check to make sure their shoes are tight and no nails are loose. Check especially around the frog for signs of thrush - something that is very prevalent in the muddy winter months! When you pick their feet, take your gloves off for a minute and run your hand down their legs. If their legs aren't clipped, it can be very easy to miss any heat, swelling, or scrapes. Most of my horses have hairy legs, but I like to keep their fetlock hairs trimmed with a good pair of scissors to keep the mud away and make them look tidy. If they have especially hairy legs, I run a small pair of clippers down the leg with the direction of the hair to clean it up a little.
If your horse is covered in wet mud, there isn't much you can do besides let them dry. Once it's dry, take a strong rubber curry and work it all over, checking for any injuries, scabs, or rain rot. Then take a stiff brush and go over everywhere that you've curried. I like to also have a softer curry for their face and other delicate areas, as well as a softer brush. I also use the softer brush and curry and go over their entire body after a ride. I use the same routine whether the horse is clipped or not! I comb their manes over every day, and try to pull a little every few days so it isn't a big production to keep them pulled. I only comb tails out at shows, but spray show sheen in every couple of days to make it easier to pick out hay, shavings and leaves.
If you don't have hot water available, you can do a lot with a bucket heater and a five gallon bucket of water. Put a drop of ivory dish soap in a small bucket of hot water, grab a small rag, and work it over your horse to get the dust out. I also use this method after a ride to rub out any sweat marks. A five-gallon bucket is also enough to wash their legs with. Mud left on legs can lead to scratches, rain rot and other fungus. I try to take advantage of warm days and bathe if possible, or at least wash legs and tails. Just make sure you towel dry their legs after.
When I groom clipped horses, I like to fold back the front half of the blanket, groom that part, then replace it and fold the back end up and do their hindquarters to keep the horses from getting chilled while I'm grooming. Example pictured above. If they need to stand on the cross ties after they've been tacked up, I put a blanket or wool cooler back over the saddle. Grooming in the winter can be tedious, but it's not impossible!
Rachael Livermore is head groom to CCI4* rider Sharon White. Rachael began her Eventing career while at Foxcroft School on a full scholarship. While attending Foxcroft, she won the Charlotte Haxall Noland Trophy for Best Rider at Foxcroft. Now a JMU Graduate with Honors, Rachael has successfully competed through the Preliminary level and is now kept extremely busy as Sharon’s groom and office manager. Her incredible attention to detail, discipline, and hard-working attitude are huge assets to the LFF Team, not to mention the rest of the team is in awe of her computer skills. Most importantly, she takes amazing care of the horses! To learn more about Rachael Livermore and Sharon White, please visit www.lastfrontierfarm.com.