Noble Life

Grooming to Get That Horse Show Shine

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Try these easy tips to up his amperage in the show ring.

Coat

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A little shampoo goes a long way. After you’re done sudsing your horse, rinse him thoroughly until the water runs clear. American Saddlebred Bathing from Jean on Flickr
  • Dirty grooming tools won’t take off dirt on your horse’s coat. Before a show, clean your grooming tools by soaking them in warm water with a squirt of dishwashing detergent. Rinse them well and let them fully dry in the sun.
  • A little shampoo goes a long way. After you’re done sudsing your horse, rinse him thoroughly until the water runs clear. Soap residue can not only dull his coat, it can make him itchy, which could cause him  to rub his mane and tail.
  • Once your horse is bathed, spray him liberally with a silicone-based coat spray, which will keep dust and dirt from sticking. Spray him everywhere except where his saddle will go (this spray can cause the saddle to slip). Also avoid the mane if you will need to braid or band him for his classes, but pay special attention to any white legs and his tail.
  • If your horse will be competing in an in-hand or showmanship class after an under-saddle class at the show, rubbing any saddle or bridle marks with rubbing alcohol will help the sweat dissipate more quickly.

Legs

  • Clip your horse’s legs (and face) at least three days before you plan to compete. Wash his legs well and let them dry completely before clipping them with a No. 10 blade. Go against the hair growth for a close trim that will leave his legs blindingly white. If your horse lives outside full time, or if he spends most of his day in the sun, do not trim him this closely as he can get sunburned. For these horses, trimming the fetlocks and around the ergot should suffice, as well as cleaning up the coronet band.
  • Just before walking in the ring, liberally coat your horse’s white leg markings in cornstarch, baby powder, French chalk (tailors use this chalk to mark clothes before they cut the fabric) or an equine-specific aerosol touch-up spray to make his markings pop. Only apply these products before you paint your horse’s feet, or the powder will stick to the hoof oil.

Hooves

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Apply one coat of hoof polish (check with your horse’s breed or discipline registry to see if colored hoof polish is allowed) right before he walks in the ring. Polished Hooves.jpg on Wikipedia Commons
  • Scrub your horse’s hooves with water and steel wool to get rid of manure and dirt buildup around his coronet band.
  • Once his hooves are dry, fill in old nail holes with spackle (you can find this at your local hardware store) that matches his hoof color.
  • Once the spackle has set, use a fine-grit sanding block or sandpaper to buff his hooves and make them super-smooth.
  • Apply one coat of hoof polish (check with your horse’s breed or discipline registry to see if colored hoof polish is allowed) right before he walks in the ring.

Face

  • Horse whiskers tend to grow rapidly, so you may need to touch up his muzzle and ears the day before the show,
  • His bridle path too should be trimmed to match the length of his hair coat. The length of his bridle path will depend on what breed or discipline you are showing in (check the rulebook for specifics).
  • To minimize the time he has to get you dirty, apply baby oil or face grease to his eyes and muzzle to highlight his features right before entering the ring.

Mane and Tail

  • Combing or not combing the tail is truly a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to hand-pick to prevent breakage, while others use a wide-bristled brush to gently work knots from a tail that has liberal amounts of silicone spray on it. Always start from the bottom and work up, tugging gently at knots to lose as little hair as possible.
  • If your breed or discipline encourages banding or braiding of the mane and/or tail, human gel can help combat flyaways.
  • If you braid or band your horse’s mane the night before a class, consider spraying his mane with Listerine before putting a lycra hood over him. This will help prevent him from rubbing his mane overnight.

These grooming hints will help your horse look his best on show day, making sure the judge takes note!

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Sarah Coleman grew up riding any horse she could find; she competed on both the western and hunt seat teams at Ohio University, where she graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and was a member of the 2002 IHSA National Championship Hunt Seat team. She has since settled into the hunters and is now based in Lexington, KY, where she competes her OTTBs Bayou Brass and Chisholm. She is the director of Education and Development for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, as well as the secretary and treasurer for the Kentucky Hunter Jumper Association.

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