Roger Thompson: Horsin’ Around 6-13-11

Roger Thompson
Fort Collins, Colo.

The most popular activity for many horse owners and children is grooming. Bringing out the luster of the coat and enhancing the beauty of the animal is not only rewarding to the groomer, but just like humans enjoy a good back rub, the horse enjoys being curried and brushing.

However the horse beginner needs to understand the tools and their uses. First the curry comb should be used in a circular motion to loosen dirt and old hair. My old bay horse had long dead hair all over him and I had not bothered to brush him because he was not going to be used for the summer. This made him look rough and scraggly. I was trying to get up enough nerve to take him to the sale and sell him as a killer horse. But he has been with me for so long, I was having trouble with that decision.

Then the girl keeping a horse at my place decided she liked him and wanted to take him to a Boy Scout camp for the summer. So I brushed him down and made him look presentable and they took him for the camp.

Start currying on the neck or shoulder and proceed back, taking plenty of time to do a good job. Curry combs should not be used on the face or below the knee because of the teeth on the comb.

The brush can then be used to flick the dust and dirt up and away from the coat. Use a short stroke so as not to imbed dirt back into the coat. A flick of the wrist helps send the dirt flying. Soft brushes are best for thin-skinned or sensitive horses. Be sure to brush the legs on the inside and down around the coronet, around the fetlock joints. Brush in the direction that the hair grows using plenty of “elbow grease” to bring put the luster. Finish by rubbing the horse with a soft piece of toweling. The towel can also be used to clean the face and dock.

Mane combs are easily lost, so you may want to use two curry combs or two brushes, one on either side of the main or tail. Pull both down at the same time and you will be brushing the hair from two sides at once.

Hoof picks are another item easily lost. They seem to fall into the sawdust or a pocket, never to be seen again. The neat way to keep those picks is to attach a 3-foot chain and attach a block of brightly colored wood block. The chain can be hung anywhere and bright orange paint has saved many hoof picks.

Hoof picks are to be used from heel to toe to remove manure, stones and deeply imbedded material. It is surprising that few people know how to pick up a foot correctly. First squeeze the tendon behind the cannon bone of the foreleg as the horse lifts his foot move your shoulder into the horse’s body to gently push the weight off the foot. As the horse lifts his foot, cup the toe in the palm of your hand. You are bending the fetlock joint so he cannot easily pull his foot away and reset it on the ground.

To lift a hind foot, stand close to the horse, run your hand down his leg, grasp the fetlock hair, or back of the leg and pull slightly forward then cup the roe in the palm of the hand and move the leg into the most comfortable position for you and the horse.


Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.