Horse Grooming

Equine-facilitated Mindfulness Exercise 2

The 5 senses Mindful Grooming Exercise

“Grooming is the process that transfers the dirt from the horse to the groom.”

Grooming a horse is easy, anyone can do it. The task itself is simple: to connect with and clean the horse.  But when we add mindfulness, grooming becomes an exercise in awareness, anchoring us in the present moment and enabling a profound connection to our authentic selves and to the horse.

Before you start, take a few moments to notice your breathing, how your body feels, and any thoughts or emotions you are experiencing as you stand next to the horse. Then, intentionally turn your attention to the horse, look at her with soft eyes and adjust your body so that you are relaxed but alert. Focus on the sight, smell, sound and feel of the horse’s warm, breathing, living body. Use your VISION to look at the horse, and then look at the specific tools you are going to use, the curry comb, a stiff-bristled dandy brush, and small and medium-sized body brushes. Notice the colour and shape and then FEEL the texture of each grooming tool. Put both your hands on the horse’s back, close your eyes and notice what you FEEL under your hands. As you start grooming the horse, notice the horse’s body language. Is she sighing, smacking her lips, dropping her head, lifting one back hoof off the ground? – these are signs of relaxation. 

LISTEN to sounds you hear as you are grooming: birdsong, other horses munching on grass, the breathing of the horse you are grooming. Listen to the sound each grooming tool makes as you use it on the horse’s coat. Are you talking to the horse while grooming her? Listen to the sound of your voice, and the sounds the horse makes while moving around. Take a deep breath and focus on that heavenly horse SMELL. Can you smell anything else? Flowers in bloom? Fresh hay? As you groom, pay attention to your own body as it does the rhythmic grooming movements. Pain anywhere? Stiffness? Notice especially the emotions arising inside you. After noticing these emotions mindfully, without judging yourself for having them, release them from your awareness and shift your focus back to grooming the horse.

At the end of the grooming session, spend a few moments to reflect on everything that you are grateful for – that you can see, hear, feel, move…and then thank the horse with lovingkindness for her generous attention.

How do you groom a horse?

Quick Guide to the Equipment

Curry comb

What is it? A curry comb is a short-toothed horse grooming comb made from rubber or plastic that is used in small, circular movements to rub to loosen hair, dirt, dead skin cells, as well as to stimulate the blood flow and the production of natural oils.

How is it used? The curry comb typically has a handle on its reverse that the rider’s hand can slip into in order to perform the small circular motions needed to dislodge dirt.

Where is it used? All over the horse’s body, except the legs, tummy and head.

Dandy brush

What is it? A dandy brush is a horse grooming brush that has long, stiff bristles in order to remove the dirt that has been brought to the surface with the curry comb.

How is it used? The dandy brush is used in short strokes in the direction of the horse’s hair growth except for the flanks, where the hair grows in a different pattern.

Where is it used? All over the horse’s body, except on the head.

Body brushes

What is it? A body brush is a soft-bristled horse grooming brush used to remove grease and release natural oils from the coat, as well as to soothe and relax to the horse. These brushes are made with either natural fibres, like horsehair, goat hair, or boar bristles, or from soft, synthetic fibres.

How is it used? The body brush is used with long, sweeping strokes to smooth the coat and bring natural oils to the surface.

Where is it used? These soft brushes can be used all over the horse’s body, though a smaller brush may be used on the face.

Method

1. Use the Curry Comb

Begin on their left side, working from ear to tail, avoiding the head, mane, tail, and lower legs, and taking care when going over bony sections of the shoulders, hips, and legs. Use circular motions, applying gentle pressure to dislodge any unwanted dust and dirt. Should your horse flatten their ears or swish their tail, they’re indicating their discomfort, so ease off and curry more gently. Use the opportunity to check for any skin lesions or wounds as you go.

2. Brush away dirt with a Dandy Brush
Now you’ve dislodged all the dirt from your horse’s skin, it’s time to brush it off. So, grab your dandy brush and use short flicking motions to whisk away the debris from their coat. You’ll need to cover the same areas you’ve just gone over with the curry comb, still avoiding the head, mane, tail, tummy and legs. Begin at the neck and work your way around the horse, following the direction of hair growth.

3. Use a Body Brush to add shine
The last brush you’ll be using on your horse’s coat is the body brush, which has softer bristles that are perfect for adding a luxurious shine. Thanks to this gentler touch, it’s safe to use this brush on your horse’s head and legs, though you might use a smaller body brush for the face.

Starting at the head, work your way along the body and then down the legs. Use long, sweeping strokes in the direction of hair growth to whisk away any particles left by the dandy brush and to smooth down the hairs. Take care to use shorter sweeping strokes on the lower legs.

4. Sponge the Sensitive Areas
After grooming your horse’s coat, you groom her face. Use a dampened sponge to gently wipe around their eyes, ears, and muzzle. Take your time and be extra careful not to cause discomfort. Check for any signs of eye infections, like excessive tearing, swelling, or redness, and check the horse’s ears for lodged dirt or seeds. My horses love a good ear scratch.

Watch the video below to find out how to go about it:

“I am not always groomed to perfection, but when I am, I immediately go and roll in the mud,” confided the Friesian mare.

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