How to Groom Your Horse to Shine
An Easy 4-Step-Grooming™ Process
Horse owners know how confusing the multitude of shine and gloss producing products, spray, shampoos and gels can be that are the staples of any well-stocked tack shop or horse/farm supply store.
There seems to be no end on how much money you can spend and how many different chemical products you can apply to your horse in order to produce show-ready shine. But are these horse coat shine miracle products really necessary?
If you wonder how to groom your horse to shine naturally – read on!
The Case for Elbow Grease vs. Cowboy Magic
Let’s just time travel for a moment: When I got started in horses in 1970’s Germany and groomed 5-10 horses every day plus show grooming on weekends, there were two elements that determined how shiny and well groomed your horse would look: A) your determination and elbow grease and B) a good quality brush. The End (Not).
Admittedly, there is also a certain level of technique and skill that – while easily learned – is key to getting it right. In this article, I will break down the basic grooming process into 4 easy steps. We will focus only on your horse’s coat.
“…there were two elements that determined how shiny and well groomed your horse would look:Stefanie Reinhold
A) your determination and elbow grease and B) a good quality brush.”
How to Master the 4-Step Grooming Process
NOTE: When I talk about shine, please keep in mind that shine very much depends on the color of the individual horse. A dark bay or black horse can look real glossy, a white or grey horse will shine in a more subtle kind of way. Shine is the hair’s ability to reflect light. This can become very obvious when the horse moves and is harder to show on a static image.
IMPORTANT: Do not skimp on the right tools. You cannot (CANNOT) get good results with inferior tools.
- Massage curry (rubber or very good quality, otherwise torture instrument!)
- Stiff curry (good quality, rounded edges!)
- Flick or dandy brush
- Finishing brush
- Shine cloth or brush
- A caddy or bag for storage (protected from dust and dirt)
As a rule, your brushes should be made of natural materials.
Synthetic bristles* can be torture instruments that cause static, trap and reapply dirt, and—the stiffer, coarser kind—develops micro-cracks in the plastic bristles that function like little blades, causing small scratches on your horse’s skin.
*) Plastic brushes trap and re-apply dirt and prevent shine. You may then be tempted to use ‘shine sprays’, which build up on coat and brushes. This vicious cycle keeps some people in business but does not make you or your horse happy….
Your Technique – 4 Easy Grooming Steps
The 4 steps of how to groom your horse to shine are easy. Take it from 1-4 in this sequence:
STEP 1: CURRYING
Your tool: The massage curry A massage curry increases the blood circulation of the skin, helps relax the tiny erector muscles that are connected to each hair follicle (aha! relaxed muscle = flat hair = shine…) and brings dirt and debris up from the skin in a gentle way.
How to curry: Start behind the poll and curry your horse in a circular motion from head over chest, shoulder, back, belly, hind end to hocks. Don’t work the curry from knee or hock down. We’ll get to that later. Do this on both sides of the horse.
Your goal: Massage the skin, increase blood circulation, relax the tiny erector muscles and bring up all the dirt and move it to the surface.
Step 2: FLICKING
Flicking is a sort of sweeping hand motion in short strokes to further bring up more dust, debris and dander from the horse’s skin up to the surface of the coat. It also serves to distribute the oils on the skin over the hair (shine alert!).
Your tool: A natural-bristle (plant or root bristle) flick or dandy brush. The bristles must NOT be stiff, but ‘springy’ and flick back when you push against them. Remember, synthetic brushes should be called ‘anti shine brushes’ and stiff brushes do not ‘flick’.
How to flick: Use the same motion you use when sweeping with a corn broom. This is best done in short flicking strokes with the movement coming from the wrist.
Start behind the poll and brush the horse’s coat in the direction of it’s growth in short strokes. Brush the whole horse this way on both sides. If desired, follow up with a second brushing with longer strokes, but still flicking. (See images below.)
Your goal: Lift dust, debris and dander from the horse’s skin up to the surface of the coat and flick it off, distribute the oils on the skin over the hair coat.
HOW TO USE A FLICK OR DANDY BRUSH
Technique is everything! Be sure to let the movement come from the wrist. Use short strokes and start behind the horse’s ear, moving toward the tail. Repeat if needed.
STEP 4: SHINE
Bring on the Shine (and not the ‘Magic’…) in this last, optional but fun step.
Your tool: My favorite tool to remove fine dust particles and smooth the hair is a soft goat hair brush, followed by a cloth diaper or a lambskin mitten such as the ones used for washing cars. Of course, the ultimate luxury is a Haas Diva Exklusiv!
Your technique: Again, work in the direction of hair growth. Brush the entire horse, several times if needed, with the Haas Diva or a large goat hair brush. Then follow up by wiping with a good amount of pressure in the direction of hair growth, either with a cloth diaper or a lambskin mitten. You can also just use the brush, cloth, or mitten.
Your goal: To move all fine dust off the surface of the horse’s coat and smoothen the hair flat, creating that extra shine!
LAST STEP: ENJOY!
It’s a pleasure to look at your horse all clean, gleaming and looking healthy! Enjoy the clean horse—as a horse person you know it will not last long!
Now, that you know how to groom your horse to shine in 4 easy steps – the “old school” way, I hope you will find so much joy in it, that you will not mind to groom your horse again and again and again 😉 as we all do…
Enjoy the clean horse—as a horse person, you know it will not last long!