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QUESTION:

Howdy, Cowboy Bob,

Please give me some tips on grooming horses.

Thanks,

- J.

ANSWER:

Probably the best tip I can give you about grooming your horse is, "Remember the back of your neck."

Strange advice? I don't think so.

First, try rubbing your hand "against the grain" on the short hair on the back of your neck. At first, it won't bother you too much. Keep doing it, however, and it can get downright irritating. When you brush your horse, be sure to brush with the normal lay of your horse's hair. The only exception is when you need to break up heavy dirt. If you can't break it up easily, a bit of soap and water may be in order. When you're done, remember to brush the hair back to its normal position. Work from front to back, top to bottom, and don't forget the belly.

Next, think about what happens when your neck is hot and dusty - and your collar keeps rubbing on your neck. Keep it up long enough and your neck will get really sore... in extreme cases, even bloody. If that happens with a loose collar, imagine what it's like with a tight girth or saddle blanket. Especially in the areas that get rubbed a lot, your horse should be as well-groomed as the back of your neck.

A word of caution: it's possible to over-do a good thing. Up in my neck of the woods, savvy outdoors folks know that you shouldn't wash your face right before you face the elements. The oil on your skin helps to insulate and protect you from the weather. Likewise, washing the oil out of your horse's hair and skin leaves him more vulnerable to weather damage.

Remember to play it safe when you groom. Be constantly alert to the possibility of a nip or kick. If you don't wear glasses, you may even want to grab a pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes from the whip-lash of the horse's tail.

Finally, you wouldn't consider yourself well-groomed if you had dirty fingernails. The hoof is a horse's fingernail. Be sure to clean your mount's feet, checking for packed-in pebbles and anything else that might cause pain or damage to the feet.

Happy Riding!

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