Youth Corner - Show Grooming
by Adysen Roark
Horse shows are events that can be both physically and mentally demanding for horses and riders alike. Therefore, your focus should be on you, your horse, and your upcoming ride; rather than how you are going to get your horse groomed properly. I will detail my process for grooming at a horse show and hopefully it will help you think about your process and how you could change some aspects to make grooming be a relaxing time during a competition weekend, not another source of stress! I always strive for my grooming time at a competition to be a quiet time where I really start focus on the ride ahead. In order to do this, I try to give myself as much time as I can to get ready, as well as keeping my process as minimalistic as possible without sacrificing quality.
I believe that how well you take care of your horse’s coat between competitions will determine how hard you must work to get a pristine coat come show day. Simply curry combing and brushing your horse as often as possible, ideally every day, is a great way to help keep the coat healthy and give it a great sheen. The action of curry combing the coat stimulates oil production in the skin, and it is these oils that help keep the hair hydrated and healthy.
Something thing to keep in mind to protect the oils produced from brushing, is to avoid excessively bathing you horse. Typically, I will only bathe a horse, using shampoo and conditioner, once a month and one to two days before a competition. Excessively bathing a horse with shampoo and conditioner will strip the natural oils from the coat and tail, drying out the skin and making the hair brittle and dull. Letting sweat sit on a horse’s coat will also quickly damage and dull the hair, so I always make sure I remove as much sweat as possible either through rinsing with plain water or brushing. When it comes to the tail, I try to leave it alone as much as possible between competitions, especially if the horse has a thin tail or particularly fine hair. I will typically only brush a tail at home on an as needed
basis, or after a bath, and never without applying a detangler. I have found that doing these things on a consistent basis, combined with a balanced diet and good exercise, can help give your horse the best coat possible going into a competition, and leave you with a minimal amount of extra work to do at the show.
On show day, I typically will not deviate too much from my grooming routine at home. The basic curry comb, hard brush, soft brush, and picking out the feet; after these are done, I apply detangler to the tail, and let it set in, I will typically apply any polo wraps or boots during this time or address any issues with the braids in the mane. After the tail is brushed out and other miscellaneous things are taken care of, I tack up and get myself ready. Finally, I will spray with fly spray and olive oil sheen spray, as well as apply conditioner to the hooves. I save the sprays and conditioner for last to prevent dust and shavings from sticking to the treated hair, it also helps to apply these products outside the stall, if possible. I tend to use as few artificial “shine” products as possible, I’ve found that while they can make the horse look great, the products have the potential to do more harm than good in that they can dry out and damage the hair. Proper diet and consistent grooming at home will often naturally provide a great shine, and a sheen spray might only be needed as a finishing touch.
Grooming at a competition does not have to be a source of stress or worry! With proper and diligent care, most of the work of an incredible turnout can be done at home, leaving only finishing details for the day of the show. I hope sharing my grooming routine can help you to evaluate yours and see what adaptations you might want to implement to make grooming less of just an obligation, and more of an activity to look forward to at show time!