At first glance, a dressage queen and a rodeo queen would seem to have very little in common. While this may in fact be the case, there is one thing upon which riders from every discipline can agree: grooming is the great equalizer. Of course everyone has unique standards, but we can all appreciate a well turned-out steed.
This week, we tapped a few friends and professional grooms and begged them to divulge their secrets, then included a few of the effective but lesser-known grooming tricks that we’ve amassed over the years ourselves. We share these tips and tricks in the hopes that they’ll minimize time in the cross-ties, maximize time in the saddle, and help you present a horse that is fit for a queen.
Rubbing Alcohol – $2+
You might not be surprised to learn that we go through a lot of alcohol at OR HQ! Of course we use it for the usual purposes: spraying an area of skin before an injection, or to help damp legs dry faster. However, when it comes to clipping those legs (especially dirty or scummy ones), alcohol is the real superstar! Simply spray liberally on clippers as well as hair, repeat as necessary, and the blades will glide through even winter fur like they’re brand new. This trick has saved us hundreds of dollars on new clipper blades, loads of time, and a few heat-of-the-moment swear words.
Manuka Honey – $15+
When one of the OR geldings recently required some wound care, several vets agreed that Manuka Honey was the necessary remedy (say what?). It turns out that this specific type of honey from New Zealand has antibacterial properties. It’s not voodoo, it’s science, and you can read about that in detail here.
Santa Fe Coat Conditioner – $14
We’ve reported on this magic stuff before, but bear with us. Although the expert grooms we consulted agreed that as little bathing as possible helps keep a coat in great condition, they also admitted that if bathing is a must, following with a dusting of Santa Fe Coat Conditioner on a damp coat goes a long way toward that show-ring shine (with the added bonus of sunscreen). For those of us who bend over backwards to allow our steeds to get as much turnout as possible, this is a game changer.
Underwood Horse Medicine – $30
Don’t ask us how it works. Don’t ask us why it works. Just know that it works! We’ve sworn by this magic cowboy elixir for over a decade, and used it on small scrapes as well as gaping wounds. Spritz on the affected area several times per day, then sprinkle with baking powder (seriously), and go about your day. No washing, no fussing, no wrapping, no flies.
Polo Wrap – $11+
There are countless uses for the hundreds of polo wraps we all have stashed in the barn, trailer, truck, tack trunk, and (yes) mounting block (you never know!). From tail wraps to impromptu half chaps, polo wraps are there for us! Yet another use for the standard polo wrap (or even a standing wrap, as pictured here and sent to us by one of our favorite professional grooms) is to place it beneath the tail before trimming. The wrap will lift the tail, mimicking the way a horse carries it when being ridden, therefore giving the straightest haircut possible. This is why the pros are the pros…
Witch Hazel – $3+
Most of us have a bottle of this stuff hanging around the barn due to it’s various uses. It’s great as a cheap liniment, last minute pre-show stain remover, and helping to eliminate itching related to bug bites.
Our favorite application of the stuff? When a wound has healed, daily administration works wonders for regrowing hair. We don’t recommend it for cleaning wounds (though some do) since there are much better options out there (betadine, anyone?), but for rapid regrowth of the coat, it’s our go-to product.
TUMS – $4+
Don’t worry, we’re not going to advise you to treat ulcers with TUMS. That said, there is a practical application for the product. These antacids can give temporary relief from a sour stomach, and since they’re mint flavored and can be fed as treats, there’s no need to wait for mealtime (since a meal often aids a sour stomach anyway). We feed these by the handful when our otherwise healthy horses are in stressful situations (shows, clinics, stall rest, or receiving NSAIDs), and use them as treats even when they aren’t. Because why not?
Tomorrow – $3
Tomorrow is labeled for use in the udders of dry cows, but its off-label use as a treatment for thrush is what makes this a medicine cabinet staple at OR HQ. One application at the first sign of thrush is generally enough to solve the problem, and at roughly $3, we think it’s a pretty good deal.
Rapid Groom – $380
If you live in a non-muddy area, congratulations on being really smart. For the rest of us who deal with a literal “mud season” each spring, a vacuum is non-negotiable for grooming. The standard equine vacuum is the Electro Groom, but it is large, cumbersome, and expensive. The Rapid Groom is the kid brother of the Electro Groom, with all the power, much more portability (it has wheels!), and a lower price tag. Plus the horses love it!
Baby Oil – $2+
We’re putting this one last, in the hopes that maybe our non-equestrian audience has gotten bored and stopped reading, since it’s about to get pretty personal. Those of us with geldings (we have five at OR) are familiar with the inevitable discomfort and humiliation that occurs when the UPS delivery driver walks into the barn and you’re elbow deep on sheath cleaning day. You try to explain it – in vain – and then sit around waiting for the police to arrive. Sheaths will always need to be cleaned, but to make these occasions few and far between, we administer a bit of room temperature baby oil whenever the opportunity arises, and when absolutely necessary, clean sheaths after delivery hours.