SHOW TIME! GOOD GROOMING.
In the wild horse herd members bond and communicate by mutual grooming, so when you groom your horse you are showing him you care!
Regular grooming is of course essential for other reasons too. Besides keeping him clean and getting the scurf, dust, mud, loose hair and burrs out of his coat, it’s a way to check your horse and pony for any physical problems, or identify any deviations from the norm like the sudden appearance of lumps or bumps, pain and stiffness, or a sore muscle.
Grooming is a way for you and your horse to get to know each other, and to show him that you’re not just all about shouting orders, but also a source of pleasant sensations.
When show time comes around grooming becomes important for another reason … you want your boy/girl to wow the judges and shine in the ring!
We’re assuming that you have been successful in keeping your horse healthy and in prime physical condition in the run-up to show season, and that you’ve got your own smart showing outfit ready to roll! Of course, you will also have to make sure your tack is clean and upto scratch – isn’t there just so much to think of!
It’s the grooming preparation for showing we’re dealing with in this blog – and there’s plenty to take note of in that department.
You’ll need to count down the days to showtime, planning the whole process so that when you arrive at the show there will be just final touch ups necessary.
Here’s a general run-down of the grooming tasks required, in chronological order:
· Clipping and trimming
In breed shows native horses and ponies should usually be shown in their natural state. For the rest, you can do a full clip two or three weeks before a show. This will leave enough time for the coat to grow over any streaky bits. The aim is to have a smooth, shiny coat on show day.
You can trim untidy hair a day or so before the show, but don’t forget to take the trimmer or a razor comb along for those last-minute tidy-ups on the day. The main areas to trim neatly are fetlocks, stray hairs around the knees, bridle paths, the ears, beards and moustaches. You may choose to shave off your horse’s whiskers, but many riders are against this nowadays because the whiskers – correctly called vibrissae – are believed to have essential sensory functions that help the horse orient himself to his environment.
You may also think it is advisable to “pull” your horse or pony’s mane and tail. See below under “Tail Plaiting” for more advice on how to do this. It is best to pull the mane and tail BEFORE the pre-show washing.
Give your horse or pony a thorough bath a day or two before the show (the time dependent on how long you are confident you can keep him clean!).
Start by giving him a good wetting with warm (not hot) water … with a shower head if possible. Soak the coat including the mane and tail. Then apply a good quality shampoothat you have pre-tested on a small patch to insure it doesn’t irritate the skin. Work the shampoo into a lather with your hands and a sponge, adding a little more water if necessary. Avoid the eyes, nose and mouth, and be gentle around the facial area.
Using the shower and warm water again thoroughly rinse off all the soapy residue, from the top down.
Use old towels and a scraper to dry him off as much as possible. Wring out the tail and mane.
· Tail Plaiting
A neat tail is essential to enhance the appearance of your show horse’s behind!
After bathing your horse apply some mane and tail conditioner to the mane and tail, and comb them out gently, using a tail comb and taking care not to pull too hard on tangles. If you plan to leave the plaiting until the morning before the show, keep the tail clean and tidy by securing it in a tail bag overnight.
If your horse’s tail (and same applies to the mane) is very untidy with stray hairs spoiling the line, you may wish to indulge in some mane and tail pulling. Note: This is best done before washing! For a horse this feels much like when you pluck your eyebrows!
Here’s a video that explains how to pull the tail (remove extraneous hairs so that it lies smooth and flat). You may also find the Supreme Products masterclass in tail pulling useful.
Either the night before the show, or early on show morning, you can proceed with plaiting your clean, combed, conditioned and pulled tail.
Here’s a step bystep guide video to help you with the tail plaiting technique. If you have not done this before it is best to practice a few times well before show day!
Once plaited to your satisfaction, protect your work by putting the tail into a tail bag.
· Mane Plaiting
This can be done the night before the show. As with the tail, you may wish to have pulled the mane to thin it in advance to make sure it is neat and shaped.
Spray with a conditioner and have a hood ready to keep things neat and in place when you’re done.
Manes are always plaited on the horse’s off-side (the right) and always have an uneven number of plaits. The number of plaits will depend on the length and thickness of the mane.
If you plait the night before, you can leave the rolling of the plaits until the morning of show day.
Here’s a video guide to mane plaiting.
Once again, remember practice makes perfect, so be sure you’ve got this plaiting down pat well in advance.
Assuming you have had your horse’s hooves professionally well-shoed and trimmed in advance of the show, you need to just sand them lightly with an emery board and then paint with clear polish.
If you prefer to use black polish, paint them carefully either the night or morning before the show. Don’t forget the polish must be removed as soon as possible after the show to prevent the hooves drying out.
Judges look for a sharp line between hoof and hair line. Make sure white hocks are pristine white before applying polish with a steady hand.
Just like you, your horse may need a touch of make-up to make him look his best! You can happily apply a little subtle face make-up on the morning of show day to highlight the eyes, cheek bone and the skin around his muzzle.
If you think make-up is a step too far, use a little baby oil on a soft cloth as a highlighter.
Most horse make-up comes with instructions. Remember less is more!
Before applying make-up is the time to trim any extraneous hairs in the ears and on the face.
· Quarter Marks
Quarter marks are an eye-catching finishing touch to your horse’s show preparation. Traditionally they are applied to the hind quarters, after applying a good quality show shine product. Quarter marks should be applied just before you are due to enter the show ring.
You can use a quarter-marking stencil, or if you are well-practiced make your own squares with a quarter-marking comb.
Finish off by brushing an arc pattern over the tail and down the buttocks which will draw attention with a flash of light.
We wish you all the best with your showing this season, and don’t forget … if you need showing products to help your horse step out in style look no further than www.totally-tack.co.uk!