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GoPro – part one: Tips & tricks on skin care from the world’s best grooms

Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Tips & tricks


Text © World of Showjumping



How can you best care for your horse? World of Showjumping asked several highly experienced grooms to share their tips & tricks. In this first part of our new series, the focus is on skin care and how to keep the horses clean, happy, healthy and shiny. 

Sean Lynch, long-time groom for Daniel Deusser:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Sean Lynch. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

I always use a curry comb, and then brush. I wipe off the final dirt or dust with a cloth that’s been in water with a small bit of soap and maybe a fraction of baby oil. During the summer I always use fly spray for every horse. 

When it comes to washing, I try to not do it too much – but again, if they are sweaty there isn’t much else to do. However, if they are ridden in the morning and jump in the afternoon, I will never wash them twice. Then a simple cloth and a sweat blanket will do in between. I try to wash the horses at home the day they leave for a show, so the manes are clean. It is not easy to plait a freshly washed mane, so I prefer to wash it before I leave for the show.

Jenny Ducoffre, long-time groom for Jos Verlooy:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Jenny Ducoffre. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

To me, skin care does start with coat care. I prefer towelling my horses on sweaty spots and then give them a good brush after with a metal curry comb and a hard root brush. I finish them off with a soft cardiac brush.

My towel water is called ‘my little miracle water’ – which I also use on shows to give them that little extra shine. It consists of a shot of Dettol and Dreft (a liquid to use for dish washing), show sheen, vinegar and water. During the winter I might add a tiny shot of Baby Oil as well.

I do wash my horses, but I try to do it as little as possible. I prefer to use Dreft, Head & Shoulders or any other ph.-neutral shampoo.I always give my shampoo bucket a little shot of vinegar. I find it helps against small irritations.  

Ninna Leonoff, long-time groom for Markus Beerbaum:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Ninna Leonoff. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Brushing is part of the basic grooming! Brushing promotes sweat and sebaceous functions, so the more you brush the shinier your horse will be. I also think that while brushing you can actually learn lots about your horse, such as any sore muscles, cuts, swellings as well as their mood.

I like my horses to be clean, but I don’t use shampoo every time I wash them – that really depends of the quality of their coat and how dirty or they are. If the skin is really dry, I like to use Head & Shoulders or something with Aloe Vera. 

Fran Callan, long-time groom for Jur Vrieling:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Fran Callan. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Horse care seems to be one of the most complicated issues in the horse world. Yet actually it is quite simple really. Sometimes you make it so complicated you may not even know what is working and what is failing in your system. My answer is to go back to basics and start again. Keep your horse happy! 

For me, grooming can be really simple if it is done daily. I am a firm believer in not over-complicating things. I always use a good brush and a curry comb to remove the dirt, grease and loose hair. Then I flick off with a brush again. We try not to brush the tails daily so we keep them thick and looking great at the shows, however we do try to use the Mane n’ Tail spray weekly. This keeps the tail shiny and tangle free. 

I like to hot cloth the horses after exercise. Personally, I use the blue anti-bacterial Dreft/Fairy Liquid (a liquid to use for dish washing) in the water – just a small pea size drop. By doing this with a cloth you remove any excess grease or dust on the coat. It is nearly impossible to keep a black horse dust free – like with Glasgow – but this really works and I wouldn’t use anything else. He really shines. 

We all love a freshly bathed horse, but I really try to bath them only when necessary. If a horse comes in sweaty then there isn’t much else we can do. However, if a horse is ridden twice a day I would only wash them one time so I don’t aggravate the skin. I find when away at shows, sometimes the water can be different to what the horses are used to so they then can be more sensitive in the skin. Therefore we need to keep them in as much of a normal routine as possible and try to do as we would at home. If you don’t wash the legs daily at home then don’t start doing that at a show just because everyone else is. 

For grey horses like Chalcedon and Dallas, I love the Cavalor Blanco Wash. The best shampoo for white horses I have ever used and it doesn’t leave them blue or purple either. It’s great! And it is also good for white socks. The smallest amount on a sponge goes the longest way. 

Mel Jobst, long-time groom for Marcus Ehning:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Mel Jobst. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Brush the horse every day to get old coat out, dirt loose and it is also like a massage for the horses. Some horses have special spots where they love to get scrubbed, so it is also a way to connect with them. Brush the mane on one side so that they are not looking like wild ponies (ok, mine are looking like wild ponies from time to time). If the horses are really dusty, I find a wet towel helpful or what’s also helping is to put a tiny bit spiritus into the water – this also gives you a shiny horse. 

The tail I leave as it is when I’m at home. Too much brushing can cause hair lost and it takes a while for the tail to grow back. For the show I use a lot of show sheen that makes it easier to brush.

Normally I do less washing, if it is not necessary. At home our horses go in the field every day, so you can imagine what someone like Cornado looks like every day. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to keep him white every day. For the show it is something different of course! If they are sweaty after riding for sure they get a wash, because it doesn’t feel so good with dried sweat on the skin – that is just like with us after sports, we also love to have a shower before it starts to get itchy.  

Malin Henlöv, long-time groom for Peder Fredricson:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Malin Henlöv. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

I like to keep it simple. I start to rub the coat with a rubber comb and then I brush. I think that most skin problems come from inside, so the first thing I usually do if a horse has an issue is to look at the food. 

I don’t like to wash the horses too much and I only wash with shampoo when they have to get really clean, for example ahead of a show. Otherwise, when they are really sweaty, I only wash them with water and brush them when they are dry again. I find that horses that get washed too often get a more sensitive skin.

Heidi Mulari, long-time groom for Steve Guerdat:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Heidi Mulari. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

I'm quite old fashioned and believe that horses need to be brushed properly every day, starting with a curry comb and finishing with a body brush. Just quickly flick off the dust is rubbish! Brushing does improve the blood flow and gives them a beautiful shine. Also I believe they don't get so many bold spots in the winter from rugs or rider´s legs if they are properly brushed. 

In the summertime when the horses are sweating a lot, I wash them with water. If not otherwise necessary, I only was with shampoo before shows. I find it important to wash the sweat away and avoid sweat rash. If a horse is prone to sweat rash, I wipe it with Dettol water already before riding.

Sean Vard, long-time groom for Martin Fuchs:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Sean Vard. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Good brushing and fresh air are my secrets to having nice coats. Of course good quality oils in the meals also contributes greatly.

We often turn out our horses with no blankets once it’s not too cold. Fresh air and sun on their backs is in my opinion far better than having the horses under blankets all the time and then they also often get too warm.

I don’t wash the horses so much at home even though 75% of our squad are white with brown spots... The day before a show I will of course give them a good wash and make them presentable to the eye. Also removing the grease and dirt from the manes and tails will make the horses more comfortable.

Denise Moriarty, long-time groom for Kent Farrington:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Denise Moriarty. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Use a curry comb! I don’t like to wash the horses too much, which in Florida can be hard not to do – but when possible I always prefer to curry comb and groom them rather than bath them. This not only helps to prevent skin irritations, but also helps to stop the hooves becoming waterlogged and soft.

Josie Eliasson, long-time groom for Jessica Springsteen:

Photo © Haide Westring. Josie Eliasson. Photo © Haide Westring.

I prefer grooming my horses with a curry comb over washing them. I try to groom my horses properly twice a day and I don't think it’s good to wash them all the time. Of course, in Florida it is hard to avoid washing them everyday because of the hot weather, but I always try not to use shampoo all the time. Just rinse them off with water if they are not too sweaty and dirty. I do however always wash their legs properly when in Florida, since it is so easy to get skin infections there. If my horses would get a rash, I like to use Witch Hazel spray - this is one of the things that we always bring back with us from America since it doesn’t exist in Europe.

Kay Neatham, former long-time groom for Marcus Ehning:

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Kay Neatham. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Skin carecomes from the inside. I truly believe that a healthy shiny coat tells you everything about a horse. With a good balanced diet, the right amount of exercise, TLC to keep them happy and no illnesses such as Cushing or heart problems, the coat of a horse looks after itself!

I loved grooming horses as its a great way to bond with them, check them all over for bumps or lumps and also very satisfying being able to tuck them up into bed all clean and cared for.

When I was first learning to groom I was taught to count the strokes on each place I brushed with the body brush and scrapped on the curry comb, so around 20 strokes and then on to the next area. After brushing the whole horse I would then wipe the horse down with a light coloured towel and see how dirty it still was. If there was still too much dust or dirt on the horse I was told to repeat my grooming and went back to square one. It took ages! 

I was also taught to do one stroke in the direction of the hair, curry comb and then one stroke against the hair, curry comb... as it was a more effective way of removing sweat marks and dust.

Washing horses is a very personal thing to the groom I think and depends very much on what country you come from and where you work. I never saw a difference from the horses that were shampooed every day or never washed. I didn´t go in for washing horses when it wasn´t necessary. During the winter I washed manes and tails ahead of a show. Legs I always washed with a mild soap after a class, no matter what conditions and what time it was. I always used Pril washing up liquid for sensitive skin as I found it was the only thing that got all the different types of surfaces from the legs.

I never washed horses’ faces with a hosepipe, I hated it. If you look at the horses’ faces when someone is standing in front of them with a hose pipe full on it’s awful. I would use a sponge or a dribble out of the hose, come from the side of the horse head and be gentle!



No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping

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