As the days grow shorter and temperatures drop, the hair on our horses' bodies grows longer. And as all horse owners know, this poses some unique challenges. We still want to ride and keep our horses exercised, but a thick, winter coat makes caring for them a little more difficult. Even though the temperatures are cooler, horses sometimes actually sweat more than they do during the warmer months because their coats are thicker. They continue to sweat after exercise because that thick hair, which is designed to keep them warm, retains more heat and so they don't cool down as quickly.
Following exercise, they need to be thoroughly cleaned, but it's often too cold out to wash them, and if we do wash them, it takes an eternity for them to dry. Also, we don't want our horse to get chilled, so what do we do? Fortunately, although we can't do anything to change the angle of the Earth in relation to the sun, there is much we can do to make winter grooming easier.
The primary challenge all horse owners face is how to get their horses sufficiently groomed before riding and properly cooled out and cleaned up after riding because it is too cold out to bathe them, even if they have the luxury of warm water, or because their winter coat is so thick that they take forever to dry off. Don't put away your saddle until spring; it is possible to keep your horse clean and well groomed during the winter months.
The degree of difficulty you are faced with depends on just how thick your horse's winter coat is. Some horses grow very little additional hair in the winter, others, particularly older horses, grow so much hair that they begin to more closely resemble mountain goats. So if your horse grows a moderate winter coat, consider yourself lucky!
Tools designed specifically for winter grooming include a winter curry comb, a shedding blade and brushes with coarse bristles. Another great grooming tool is a slicker brush, which is actually made for long-haired dogs. This brush is great for reaching through long, thick hair to the skin to remove dirt, dander and dried sweat. All of these winter grooming tools are designed to penetrate a thick coat. A shedding blade, designed to expedite the removal of winter hair in spring, also works double duty to remove caked-on dirt from your horse's coat.
It is important to thoroughly groom your horse before riding or any other form of exercise. Sweat and dirt trapped beneath the surface can cause skin irritations. Additionally, the cleaner your horse is before exercise, the easier he will be to clean up following exercise. Pay particular attention to the areas around his ears, under his jaw, behind his elbows, along his girth area and the saddle area. You also need to make sure that any tack you use is also clean, so as to avoid irritations.
When it comes to pre-exercise grooming, there is no substitute for elbow grease. You simply need to spend more time brushing your horse to do a thorough job.
Here are few additional tips to help you get your horse clean and looking good:
1. After a thorough grooming, wipe your horse's face down with a damp towel. This will help pick up lingering dust.
2. Spray a damp towel with COWBOY MAGIC® SUPER BODYSHINE™ and give your horse a quick wipe down. SUPER BODYSHINE™ will pick up the lingering dust that your brush didn't, help repel dust and reduce static electricity in your horse's coat.
3. Spray SUPER BODYSHINE™ in your horse's tail if he has "broom tail" from static electricity.
During the winter months, the goal when grooming your horse following exercise should be to get him as clean as possible using as little water as possible. If it's not too cold out and/or you have warm water to bathe him with, go ahead and do so. Use COWBOY MAGIC® ROSEWATER SHAMPOO to remove sweat and dirt without stripping your horse's coat of its natural oils. Follow this with COWBOY MAGIC® DEMINERALIZER™ CONDITIONER to loosen and dissolve any mineral and chemical buildup, as well as sweat residue. Both products contain panthenol and silk conditioners that nourish and moisturize the hair and coat. Just like their owners, horses get dry skin in winter, too!
After bathing, whisk away as much excess water as possible. To dry your horse quickly, rub him briskly with a dry towel. Leave the wet hair standing up, rather than slicking it down, to encourage quick drying. If you have a cooler, use it. The cooler will help wick away moisture and prevent your horse from getting chilled. Stand or walk your horse in the sunshine until he is dry. If it's not sunny or warm enough to be outside, then put your horse in his stall or someplace where he will be protected from any drafts that could cause him to become chilled. If your horse does become chilled, get him moving by walking or jogging him around. This will warm him up and help him to dry quicker.
Once your horse is dry, spray his coat, mane and tail with SUPER BODYSHINE™. This will serve two purposes: It will help repel dust and dirt, making your next clean-up easier, and it will help reduce that annoying static electricity that plagues horses during the dry, winter months. Finally, brush his coat flat again.
If it is too cold out to thoroughly bathe your horse following exercise, or if you don't have hot water, you can still sponge off the sweaty areas. If you can, get a bucket of warm water, even if you have get it from the kitchen sink or use a plug-in water heater (be sure to follow safety instructions if you use one). Squeeze out excess water from the sponge and vigorously rub the sweaty areas on your horse. You don't want to get him too wet. Work on a small area, then thoroughly rinse out the sponge and move onto the next area. After you have cleaned him with a sponge, use a towel to vigorously rub the areas clean and dry. Let the hair stand up until it is dry, then spray it with COWBOY MAGIC® SUPER BODYSHINE™ spray and brush it flat.
Another great tool for cleaning your horse before and after exercise is COWBOY MAGIC® GREENSPOT® REMOVER. This "shower in a bottle" removes wet or dried sweat instantly. Spray a small amount onto the area you want to clean, massage it in using a damp towel to activate the ingredients and then repeat with a dry towel to pick up and absorb the dirt, dander and sweat. GREENSPOT® REMOVER is an all-natural, non-sudsing cleaner. It contains silk conditioners and panthenol to condition the hair and skin, and shea butter to make your horse shine. And, of course, if you want to remove a manure stain, it works wonders on that, as well!
When you are finished, your horse may still look as fuzzy as a mountain goat, but he will be clean, shiny and ready for the next day of winter riding.
For more information about the complete line of COWBOY MAGIC® products, log onto www.cowboymagic.com, or call (800) 755-6844 to find a retailer near you that carries COWBOY MAGIC® quality concentrated grooming products.