Welcome back to part 2 of my World Class Grooming overview!! Part One can be found here.
As I said before, this clinic is super informative and well worth it. Here’s just a few more tidbits of the day.
As you may vaguely remember, and I remember vividly, my horse had a really, really bad clip job this past winter. Like so many things in this clinic, this was another segment I was so happy to see.
The key to victory is a well cleaned horse. You will clean your horse so well, you will be able to do it in your sleep. Not that you’ll have time for sleeping, not with all the horse cleaning you’ll be doing.
Bathe the horse before, empasizing on the rinse. Cat says people usually don’t rinse enough. Rinse, scrape it all off, rinse again, scrape it all off, and repeat until the water coming off is super, super clean. The underbelly is where the grit likes to move to, so make sure that area is rinsed well! If it’s winter, get a bucket, put a few drops of dawn dish soap, a few drops of a cooking oil, and scrub your horse with a towel. You want as much of the grit off as possible. Make sure your horse is bone dry before beginning the clipping progress.
The most important part of clipping is caring for the clippers. They need to be clean, and well lubricated. Cat’s clippers of choice are Andis cordless clippers, because she feels cords are the most dangerous part of clipping. If you have cords, she encourages running the cord along the wall so there’s minimal chance of the horse knocking into them. She oiled her clippers multiple times during the clip she showed us, probably 10 times during a 30 minute session. If you feel the clippers starting to catch on the hair, or if the noise of them changes, they either need to be oiled, or the horse is gritty.
I’m not quite sure how to describe the actual process of clipping, but I did learn I’m supposed to go against the hair mostly, although there are some occasions to go with the hair. Cat said it really depends on the individual horse which way goes better. One hand should be used to keep the skin taunt while clipped, because nicking your horse makes it unhappy.
Cat recommended giving your horse a haynet to keep them occupied, and doing everything behind the shoulders while they happily munch away.
Also – clip the sheath. There were lots of giggles about that one. Surprisingly, they don’t mind it so much, and sometimes even seem to enjoy it. But beware the teats of a mare – they can get pretty grouchy!
She told us a couple of stories about various horses that disliked having different parts clipped, and once again, emphasized compassion and that sometimes, it really doesn’t matter is a spot gets missed if it’s a spot that makes the horse uncomfortable. Sure, try to get it, but don’t make your horse hate you, it’s not worth it.
She also mentioned that if you can, leave the saddle area long. It can be irritating to the horse to have a saddle on top of short, clipper hair, so if possible, just leave a spot. To make it precise, drop your half pad on there, and use chalk to trace an outline of hair to leave on there.
Cat told us to stop using the ears as a guideline of how far to clip the bridle paths. Bridle paths should be clipped to accommodate the strap of the bridle, and no further. No more pushing the horse’s ear back to clip a 4-7 inch long bridle path. Just don’t do it, okay?!
After you are done clipping, put baby powder on a brush, and brush the horse down. Clipper oil is an irritant to the skin and the baby powder absorbs all the clipper oil you smeared all over your horse. Follow that with a mitt sprayed with witch hazel. Both of these things together should give you a pretty happy, not covered with bits of hair, horse!
Someone asked what they could do about their horse’s bleached out looking coat. Cat told us a good coat starts with good nutrition, so to look at the horse’s diet first. But during the summer, she constantly uses Weatherbeeta’s Kool Koats to keep her horses’ coats from bleaching out.
She also mentioned that during the winter, rubber reins against a horse’s neck can make the neck dry out.
Cat started by showing us the proper way to pull a mane. A pulling comb has sharp tongs, and a blade on the spine so it can be used for both pulling, and shortening. For a horse that truly hates mane pulling, she uses clipper blades (detached from the clippers) to cut the hair. Beware how you use it though, if used too generously, and too high, you end up with spiky hairs sticking up in your braids. She recommended alternating hacking at the outward facing side of the mane, and then the neck facing side to create a natural appearance.
Depending on what discipline you do, the mane will be different lengths. Dressage is the longest length, but I’m not sure what the other disciplines should be. I think Cat pulled the above horse’s mane to eventer length, and hunters would be a little bit shorter.
For horses who have long manes, she recommended putting up hair in a running braid while being ridden, and taken out afterward. She empasized that the hair should be loose along the crest, and the braid itself be a few inches below the crest. This is because the horse’s neck can expand so much, it will end up ripping its own hair out if the braid is too tight.
She emphasized this again when we started braiding. The hair collected for the braid should never span more than a few inches of neck, or half the width of a pulling comb. The braids should be tight, but not tight on the crest. The braid tightness is not created by pulling hard downward, but rather pulling hard sideways, using the thumb to keep the tension.
She showed us the different kinds of braids for different disciplines. Dressage, show jumping, and eventer braids are essentially the same, just the size differs, with dressage braids being the biggest, show jumping a big smaller, and eventer braids the smallest. Hunter braids are in their own world entirely, and are quite small, the same size as eventer braids, but should all line up touching each other.
Cat also showed us how to braid a lovely tail, and discussed tail pulling. There were definitely some shocked murmurs at this discussion, but Cat explained there’s a practial purpose for tail pulling – The are around the tail gets overheated when in work, especially on those long cross country rides. Pulling the tail enables horses to cool of significantly faster. Braiding the tail serves the same purpose, although clearly the hunters are more attached to their dock hairs. Cat surprised us all by telling us some horses really love getting their tails pulled, even ones that are sensitive to mane pulling. She told us about a horse that hated mane pulling with a passion, but would back that thang up to get some tail pulling, even when she pulled the tail into a bloody mess (it bleeds when you pull the tail!).
Cat showed us a lovely, fancy mud knot that can be used while riding. Back in the day, (whenever that was), mud knots were commonly seen used on cross country, but nowadays, they are out of fashion. Cat felt like this was unfortunately, because the slapping of a wet, heavy tail, back and forth, from leg to leg, while riding cross country, can’t be very comfortable to the horse.
She also showed us how to do a practical mud knot that could be left on for up to a month. She told us she braids up her horse’s tails during the winter to help prevent breakage.
Another Berry tidbit – Berry sits on her tail while trailering and rips it out. Her formerly beautiful, full tail, has now been reduced to a straggly rat tail. Cat showed us how to wrap the entire tail to help prevent this kind of breakage, emphasizing not to make it tight around the tail bone, because that’s a good way to lose the entire tail, bone included.
There was another segment after this, leg wrapping, but unfortunately I had to leave as the clinic was running late. I’m really sad I missed it, because not only am I terrible at that, I also know the sheer amount of information would have been worth it.
If there was another World Class Grooming clinic in my area, I would attend it again. It really was that good. I’m really excited about trying my new techniques, and I guess we will see how effective they are going forward. Feel free to judge me super harshly if Berry still looks gross in about a month (I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to get into my new routine!)