Grooming is an important part of caring for your riding horse. If you keep horses naturally out on the veld, grooming is not needed as sweat, mud and loose hairs form a natural waterproof barrier that also protects against parasites such as ticks and midges.
This is one of the reasons horses tend to roll in the mud when there are midges, biting flies and ticks about. However, if you put a numnah and saddle onto a dirty coat, the friction during riding will rub off hair and skin, causing saddle sores.
Simply washing a really dirty horse will not get it clean. You need to brush out the dirt and loose hair with a curry comb.
A circular or oval comb, this is made of hard rubber or plastic with three rows of short teeth on one side, and a band on the opposite side into which you can slip your fingers and palm. Your thumb remains outside of the band and grips the edge of the comb.
The action of removing sweat, dirt and loose hair from a horse is called ‘currying’ and horses enjoy it, often becoming especially close to the person who grooms them.
In fact, this is the origin of the expression to ‘curry favour’ with someone. Properly done, currying is almost like a deep massage, with the groom pushing the curry comb in rhythmic circles over the neck, body and hindquarters of the horse.
It also stimulates the natural oils in the hair roots and, when done effectively, results in a shiny coat. The loosened dirt and hair can then be flicked off with a dandy brush or a body brush.
The former has stiff bristles and is not suitable for thin-skinned horses such as Thoroughbreds and Arabians. Use a body brush for these breeds.
Pick a comb for the task
There are several types of curry combs available. The Zoom Groom, for example, has long individual teeth.
It’s excellent for massaging sore backs, as well as removing sweat and loose hair. It can also be used on dogs and sometimes it is easier to find this type of comb in a pet shop than at a horse feed supplier.
A curry comb with metal teeth effective at removing long winter hair, but it has to be used very gently, in circles, flicking the wrist, rather than with the hard massaging that can be done with the Zoom Groom. Grooming gloves are also an option. Made of rubber or hard plastic, they can be used to remove mud and dirt when you wash a horse. A newer version is made of a sort of soft, sticky plastic, has very fine teeth and is good for removing hair and polishing a show horse.
A curry comb can be used on wet or dry horses.
You can use it to ruffle sweaty patches so that the horse dries off quickly after a ride, to remove dried mud when the horse comes in from the field, as a scrubbing brush while washing with soap, or as a massager during daily grooming. In short, it’s a handy implement essential to the care of your horse.