Not quite sure where to begin when it comes to prepping? Check out these tips to get started and have your horse looking their best whether they are posing for the camera or stepping into the show ring!
1. Clean and sanitize your brushes before you even start. We often forget to care for them and how can we expect to get a clean horse when our brushes are full of dirt and grime? You can fill a bucket with hot water and a few drops of Dawn (or Chlorhexidine to also sanitize at the same time) drop your tools in to soak for a few minutes. Then rinse and let dry to get your tools in top shape and ready to groom. You can also find a few sellers for brush bombs, a bath bomb for your grooming tools!
2. Curry, curry, curry! Daily currying is AMAZING for your horse’s coat and skin. Add it to your daily routine to reap the benefits of coat bloom, especially leading up to a photo session or show to maximize shine. The elbow grease is well worth it to bring out dapples, sebum (the natural beneficial oils of your horse's coat), and to help you stay in tune with your partner's body. Daily curry sessions will keep you locked in on any new sore spots, cuts or nicks that might need attention, and will strengthen your bond (and arms!)
3. Don’t forget your tack! Leather should ideally be cleaned and conditioned (not oiled) daily. Supple leather is safe and comfortable. Be sure to get all of the dried slobber, grass and debris off of that bit and make all of the shiny bits shine! Sheepskin girth cover or half pad? Use a dog slicker brush to fluff it up and give it some life! Dirty saddle pads or polos? Some can be cleaned up in your washing machine and hung to dry, but if you aren’t sure, you can hand soak and wash them in the bathtub with some mild laundry soap, rinse clean and hang to dry.
4. During winter, bathing simply isn't an option most of the time, but you can still get the ultimate clean with Hot Clothing! This technique will help to pull off the last of that dirt and grime after your brushing routine and restore that gorgeous shine, no hose needed. For a breakdown of the steps and tutorial videos, check out these helpful links: Hot Toweling Your Horse For Deep Winter Cleaning and Hot Clothing
5. Hooves need some love, too! After you have picked and brushed them out, let's make sure the outer hoof is in top condition, too. Use a stiff brush to remove any dirt or mud clods and follow up with a hose down of the feet or scrub with a wet cloth to remove any remaining dirt. Once those feet are good and dry you can apply a light hoof conditioner if desired and let it soak in before turning them loose!
6. Details are important, so don't forget to take a damp towel to wipe out nostrils, the insides of ears, and gently over their eyes to make them stand out.
7. Depending on your session and discipline, braiding or banding the mane can make the ultimate statement. From hunter buttons to fluffy dutch dressage braids to unique statements such as running braids or the reverse scallop, there are a multitude of options to make your horse into an artistic masterpiece! Fly aways always give you trouble? My favorite solution is braid wax. This specialty item is designed to tame fly aways, help give a smooth finish on braids and bands, and can even be beneficial for your horse's locks. There are a few options on the market, one of which is actually hand crafted by myself at our farm in southern Kansas. Feel free to let me know if you want details! I always have it on hand for taming fly aways at sessions on both horses and people! If you aren't confident braiding yourself, hire a professional braider to take that stress away and leave your horse looking ready for their big debut. Need help finding a braider in your area for your session? Just let me know and I will help you find the perfect person to book!
8. Feeling extra fancy? Try quarter marks! These fun patterns can be applied with a few simple tools and products and they can add that extra touch to get you noticed. Check out these videos for some inspiration: Checkerboard Quarter Marks and Show Hunter Quarter Marks
9. Stains…we all know the routine. We have them perfectly prepped the night before a show, tuck them in with a stable sheet to protect most of our hard work, only to arrive to the barn in the morning to see they have used their poop as a pillow and managed to roll in their pee spot and get it onto their belly and side despite their sheet. Try these tips to lift those stains without reaching for the hose! Dealing With Stains
10. Need some last minute help whitening your horse’s chrome? After you have thoroughly cleaned with your normal routine and bathing if applicable, consider using white coat chalk. Chris Christensen White Ice Chalk is one example that will give you that fresh white look we all crave!