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Virginia Region Pony Clubs

Sportsmanship ~ Leadership ~ Stewardship through Horsemanship

Grooming & Tacking

Groom Well

When I was a youngster, one of my jobs at the barn was teaching the new students how to clean and tack their horse. Frieda believed this was good for the students. No grooms there! One of her “things” was we were only allowed to bathe a horse ONCE PER YEAR weather they needed it or not. So, we got pretty good at curry, brush, curry, brush, curry, brush. I personally wore out many a curry. It was very time consuming coming up on a show. I would not recommend that for everyone.

But it did make us efficient brushers. Whenever I see a member brushing with long, slow, strokes, I cannot help myself from stopping to show them “the fast flick”. Take a brush in hand, and keeping the forearm totally still, rotate the wrist in an elliptical fashion.

To brush the near side, I use my left hand, and the ellipse is counter clockwise. Very quick on the wrist action! Maybe 4 brush strokes per second! This quickly “flicks” the dust/dirt/scurf/dandruff from deep in the coat, and gives you really good arm muscles!

To brush the off side, I use the right hand, and the ellipses are clockwise. This way you do not have one arm like Popeye and the other like Olive Oyl!

You flick, flick, flick in one spot, and then move your arm slowly along in the direction of the hair to continue flicking over the entire body.

Don't groom too well

I’ve seen a couple of instances of excessive grooming that actually lead to lameness. These were not in VA region. One was when I was chiefing an “away game”, and the other was at champs. One was a mare, the other a gelding. In both instances there was excessive cleaning of the udder/sheath out of a fear of HM points. The geldings sheath was cleaned with something on the order of 409. The mare was cleaned with “her normal cleaner”, but the rider was over enthusiastic. In both cases the horse was too sore to compete. Both riders were terribly concerned and very upset that they had caused this pain for the horse.

So, clean your horse regularly and well, but use your regular gentle cleaner, and don’t over do it.


One quick note about the saddle… always put the saddle up on the neck farther forward than it should sit, and slide it down to where it belongs. This smoothes the hair down under the pad so that the hair is not “ruffled”. If the saddle slides back too far, do not just slide it forward where it belongs. This will ruffle the hair. Pick up the saddle, place up farther forward than it belongs, and slide it back.

Frieda was a FANATIC about properly applying the bit in the horse’s mouth. Woe be to you, if you allowed the bit to “clink” a tooth. Frieda never had a horse that did not willingly accept a bit, and the lack of “clinking” could explain that. Image having a hard piece of metal being banged on your teeth. That does not feel good. So, to avoid the wrath of Frieda, and to keep the horse happy here’s what to do… Horses have incisor teeth in the front for nipping off grass, and molars in the back for grinding it up. And a nice space in the middle where the bit goes. Isn’t it amazing that horses were “put together” so perfect for us? That never ceases to amaze me. Hold the bridle by the cheek pieces in the right hand, and use the right hand on the top of the horses nose to steady. The left hand “bridges” the bit across the 4 fingers. The left thumb is put into the corner of the horses mouth, and you press down on the gum. Remember… there are no teeth here to bite you! So you press down on the gum, and this causes the horse to open his mouth. While it is open, you continue the pressure on the gum with your thumb, and use the four fingers to carefully guide the bit between the upper and lower teeth, while lifting the bridle up with the right hand. Once the bit is past the teeth, you take your thumb out, continuing to raise the bridle up so the bit does not slide back down and “clink”. Push the ears forward under the crown piece, and you have soundlessly applied the bridle so as not to hurt the horse. It takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, it is easy.

All of this is easier to demonstrate than it to describe. If you can not see what I am trying to say, give a holler at rally and I can do a demonstration of the “wrist flick” (I still got it after all these years) or applying a bit soundlessly.

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