Grooming

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The practice of braiding a horse’s mane and tail has a functional history dating back many centuries. One of the earliest reasons for braiding the mane was to keep it from becoming tangled in riding or farming equipment, or in the weapons of mounted hunters and soldiers. In ancient folklore, it was thought that fairies would sneak into the stables at night to tie “elf knots” in the mane, using them as stirrups to mount and ride the horses.

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Grooming is an enjoyable way to bond with your horse, and most horses love to be fussed over, but cleaning a male horse’s sheath is an unpleasant chore that owners and riders tend to avoid. From potentially being kicked, to lack of knowledge or squeamishness, those with geldings and stallions often shirk the task altogether. However, veterinarians agree that cleaning and inspecting a horse’s sheath is a necessary and regular part of maintaining their health.

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Top notch grooms are crucial to the success of upper level riders, doing everything from providing day-to-day care for hundred thousand dollar horse-flesh, to ensuring riders are on time for their horse show classes. Rarely in the limelight, grooms are the essential but unsung heroes of horse sport - the behind-the-scenes pit crew that make the magic happen for well-known riders.

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For most disciplines, the horse’s mane should fall on the right side of the neck. However, a mane might have a mind of its own and prefer to be on the left side, or maybe on both sides. I have always found that the best way to train a mane to lie flat on one side is to braid it and leave those braids in for a few days, or up to a week if possible.

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I wanted the look of a tidy, short, thin mane, but didn’t want to continue pulling manes… so I got creative. It’s amazing what you can do with the right tools, some patience, and a little imagination. While some traditionalists will argue that the look achieved with scissors isn’t the same as a pulled mane, I was happy to find another way to shorten and thin manes without inflicting pain on the horses I work with.

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Like many successful enterprise stories, this one began with a simple desire to improve a condition. Petra McGowan has sensitive skin and she would often suffer with a rash on her hands. By coincidence, her Trakehner, Durango, suffered from countless allergies and skin sensitivities, and the use of regular grooming products continued to irritate his skin.

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Everyone wants to see their horses glowing from the inside out with a sleek coat – the quality of a horse’s hair coat is directly related to his overall health. Providing the horse with plenty of roughage and a balanced diet along with an effective parasite control regime, sufficient exercise, and grooming is imperative when striving for a healthy coat.

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