We are currently in the dog (horse) days of summer, shows are in full swing, and your bank account is likely shouting out to you, “help! feed me.” Chances are, your horse has probably thrown a shoe or two - or in my case four - plus destroyed five sets of bell boots. Whether you are spending your summer in Florida, California, New England, or beyond, your horse has been through the gauntlet of heat, muggy rain, and bugs.
Lots of bugs.
Go to your local tack store and you will find an array of pricey products. It's like a candy store for horse owners. Some live up to their uses, but most are a waste, or at least not totally necessary – just a pretty bottle and short-lived fancy smell.
Surf the Internet, and you will find forums upon forums of people’s homemade recipes and remedies. But what is the real secret sauce? What secrets are the top grooms holding close to their diy-ing hearts?
Let's start with the basics: if you have a towel you are 50% on your way to one of the most tried and tested grooming products - a damp, clean towel. Yes, I know, it's not revolutionary, but think about it: ringside, you never see a groom without a towel. Recycle your old grooming towels after they've seen their best days to use for cleaning bits, sheaths (wash after, please and thank you), etc. Towels around the world, we thank you for your service.
One product that you can skip at the tack shop is the expensive shampoo. Pick up a biodegradable non-horse specific solution at your local supermarket or department store and you will be good to go. Dr. Bronner's is a good one if you want to be environmentally friendly (which we should probably all be). Okay, okay - enough of the obvious. Let’s get into some of the more interesting tips and tricks.
Got a squeaky bit that just won’t keep quiet? PAM it. Yes, you heard me right, PAM spray from the supermarket. I sound like the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding who said, “Just put Windex on it!” Just kidding about the Windex - please don't Windex your horse - but PAM is a natural lubricant and the spray bottle makes for easy application and no mess. The ingredients are natural enough for cooking purposes, so they are safe for your horses to ingest.
While on the kitchen products tangent, white vinegar can be used for everything. Literally everything. This stuff is magic. Fungus, insect repellent, you name it. Plus, bathing with it gives your horse a nice shine. They might smell like a bag of potato chips, but the benefits really do outweigh the smell. Side note - you can also create a vinegar solution with some essential oils that will help counteract the less than pleasant scent.
If you have ever groomed a horse between the spring and summer, you have encountered the dreaded shedding season. Unknown to those outside of the horse world, but feared by those in it. The bad? Nice sweaters become overtaken by horse hair. The good? My biceps never look better (which way to the beach, am I right?).
If you’re like me, you have tried all the products – the scrapers, the blocks, the clippers. The one tool that stands the test of time? An old farrier’s rasp. A rasp is that giant tool that looks like an enormous nail file and can be bought online for around $20, or you can pester your farrier for an old one. And no, unfortunately, it’s too big to use on your own nails. Sigh.
With show season upon us, tackling your horse's mane is always a challenge. A fussy horse can make the process exponentially more difficult than it already is. If you have a fussy horse, use Orajel - yes, the toothache cream - to numb your horse's mane before you pull it. The sensation will only last for a short time, so work fast.
When using standing wraps, especially in the summer, start with baby powder before you wrap. This will keep the skin dry and healthy and free from any fungal infections. In the same vein, crusted mud in any kind of Velcro boots is such a pain. To save your expensive splint or fly boots, use a cat brush for cleaning all that crud off the Velcro straps. The perks of having a barn cat.
Sweat equals rubs. You could go to the tack store and buy chin and bridle path pads for an ungodly amount of money, or you can just take a felt Western saddle pad and cut to whatever size you need. Cheap and customizable.
Maybe the best tip of all? Match your horse to the color of mud where you live. Easy, and oh so effective.
Written by Ilana Cramer
At a young age, Ilana Cramer quickly realized unicorns didn't exist and turned to racehorses instead. A lifelong equestrian, Ilana's passion for telling untold stories has taken her from the backside of racetracks to the eventing, show jumping and dressage worlds. Ilana resides in Baltimore, Maryland, where she events her OTTB Rock Harbor.