Gelding Canon Crud in Winter

Tristan has a sheath that, let’s say, is on the messier side.

The good news is that he could care less about me messing with it, and it’s not a chore I find completely awful. Obviously, it’s not my favorite, but I don’t have much of a gag reflex nor am I squeamish. I go right up there and clean things out.

Not too often – I know that tends to then make things dirtier – but when I need to.

Much more often, I find myself scrubbing his hind legs. See, he gets crud all over his legs. It’s really annoying. It does not brush off the way mud does – it’s kind of sticky and gummy. It gets all over things.

It’s not a problem in the summer – I just squirt some Dawn or shampoo and hose or scrub it off when I’m hosing him down or giving him a bath. Quick and easy.

Winter, though – winter is a pain in the ass. On all levels.

Yesterday, I faced up to the growing crud problem and got to work.

The plan, which worked reasonably well, was to heat up a kettle’s worth of boiling water, then add cold water from the faucet until it was just hot and not scalding. Then I used a scrap towel to wet down his legs, then dolloped on small amounts of shampoo and scrubbed.

Then I used another scrap towel to “rinse” his legs, and a third to more or less dry them. It wasn’t to cold yesterday – mid 20s at worst – so I wasn’t too worried about leaving them damp. Later in the winter, I’ll go through more towels to dry his legs more thoroughly.

Do you have any other grooming tasks that are made harder in winter? How do you work around the cold?


What’s the grooming decision you’ve ever seen?

Everyone has different preferences for grooming and presentation.

I leave Tristan’s mane long and on the “wrong” side; I’m too lazy and I don’t give enough fucks to either pull it or train it over. It’s been ten years. It’s not going anywhere. Plus, I do have some backing on this: mustangs are typically left with long manes. His is full and grows long enough not to look awful. (Though, opinions differ: I had a trainer who sighed heavily and looked pointedly at Tristan’s mane on a regular basis.)

Sometimes, though: sometimes there are grooming decisions that are less personal choice and more atrocity.
Some years ago, I was helping barnmates get ready the night before an event. We were at the event stabling when a friend from another barn came over and asked for help braiding her horse’s mane. She was of the “own a horse but not do tooooooo much of the hard work myself” type. She had the money to pay for top notch care and didn’t feel like braiding, so a barnmate who was a former H/J rider and had braided for A circuits agreed to help.
We got over and discovered that instead of pulling her horse’s thick, drafty mane, she had half-roached it. And by half-roached, I mean zipped right down the center line of the horse’s crest. We stood in horrified amazement for several very long second while the woman chattered about what a great idea she’d had!
But I have a new worst story, told to me at my current barn a few weeks ago.
The person who told it was a working student at a very, VERY high end dressage barn many years ago. It was his second or third week, and there was a new groom. Said groom was an extremely experienced horseman, and had come to the dressage world from a polo barn. The head trainer pointed out one of their FEI horses and said that there was a buyer coming that afternoon; could the groom get him turned out to the nines for the sale?
Cue four hours later, the horse was turned out immaculately and brought out of the barn for the buyer…with a roached mane.
Any other good stories out there?

grooming · product review · shedding

Product Review: Bamboo FurBuster for Horses

I am a longtime user of Furminators for dog and cat. I think they’re terrific at getting deep into an animal’s coats and taking care of stray hair before it ends up in my dinner. (Though let’s be honest everything in my life is covered in animal hair anyway.)

So when I came across this knockoff version of the Furminator specifically marketed for horses – and it was $5.50 on clearance at TJ Maxx – well, that was worth the price of admission.

ps packaging does not hold up to idiot dogs
The FurBuster comes in two parts: the handle and the blade itself. The blade was a bit tricky to get into the handle, but a little bit of wrestling and it clicked in. It has not even threatened to budge since then, so I think the tough part was worth it.
Does it work?
It really does. That was a not-too-hard pass on Tristan’s shoulder. It absolutely digs pretty deep and gets up quite a bit of hair.

Next question: is it worth it? Nah.

Look, it’s a great little toy. I’m not sorry I bought it to try out, and it’s definitely part of my shedding arsenal now. That being said, it does have some drawbacks, and I’m not sure it performs all that¬†much better than a good old-fashioned shedding blade.

First drawback: it clogs up pretty quickly. Because of its design, hair gets caught in the blade and stays there. Shedding blades sort of push that hair ahead of them, and you can just keep going and going and it piles up. This gets much more hair in a single pass – but you have to manually remove the hair after each pass.

Second drawback: it’s not flexible. It does a great job on the large wide spaces – neck, shoulders, back, butt, etc. – but it’s stiff and tough to actually get any hair off the legs.

Third drawback: it’s pretty invasive. Which means Tristan loves it! My horse has never been groomed hard enough in his entire life. He loooooooves a good hard, deep curry and half falls asleep while you use this thing. I think it helps alleviate some of the itching from shedding while it pulls the hair out.

But I know that an awful lot of horses cannot handle being groomed deeply (or even at all!). This is soooooooo not the tool for those horses! They would absolutely hit the roof. It’s much more invasive than a regular shedding blade – it goes deeper, it grabs more hair, and its rigid nature means that the horse’s skin has to yield to it, unlike a shedding blade, which shapes around a horse’s curves.

So: fun purchase in the moment, not something I’m going to recommend everyone run out and buy.

blog hop · grooming

Blog Hop: What’s in your grooming kit?

I am super horribly way behind the ball with this blog hop, but damn it, I’m doing it anyway.

(I’m so far behind I don’t remember who started it – sorry? If it was you let me know so I can credit!)


Once upon a time, I boarded at a barn where the only thing you were allowed to have outside of your tack trunk was one pair of tall boots. That’s it. My tack trunk is an old wooden chest that served as my great-great-uncle’s tool chest, and as such it does not have modern conveniences like space for full grooming kits.

So my grooming kit was this small bucket that, if I tipped it sideways, would slide into the tack trunk. The problem with that was that you had to tip it just right, and even if you had the knack of it, half the time everything in it would fall out. I put up with it for years, because lo, I am lazy as shit.

Then, a friend who was riding Tristan on and off for me bought me a proper grooming kit, because by that time I was boarding at a different barn that did not care if my grooming kit was outside my tack trunk, and she took pity on me, and I think she hated the part where all the grooming tools fell out half the time. The story of my riding life is basically set to “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends,” like the time Hannah cut Tristan’s boot velcro straps that had been too long for like 5 years.


For a few years now I have had a proper grooming tote, and what do you know? Having organizational cubbies actually means I keep this thing pretty darn organized.

Left to right: hoof pick, curry comb (pro tip: buy a child’s size if you have tiny hands like me, it’s much easier to manage), shedding blade (this lives in year round; when he’s not shedding, he’s muddy, and fuck if I can remember to cycle it in and out), stiff brush, soft brush, mane & tail brush, soft face brush.

These are the standards; right now, I’m stuck with the shitty Vetrolin liniment because I could not find Sore No More for a while. I got the EquiFuse in my Blogger Gift Exchange package last year and when I remember to use it I love it. The detangler lives in the grooming box because I will frequently spray it on his tail even when I have no intention of combing it out; it helps keep things from getting too bad.
This time of year, I also do a quick spray of detangler on his shoulders every few days to help keep his blanket from rubbing.

I always keep some array of meds and/or treatment things in the grooming kit. Right now, it’s this fabulous Vitamin E ointment because I was treating Tristan’s fly sheet rub with it, and No Thrush, which is this nifty powdery thrush stuff I’m trying out and like quite a bit.
Not pictured: a small towel that I usually keep there just in case, and generic Tums. I’d run out last week. I use the Tums, I’ll be honest, mostly as a placebo for myself. I will sometimes feed them to him before the ride if he hasn’t had his grain, or if he’s looking a little iffy I’ll feed them after the ride. In theory, they form a buffer and help prevent ulcers, which totally works in some horses. In practice, when he’s 100% fine but I can’t make my anxious brain shut up, I feed them to him and it helps. He eats them like treats, and they have zero negative effect and some small positive, so.
clipping · grooming

Spa Day Lite

I have been trying to give my horse a bath allllll summer. I kept trying to line up that ever-elusive free time + good weather + energy & willingness equation, and it never worked.

Yeah, you read that right. I have not bathed my horse all summer. I am the worst.

I have scrubbed off some canon crud, and cleaned his sheath. I’ve diligently detangled his mane and tail when they got really bad. But…no bath at all.

I hoped to do it this past Monday, but our temps are officially into fall. Unless we get a whopper of an indian summer in the next few weeks, it’s just not going to happen.

On the other hand, my horse looks like a ragamuffin. Good grief.

Not even a hint at a bridle path. Sigh.
So instead of giving him a bath, I finally decided to do at least a small something: reclaim his bridle path.
Apparently I did a really, really good job getting him used to the clippers last year when I did a bib clip for the first time, because as soon as I turned them on he started mugging me for treats. GOOD PONY!
Ahhhhhhh, much better. I chose to make it a little more narrow this time around; the last few I’ve been less than thrilled with the wide swath that I took.
bathing · grooming

What do you use for shampoo?

It’s that time of year again! Sometime in the next week or two, Tristan will be getting a bath to dig in and get rid of the winter grime that’s worked its way in to his coat. I’m only waiting for the right conditions: enough time to properly bathe him, and enough sun to dry him out.

Some pony haaaaaates baths.

I did a brief inventory of my bathing tools last night. Big sponge, check. Sweat scraper, check. Small bucket, check.

One of my favorite scrubbing tools is a basic jelly scrubber. I have small hands, so when I can find a child size I buy that. I think it does the best job of scrubbing in the shampoo and massaging the skin.

I also have two bottles of conditioner. I am of the camp that believes in conditioning every time I bathe; shampooing removes natural oils and can leave the skin dry. Tristan isn’t nearly as sensitive as many other horses, but I love the soft shine he gets after a good conditioning. Part of my bathing routine is also to work conditioner fully into his mane and tail and let them set for quite a while, then rinse out, picking out snarls. It makes a huge difference.
Here’s the big gaping hole in my kit: shampoo. Last year, I ran out of the most recent bottle I’d bought: Cowboy Magic Rosewater Shampoo.¬†
It’s on the expensive side – usually around $8 a bottle – and while I’m perfectly happy to spend money on things that make a difference, I’m not really sure that this did. In the past I’ve used whatever’s on sale at Walmart or the grocery store: Suave, V05, whatever’s around $1 a bottle. I’ve noticed a difference in quality of conditioner – both for him and for me! – but never in quality of shampoo.
Before I buy a new bottle of something, I thought I’d put the question out there. What do you use? Do you think it really makes a difference? Do you go cheap & generic, or do you have a particular brand you swear by that costs more? Do you have a multi-step system? Seeking all opinions!

grooming · puppy

Summer Shine

I had a massively long, stressful, and busy day at work yesterday. When it was over, I stood outside my truck and for several long seconds stared at my truck key, wondering how exactly to put it in the lock. I put it in the lock. I turned it right. I pulled on the door handle and then stared, dumbfounded, when it didn’t open. Then I put it back in the lock and turned it left, which is the way you actually unlock a door.

It was around that moment when I first thought about not riding after all. I’d put on my breeches and t-shirt by rote, following the one foot in front of the other mantra that had gotten me through the day. Now that we’ve worked out the puppy schedule, Friday is a barn day for me, and I didn’t want to give that up.

By the time I got to the barn and three people in a row commented on how tired I was, I had officially decided: no riding for me. I’ve learned over the years that when I’m clearly not making good decisions about basic human things, getting on a horse never ends well. I can’t flog my brain to analyze and react appropriately to things under saddle, and often end up frustrated and riding poorly.

I got out my grooming box and clippers and curried, curried, curried. Then I worked for a long time with the shedding blade, then the stiff brush. By the end of it, some of Tristan’s summer shine was coming through: a glint here, a shimmer there. I’m pleased to see it back. Something about the long dull fuzziness of his winter coat contributes to my general malaise over the weather and the season of hibernation. He still feels fuzzy, and is still shedding quite a bit, but for the first time his hair is approaching summer length – across his shoulders, on the top of his back, patches on his neck and flanks.

I got out the clippers and tidied up his bridle path, and debated cleaning his fetlocks. I ultimately decided against because his winter coat is still clinging to his legs, and I didn’t want an awful mishmash of clip/shed going on. A few more weeks and I’ll get there. Then we headed out to handgraze for a while as I used fingers to rough up the winter fuzz along his throatlatch and jaw, mostly white with not much red.

The boyfriend brought Arya by for her second visit to the barn, and she did wonderfully: wanted to explore, chase birds, and was very wary around horses. I’ve introduced a fair number of dogs to Tristan, and he can be counted on to stand quietly and mostly roll his eyes, even when my parents’ dog as a puppy launched herself right at him, planted her front feet on his shoulder, and tried very hard to lap his face.

Arya was mostly very timid, and did a minimum of bouncing & yowling. (We’re pretty sure she’s hound-y: her default is not a bark but more of a yowl, a bell-like voiced howl. It’s ridiculous and adorable.) She got lots of praise when approaching him while quiet, and seemed to take his example and spent a few seconds grazing right alongside him. (Weirdo.) Then I put Tris back in his stall and lured her over with a treat to touch noses with him for a second, and gave them each a treat and called it a day. She bounded over to me when I whistled, even calling off some of the interesting scents around, and in general I was very happy with her!

Sunday: cleaning out the trailer, going through stored supplies, and a hack with friends.

grooming · product review

Product Review: Oster Mane and Tail Brush

Product Review: Oster Mane and Tail Brush

The first piece of horse equipment I ever bought for Tristan, almost ten years ago now, was a cheap hair brush at a CVS. I still have it, more out of nostalgia than anything else. It wasn’t a great brush, though, and I basically stopped using it pretty quickly.

Tris has an incredibly thick and long mane and tail. I know people say never to brush them but if I didn’t work on them on a semi-regular basis they would be nothing but dreadlocks. In fact, even with me grooming him every day and checking his mane and tail regularly he had a huge dreadlock in his mane that I had to pick out. Let’s not even talk about his talent for picking up thistles.

To give you a sense of just how thick his tail is.

A smart friend recommended this to me as the best brush she owns. She’s ruthlessly practical and not spendy, so I took her at her word and bought one myself. I. Love. It. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly why, but in all honesty this is the greatest mane and tail brush ever. I am kind of picky about grooming stuff: my stiff brush has to be just the right stiffness, and I have 4 soft brushes of varying softnesses. I have small, stiff hands so they have to be easy to use. This brush? Is perfect.

I actually have a set of the other Oster grooming tools, too, and they live in my show/travel tack trunk in my trailer, but they’re just brushes. This is magic.

Caveat: I never just straight-up brush his mane and tail. Thick as they are, that’s just asking for it. But I always keep a bottle of detangler in my grooming kit, too – more on that in a future product review – and when his mane or tail are getting a bit gnarly I will apply liberally to the area, pick through with my fingers, and then use this comb. I always do it in pieces – for the tail I start at the bottom and work my way up, and for the mane I isolate a few inches at a time. Similarly, after I’ve used conditioner in his mane or tail when bathing I’ll do the same thing. Yes, I pull some hairs out, but his tail after it’s been cleaned and combed through is really wonderful.

In short, this brush is exactly as good as advertised.