How to Make Grooming More Enjoyable for Your Horse

Some horses love being brushed; others hate it and will nip, bite, kick, flinch or toss their heads at you as they try to escape. Then there are those that enjoy grooming as a bonding activity, often making it one of the best parts of their daily routine and even helping to build a relationship with you.

Despite some research findings that grooming can help to relax and rejuvenate your horse, some horses still hate being brushed and might even feel stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable during a session. While it’s important to keep in mind that every horse is different, there are a few things you can do to make your grooming experience more enjoyable for your horse and you.

1. Be conscious of how hard you’re pressing

Many horse owners don’t think about this, but each horse has a different sensitivity level and they don’t like being brushed too harshly or too lightly. For example, Thoroughbreds and Arabians tend to be thin-skinned breeds that require a light touch, while draft and warmblood horses are thick-skinned and prefer a firmer touch.

2. Be aware of how you’re brushing

If you’re not careful, your horse can become ticklish and fidgety when you brush him. This is because horses are the most sensitive around their head, down their legs, near their flank and under their belly, so it’s essential to take care not to brush them too hard or they might become hurt.

3. Praise your horse regularly

Another thing you can do to make grooming more enjoyable for your horse is to praise him when he does well, or give him treats when he seems calm and relaxed during the process. This can be a great way to show him how much you appreciate him, and it’ll also encourage him to keep going when he’s a little nervous or shy about being brushed.

4. Look for reasons why your horse might be resisting

A good tip when noticing why your horse is not enjoying being brushed is to try and think of some of the causes of his discomfort, such as if he has been stalled and he’s not used to standing still; or if you’re grooming him after a long ride or a traumatic event; or if you’re brushing over an injury that he doesn’t seem to have noticed yet.

5. Don’t brush when it’s not the right time to do so

Grooming is a valuable skill that can be useful in many ways, including: It’s a good way to keep your horse’s coat healthy and clean; It’s a good way to spot injuries before they get worse and are more difficult to treat; And it’s a useful training aid for young horses and riders alike.

6. Practice with the same partner

In addition to grooming themselves, many animals engage in a ritual called allogrooming when they brush others. This happens among primates and other animals in the primate family, including pigs, dogs, and cats, and can be a way to reduce stress and demonstrate respect for more dominant species.