December 18, 2017

To Groom Or Not To Groom…

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
– Winston Churchill

A few years ago I was conducting a CHA Riding Instructor Certification Clinic. During these clinics, the 2 staff members watch and evaluate four lessons taught by each of the participants. Three lessons are mounted, but one lesson is an un-mounted or “ground” lesson. The participants may choose the topic for their lessons from a list we provide to them. Each instructor has 15- 20 minutes to complete their lesson. One of our participants at this clinic chose Grooming for her ground lesson. This can be an easy option or extremely detailed and complex depending on how it’s taught.

On this day, our participant/instructor got out her demo horse and a bucket of items to conduct her lesson with. With the entire group playing the role of her students, she proceeded to explain the particulars of grooming a horse. She carefully selected her first tool- a dandy brush. She then explained that you begin using the brush at the top of the withers, continue down the back, move along the side of the barrel and finish with the girth area, just behind the front legs.  Next, she selected a large, plastic comb which she used to groom the mane. She then concluded her grooming demonstration with 15 minutes to spare.

Well, the other Clinic Instructor and I just looked at each other with a baffled expression.  We never know exactly what we are going to get, but this lesson definitely fell short of our expectations. Not to worry, we knew what to do next, ask questions to try to draw out some more information from our instructor. So let the inquisition begin!

Q- What other tools do you have and what are they used for?
A- I have a rubber curry, soft brush and a hoof pick.
Q- When do you use a rubber curry?
A – We only use a curry if the horse is really muddy.
How about a soft brush?
A- We sometimes use that on the face.
Do you brush the tail?
A- No, we don’t allow the students to brush tails because it’s too dangerous.
What about cleaning the hooves?
A- We don’t allow the students to clean hooves because it’s too dangerous.
Q- Ok, well can you show us how you would clean a hoof?
A- If you need me to. The instructor then correctly picked up and cleaned one front hoof.
Q- What about the hind hooves?  Could you clean that one?
A- I don’t know how to pick up a hind hoof because it’s too dangerous.

We tried a few more questions to pull some more information out of her, but to no avail. It became apparent that her experience was quite limited. Of course we used this opportunity to fill in the missing pieces of her grooming puzzle. But the interesting thing about this encounter was not her lack of knowledge (although that was a little alarming considering she was employed as a riding instructor), but that she had been taught this grooming method by her instructor. Now she was going to pass that same misinformation on to her students. However; since she was taught the correct method at the clinic, we hope she changed how she teaches her future students, but old habits die hard.

That brings me to a similar event that happened at my barn recently. A new student came to take lessons after she recently moved to our city. She had been taking lessons for quite some time where she used to live. When she was grooming, she pulled a dandy brush over the saddle area and cleaned the hooves. She was then reaching for the saddle pads before I stopped her and requested that she finish grooming. She stated that at her previous barn her instructor “Didn’t want them to waste their time grooming.” The student then asked why it mattered if she groomed the whole horse instead of just the saddle area. She simply didn’t know why using a curry, mane & tail brush or soft brush was important.

These events, along with many others just like it, bring me to believe that proper grooming is becoming a thing of the past. Now I readily admit that if I never groomed another horse again, I wouldn’t miss it much. But that doesn’t stop me from doing a good job every time I pick up my grooming box. I just made sure I learned how to do it correctly and quickly! Heck, it feels like I’m cutting corners if I skip the dandy brush during the summer.

I know that grooming helps keep my horse’s coat clean and shiny. But beyond the obvious reason of cleanliness, grooming forces me to really look at and feel my horse’s coat, skin, legs, and body. It is during grooming time that I’m going to find that bug bite, cut, hair loss or sensitive spot that may need attention. Grooming also gives me a really good insight into my horses’ attitude that day. I can tell if they are edgy and need to be lunged. Or they are lethargic from the heat or a previous workout. These are all good things to know before I climb into the saddle. These are just some of the things that would easily be missed if I rushed through grooming. It also gives me a chance to either develop a deeper bond with a horse that has some trust issues or establish some boundaries with the ones that are a little too pushy.

So the next time you are getting ready to ride, do both yourself and your horse a favor. Put the time and effort into properly grooming your horse. It won’t take that long and you will both be better off for the effort. Be an optimist! Don’t consider the difficulty. See the opportunity!

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Certification Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to

About Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill was an extraordinary British prime minister; he laid the groundwork for welfare in England, helped set the boundaries in the Middle East, became a symbol of the resistance against the Nazis in Europe, and was a central force in the Allied victory in World War II. He was born in 1874 near Oxford. He was known for his courage, his stubbornness, and his powerful personality. He was also an accomplished painter and writer. He died in 1965



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