Have you ever wondered what goes into making a top-level competition horse shine in the ring? Although it may look as though they’ve been primped and prepped for hours to achieve that coveted, not-a-hair-out-of-place finish, there are steps you can take to make the preparation process surprisingly simple.
A lot of the work behind getting a horse looking his competition-best happens long before the run-up to show day, and it’s a process that you can apply to your own horse’s daily care. Putting together the right grooming routine will lay the foundations for a shiny coat, a flowing tail and plaits that would make the best in the business jealous, plus quarter marks to add a final finishing touch.
Every horse on the yard gets a thorough groom at least once a day, and it gives me a chance to look for any lumps, bumps or other issues. As well as keeping your horse clean, grooming is a great opportunity for some one-on-one bonding time. It also helps you learn more about him – some horses are more sensitive in certain areas or have places they particularly enjoy a firm scratch.
Start with a rubber curry comb to release loose hair and dirt. It’ll also have a massaging effect, and aid circulation and blood supply to the skin. A flicky brush sweeps away what the curry comb has brought to the surface, while a soft body brush adds a glossy finish.
A conditioning coat spray adds a final shine, but avoid the saddle area and your horse’s mane if you’re plaiting him up, as it’ll make the hair slippery.
A great-looking tail is hugely important for showing and dressage, where your horse’s appearance helps to create a lasting impression with the judge. Valegro is well-known for his long, thick tail, but it took years to get it looking like that so I’m meticulous about maintaining it.
After liberally spritzing with detangler spray, I comb it out gently once a day with a wide-toothed comb, starting at the ends. Apply the detangler before you start grooming, so it has time to soak into the hair while you’re working on your horse’s body, making the job much easier and reducing the risk of breaking the long tail hairs.
Find out more of Alan Davies’ turnout secrets in April Horse&Rider, on sale 7 March.