When it comes to purchasing grooming tools, the novice or uninformed may put little to no thought into the supplies they buy, especially brushes. Whether you’re making a purchase online or going to a tack shop, brushes and combs are viewed as just that–brushes and combs. Cheap items that do a simple job. While there may be variations in size and the material used, the average horse owner doesn’t see much a difference in the type of brush they buy to groom their horse.
The truth is that by spending some time studying the different types of brushes and combs that are out there and comparing them, it can make a big difference in how your horse both looks and feels, and that’s something you can’t really put a price on.
The owners (and horses) who benefit the most are those who do their homework, which may look like spending hours trying out different grooming tools and strongly considering which ones are the best option for their horse, for themselves (since after all they will be doing all the grooming) and for the tools purpose. These owners know that the right brush makes grooming easier and quicker, not more of a chore. If a brush does anything less, it’s a waste of money.
When shopping for grooming tools such as grooming brushes there are several factors to look into such as what exactly the objective of the tool is in relation to your horse, the material being used, the price point and personal preferences such as comfort as your perform the grooming task. If you are someone that has never contemplated on these issues before purchasing a brush, not to worry. We will tell you all you need to know so you can make an informed decision and put together the best grooming kit possible for your horse.
Curry combs are an essential must-have item for any horse grooming kit as they help to loosen up dead hair and dirt on your horse so their coat can look clean and neat. The materials used in a curry comb is almost always either rubber or plastic and they can very in price to very cheap (a couple of dollars) to upwards of nearly 20 dollars.
There are are variety of curry comb designs and sizes out there, but all promise to do the same basic job of loosening hair and dirt while also massaging your horse’s skin and stimulating the production of their natural oils. When shopping for a curry comb, it’s important to look for one that is firm but not so stiff that it will irritate or even injure your horse’s skin.
It’s best to shop for a curry comb in person where you could take a close look at the teeth and feel the texture of them, though you could also shop online if there are high quality close up images of the comb. If the curry comb is too soft, it won’t properly perform the dirt-busting, and skin-massaging that it’s meant to do. On the other hand, teeth that feel very hard can be uncomfortable for the horse and may even puncture or breakthrough the skin which can open up the opportunity for your horse to get an infection.
The type of curry comb you buy largely depends on your horse and what they can tolerate. Many horses may not be able to withstand a hard curry comb, and they shouldn’t have to. If your horse fidgets, stomps or does any type of jerking movements when you’re using the curry comb on them then they are not a fan and you should look into getting something different.
Something that may help is looking at curry combs as not only a grooming tool, but as also a massaging tool. You could even use it on yourself to really get a feel for it. If you don’t enjoy the feeling, chances are it may not be right for your horse either. Another great currying option is to use a pair of grooming gloves. Horses and dogs alike will enjoy getting rubbed down with these gloves as the fingers and palms feature rubber, grippy nodules that grab onto loose hair and dandruff. These gloves are a great option to help with shedding as well as to gently massage away lumps and bumps on the skin caused by rain rot or mud fever. Traditional curry combs don’t always get in the nooks and crannies where skin irritations can develop, so with the help of the flexible grooming gloves, you can be sure to massage all those hard to reach places.
There are even some metal curry combs that are sold to help promote shedding which is a material meant to do a good job getting out a lot of grime and debris but these hard textured combs may cause more harm than good. We highly recommend just sticking to either rubber or good pair of grooming gloves.
Hard (Dandy) brushes
Dandy brushes are hard bristled and are often used after going through your horse with the curry comb as they knock off the dried dirt, hair and debris that have been loosened. The materials of a hard brush is usually either a synthetic plastic bristle or natural fibers such as bassine or palmyra. The cost of a brush can also vary in price depending on the material. However, we recommend using a natural bristle brush for several reasons.
The synthetic bristles can cause friction and static between your horse’s coat which makes the dust and dandruff particles gravitate back towards their body. This happens when the air is dry and excess charge is released (like when you rub a balloon against your hair and it sticks!). This can also be uncomfortable for your horse, so to avoid making them feel itchy or tingly, we recommend using a natural bristle brush made from boar, goat or horse hair. A soft goat hair brush is perfect for gently grooming around the muzzle and eyes, while a stiffer boar bristle brush is great for breaking up mud and dried sweat from the body. The natural bristles are also porous which helps distribute the natural oils from your horse’s skin to spread over their coat. Horses emit a thin sebaceous oil from their pores which gives them that glossy, healthy shine. Using the right brush can actually allow you to skip all the alcohol based showsheens!
When shopping for a hard brush, also observe the diameter of the bristles as they will tell you the size of dirt particles which can be whisked off most readily by the product. For example, hard brushes with large, coarse bristles are for knocking away dried dirt and thick textured mud.
Another factor to consider when shopping for a hard brush is your region’s climate and the dirt type that tends to accumulate on your horse. If you live in an area where mud gets caked onto your horse quite regularly, go for a firm brush with large bristles. If mud isn’t that great of an issue, you can settle for a medium hard brush. This is one that isn’t as stiff as a hard dandy brush.
Dandy brush handles often come in either wood or plastic. Wood may wear out more quickly due to the elements, but many groomers like the old-fashioned feel that it gives while grooming.
Another item to consider is how the bristles are oriented onto the handle of the brush. They can either be machine-drilled where the bristles are glued into holes or they could be wire-drawn onto the handle. Both come with their advantages and disadvantages but bristles that are wire-drawn (often indicated by seeing four small screws at the top of a brush) have an advantage when it comes to longevity. They last forever without any fear of them coming loose, but as a result, they do tend to be more costly.
Soft brushes are designed very similar to hard brushes, but as made obvious by their name, the bristles are much softer and more gentle on your horse’s coat. They have smaller fibers than a hard brush and are set closer together which help it to remove dirt particles and dust that is very fine.
Soft brushes are either made of synthetic material such as nylon or plastic, or organic fibers such as union fiber, goat hair or tampico. Soft brushes can be as cheap as a couple dollars to as expensive as $20. The most expensive brushes are made purely of horsehair.
The term soft can vary widely when it comes to soft brushes so when shopping for soft brushes, you will need to keep your horse in mind. Some brushes may have a mix of different fiber materials to make it so the brush is soft but not TOO soft.
There are even subcategories of soft brushes known as “flick” or “sweep” brushes. The bristles of these brushes are exceptionally long, reaching about a half-inch longer than a standard soft brush. Their names are very telling as you use them to quite literally flick dirt from your horse in small strokes.
When shopping for a soft brush, really get a feel for it by simulating grooming. Ask yourself how the brush feels, does it feel comfortable in your hand, can you see yourself using it daily to groom your horse in the coming years? The brush that answers these questions in the affirmative may be what you are looking for.
You may be asking yourself, “aren’t all of the brushes discussed for the horses body? What’s the difference between a soft brush and a body brush?” There actually is a difference and should be. Some soft brushes would be reserves only for the horse’s head and face. Body brushes have shorter bristles than soft brushes and have different handles–they are often oval-shaped and have a strap on the back to fit snugly on a hand so you can stroke it through your horse’s body easily.
Body brushes can either come in plastic or can be made organically from horsehair, pig bristle or goat hair. The organic type will obviously be the more expensive types. Body brush bristles are also closely packed together which help it to both remove dust and debris while also gently massaging the skin to release oils that will give your horse that amazing shine after your grooming session has completed.
Proper technique is crucial with the body brush if you want satisfying results. After your horse has been curried and you have gone through your horse with hard brushing and a soft brushing, utilize the body brush in long, gentle swipes across the body. Doing this the right way all over the body, you will notice the difference when your horse’s shiny coat emerges.
When shopping for a body brush, it may make sense to purchase more than one body brush depending on how sensitive your horse is during grooming. Use a super soft brush for the facial region and a firmer (but still soft) brush for the rest of the horse’s body.
Much like the dandy brushes, body brushes can also be wire drawn or machine-drilled and the same tip applies when it comes to this brush as well; wire drawn brushes have a greater longevity and will never wear out, bringing out your horses shine for years and years.
Mane and Tail Combs
The mane and tail also need attention and that is why there should also be combs specifically for these parts of your horse. These combs can come in either plastic, rubber or metal material and are rather cheap no matter what type you select. It’s important to note that combs with seams in between the teeth (whether metal or plastic) should be avoided as they can catch and slice hairs when running them through your horse.
You may be thinking that a comb is a comb but it really pays to get a comb that is quality-made that doesn’t have seams. Combs that have widely spaced apart teeth are also more gentle on the hairs of your horse and will result in less pull.
Alternatively, rather than using a comb, you could comb the mane and tail with a brush that has with smooth, rounded plastic pins set into a flexible rubber surface, much like a human hair styling brush.
Prior to brushing or combing the tail, it is recommended to spray the tail and mane with a silicone based grooming spray. This should help to detangle hairs and can help your comb or brush to more easily slide through. Brush from the bottom of the tail and work your way up to detangle the hairs and the tail will end up looking smooth and uniform. Alternatively, a popular method for many high end show horses is to finger comb the tail so as to avoid pulling out any hairs from their beautifully full tails. To do this, apply your favorite tail serum (such as Cowboy Magic) and begin carefully separating and detangling using your fingertips, working from the bottom up.
If you’re on the market for restocking your horse’s grooming kit, it pays to be informed. Try to avoid cheap grooming kits and instead seek out quality tools that will give you the results that you want and will last you for years to come. We hope this guide helped you in making an informed decision on the types of brushes needed for your horse to have them looking their best!