The Different Types of Horse Brushes Every Equestrian Needs

One of the most important parts of horse care is knowing how to brush your horse properly. Brushing horses is important because it improves the health of their skin and coat, helps remove dirt from areas that may rub while you ride, and allows you to check them daily for injuries. Here we will go through the different types of horse brushes and their uses, how to properly groom your horse, and how to maintain your brushes. Read on to learn everything you’ll need to know to about brushing your horse.

There are many different horse brushes on the market that are good to have in your grooming kit. But, there are 9 must-have items that you need to properly groom a horse. Here is what you need in your grooming kit to keep your horse looking sleek:

Curry Combs

Curry Comb

Curry combs have been a horse grooming tool for well over a hundred years. The curry comb is a round brush with short teeth made from rubber, plastic, or metal. Typically, curry combs also have a hand strap or handle to help the groomer grip the brush while grooming. Curry combs are used to remove caked mud from your horse’s body or loosen dirt that is close to the horse’s skin so that the other brushes can then remove it. Because of their teeth, curry combs should not be used on boney parts of your horse like the legs or face since this could cause discomfort.

When shopping for a curry comb there are a couple of things to think about. First, you need to make sure that the teeth are long enough to loosen the dirt on your horse’s coat and short enough to not cause discomfort. There are many different variations of curry combs on the market today, but rubber or plastic curry combs are best for your horse’s skin. Rubber curry combs are strong enough to loosen dirt and won’t scratch your horse. Other materials like hard plastic and metal could cause discomfort for your horse if they are used too aggressively.

Some horses are more sensitive than others. For sensitive horses, it is best to choose a Soft Body Curry Comb with longer, softer teeth so they will not feel any discomfort during grooming.

Hard Brush or Dandy Brush

Hard Brush

The Hard Brush is another essential item to have in your grooming kit. Hard brushes have long coarse bristles that aid in removing heavy dirt and dried mud. The bristles are typically either made from plastic or natural fibers. Since they are gentler than curry combs they are great for removing dried dirt or mud from the legs and face.

When shopping for a hard brush the most important factor is the coarseness of the bristles on the brush. Brushes remove the dirt particles that are close in size to that of the bristles. So if you have caked mud, a brush with coarser bristles is appropriate. If the dirt particles are very fine, a hard brush with finer bristles will work best. When you are making your decision, consider where your horse lives. If your horse often comes in from a muddy pasture covered in dried dirt, a coarser hard brush might be better. However, if you live in a drier climate or your horse is usually inside you might get a ‘medium-hard’ brush with finer bristles.

The material of your hard brush is another important factor. Hard brushes are generally either made from plastic or natural fibers. Plastic brushes last forever and remain effective. On the other hand, organic brushes need to be properly maintained to last, but they are often preferred for their ‘traditional’ feel and they have also been found to be slightly more effective than their synthetic counterparts.

Soft Brush

Soft Brush

The soft brush is very similar to the hard brush in build. The difference is in the bristles as they are more flexible, finer, and denser than the bristles of a hard brush. Finer, shorter, and more flexible bristles make the brush softer on the horse’s skin. The density of the brush’s bristles allows it to pick up more particles while being used. The soft brush is used for removing the smaller dirt and dust particles trapped inside your horse’s coat. Typical soft brushes are made from gentle synthetic bristles or soft organic fibers.

There are many different kinds of soft brushes on the market. The level of ‘soft’ your soft brush will be is entirely up to you. Some brushes being sold even have a mixture of bristles, some very fine and some more coarse, to help you get the most out of grooming.

Soft brushes are similar to hard brushes in their materials. Generally, plastic is slightly less effective, cheaper, and will last till the end of time, while organic brushes are slightly higher in quality, more expensive, and will need to be maintained.

Body Brush

Body Brush

The Body Brush is easy to recognize because it typically has short bristles with a hand strap and an oval-shaped handle. The shorter, denser bristles, reach down to the base of your horse’s skin to remove dust and dirt particles. The body brush also massages your horse’s skin. This feels good for your horse and aids in the release of oils from the skin that make for a shiny coat. The bristles of the brush pull oil from the skin and spread it along the hair shaft, making it look healthy and shiny.

There are many different kinds of body brushes being sold today. The level of softness usually varies from soft to medium. If you can afford to buy two brushes it is best to have a soft body brush for your horse’s face, and a harder, medium body brush for your horse’s body. However, if you are on a budget one body brush will suffice.

The material of body brushes is slightly more important than the material you choose for hard brushes and soft brushes. Since part of the body brush’s job is to help release oil from the horse’s skin, bristles made from organic materials work much better.

Mane and Tail Comb or Brush

Mane and Tail Brush

Mane and tail brushes or combs typically look like the brushes you use on human hair. However, since horsehair is much coarser mane combs are much sturdier. Usually, mane and tail combs are made from plastic, rubber, or metal. They are used to brush out your horse’s mane and tail.

Though buying mane and tail brushes seems simple, there are a couple of things to avoid when buying them. First, make sure there are no seams between the plastic or metal teeth of the comb or brush. Seams could potentially slice or snap your horse’s hair while you comb it, leaving it damaged. Second, look for brushes with wider spaced teeth as they are gentler on horsehair. Lastly, plastic combs are generally less aggressive than metal combs. It is usually safer to go with a plastic comb as it is less likely to pull out your horse’s hair.

The best mane and tail brushes look very similar to brushes for human hair. They should have a smooth surface, with flexible teeth. The flexibility of the teeth will minimize the breakage of your horse’s hair while you comb it.

Hoof Picks

Hoof Pick

Although this is not a brush, hoof picks are another essential part of any grooming kit. Hoof picks are not only a critical step in grooming your horse, but they also keep your horse safe from foot infections and injuries. Hoof picks are a hard tool, usually the shape of a rod with a sharp curve at the top. Hoof picks are small enough to fit in one hand and they are very light. They are used to scrape mud, stones, and other debris out of your horse’s hoof. Using the hoof pick every time you groom will keep your horse’s hooves healthy and allow you to check them to ensure they haven’t been injured.

There are many different kinds of hoof picks to choose from. Typically, they are either made from metal, hard plastic, or a mix of both. The most basic hoof picks are made from metal and the handle is often coated with rubber. These hoof picks are cheap and will last forever, but they are not very comfortable to hold. A small metal handle can push into your hand when you try to remove stubborn dirt from your horse’s hooves. Other hoof picks have a plastic handle with a metal tip. These are much more comfortable and they often come with bristles located on the back of the handle. These extra bristles are great for removing small dirt particles from the hoof that the metal tip could not remove. There are also hoof picks available that are completely made from hard plastic. These hoof picks are not as effective as the other two versions, but they are great for teaching small children to pick hooves since they are gentler.

Bucket and Sponges

Horse Sponge

The bucket and sponge are necessary items to have in your grooming kit for after your horse is done with a long ride or needs a bath. Sponges can also be used to clean your horse's nose and around their eyes.

There are currently two different types of sponges on the market: form sponges and synthetic sponges. Form sponges are organic and are easy to grip because of their rough texture. These types of sponges are great for washing your horse, but not as much for everyday cleaning due to their coarse texture. Synthetic sponges are made from polyester or polyurethane. These sponges are softer and better for rinsing and wiping your horse down daily.

When shopping for Buckets it is up to you whether you prefer to use a large bucket or small bucket when grooming your horse. If you wash your horse frequently, it will be better to get a large bucket so it can hold more water. If you only intend on using your sponge for everyday rinsing a small bucket will work fine.

Sweat Scraper

Sweat Scraper

Lastly, a sweat scraper is another important tool to have in your grooming kit. These are designed specifically to scrape away sweat or water from your horse after a long ride or bath. They are an important tool because if an excessive amount of water or sweat is left on their coat it can act as insulation and trap their body heat.

There are many different sweat scraper designs out there. Sweat scrapers are usually made from plastic, rubber, or metal. The traditional sweat scraper design is shaped like a long flat rod. This design is great because it can help you get to hard-to-reach areas since it is so long. These sweat scrapers are often made from metal or plastic. The newer more modern sweat scrapers are completely different and have a handle that attaches to a rubber curve that scrapes the sweat. These scrapers are not as good at reaching hard-to-reach areas, but they are much more effective at removing water and sweat.

Extra Items to Keep in Your Grooming Kit

Though these items are not as essential to have in your grooming kit they are still very helpful in maintaining your horse’s coat. Here are some of the most relevant grooming accessories you can add to your kit.

Face Brush

This is a small soft brush or body brush used specifically for grooming your horse’s face. These brushes are typically about one-third the size of normal brushes and are better for grooming around the curves of a horse’s face. Face brushes are often good for young children to use when learning to brush since they are so small.

Finishing Brush

A finishing Brush is similar to a body brush and is used at the end of grooming to ‘finish’ your horse’s coat. The brush has long soft bristles made from organic material that help guide your horse’s natural oils across their coat to make it shiny. It also removes small traces of dust that might have built up from grooming.

Rub Rag

A rub rag is used to dry a horse after they have been worked or washed. A rub rag is typically very absorbent and can be rubbed in circular motions along the horse’s coat to help dry them if they are wet. This is usually done either after a horse has been rinsed and sweat-scraped or when they are sweaty after a long ride. Rub rags can also be used to ‘polish’ your horse at the end of your grooming sessions to further bring natural oils out from their coat.

Shedding Blades

Shedding blades are specifically designed to aid in removing your horse’s winter coat when they are shedding. They are usually made of metal and have small teeth used to grab the extra hair and pull it away from the skin. Though they are made from metal, they are usually used on horses who are shedding a thick winter coat, so they are unlikely to irritate their skin. Shedding blades are also great for cleaning brushes.

Water Brush

The water brush is an extremely coarse plastic hard brush that is used for cleaning other brushes or buckets used for grooming. These are handy to have as they clean brushes better than a curry comb or a shedding blade could alone be due to their hard bristles.

Silicone Sprays

Silicone spray is a great finishing touch to add to your horse’s coat when you are finally done grooming. This spray helps make brushing easier for next time since it is harder for their coat to pick up dirt when it is silicone coated. Silicone spray is also great for using on your horse’s mane and tail as it can act as a detangler while grooming. The spray also adds some extra shine to your horse’s coat.

How to Properly Brush a Horse

Now that we know what items we need for a complete grooming kit let’s talk more about how to properly groom. Here are the steps for brushing your horse:

  1. Tie Your Horse: Before you begin grooming, make sure your horse is tied so they will stay in one place while you work. Make sure there are no serious hazards in the place you choose to tie.
  2. Hoof Pick: Start by asking your horse to lift up their hoof, then use the hoof pick to pick out any compacted dirt or mud. When picking hooves, always point the hoof pick away from you, and pick out the debris in firm and controlled motions. Be aware of the anatomy of your horse’s hoof so you know what areas to avoid while picking. After most of the dirt is out, check the hoof for any stones or injuries. (Tip: If your hoof pick has a brush on the handle, brush off any extra dirt that the pick was unable to get out of the hoof.)
  3. Curry Comb: Use the curry comb to remove any caked mud from your horse’s body. To use the curry comb, press down firmly on the horse’s coat and use circular motions to loosen the dirt. Curry your horse’s body from the top of their neck all the way to their flank on both sides. Don’t forget to get under their belly, neck, and on their chest. (Tip: If your horse is currently shedding you might spend some extra time removing extra hair from their body. And if you have one, now would be the time to use the shedding blade.)
  4. Hard Brush: Next, use the hard brush to continue removing dirt and caked mud from your horse’s body. Start from the top of their neck and work your way to their flank on both sides. After you have brushed their body, brush down their legs and the less sensitive areas of their face. Always make sure you brush firmly in the direction of their hair and flick the brush at the end. If you brush without flicking not much dirt will be removed from your horse’s coat. (Tip: You can also use the hard brush to brush caked mud off of your horse’s mane and tail.)
  5. Soft Brush: Then use the soft brush to flick away dust from further inside your horse’s coat. Start at the top of the neck and work your way back to the flank on both sides. When you drag the brush across the horse’s coat make sure you push down slightly and flick the brush at the end to remove the dirt. You should see it fly off the brush if you do this correctly. Every few strokes try to clean the soft brush with a curry comb or shedding blade to remove the dust from the brush. Dirt will often get stuck inside the bristles of a soft brush and make it much less effective.
  6. Body Brush: Next, use the body brush to add some finishing touches. Stroke your horse firmly with the brush and make sure to flick the brush at the end. Again, start at the top of their neck and work your way down to their flank. Your horse will likely enjoy this part of the grooming process since it massages their skin. At the end of this step, their coat should be slightly shinier. (Tip: This is where you could also use a finishing brush or rub rag to further bring out the shine in your horse’s coat. This is also a good time to gently remove debris from their eyes and nose with your sponge.)
  7. Mane & Tail Brush: Next comb your horse’s mane and tail. This process is similar to combing human hair, start combing at the bottom of your horse’s hair and work your way to the top. A common misconception when combing horsehair is that you need to be extremely gentle while combing it, and while you should avoid breaking or ripping out your horse’s hair, many horses don’t mind their hair being pulled. Sensitive horses might mind more than others but most horses will be content while you comb their mane and tail. (Tip: This is when you can apply silicone spray to give your horse some extra shine. Make sure to avoid spraying areas where the saddle will sit as the spray can make their coat slippery.)

How to Clean Your Horse Brushes

It is important to clean horse brushes after you use them to ensure they will continue to be effective after you’ve used them. For brushes without bristles, rinsing them with water and drying them with a cloth works well. For brushes with bristles, use a curry comb to brush the extra dirt out from the brush. To do this, hold the brush in one hand and the curry comb in the other and firmly drag the brush over the teeth of the curry comb. You should see the dirt coming off of the brush during this process. Really dirty bristled brushes can also be washed with water and a gentle soap or horse brush wash. Plastic brushes can be washed with water as many times as you want, but brushes made from organic material need should be washed less frequently to avoid damage.

FAQs

What brushes should I have for my horse?

At the bare minimum you should have:

  • Curry Comb
  • Hard Brush
  • Soft Brush
  • Body Brush
  • Mane and Tail Brush
  • Hoof Pick
  • Sponge & Bucket
  • Sweat Scraper

How often should I brush my horse?

You should brush your horse every time you ride. Even if you don’t go through the entire process you should at least ensure that their hooves are clean and there is no dried dirt in areas where your tack will go. It is very difficult to groom dirty horses in winter if you keep their coats long, during times like those focus on getting dirt off of the areas where your tack will sit.

Do you use different horse brushes?

Yes, there are many different horse brushes that have different purposes that are used while grooming. There is no single brush that can be used to completely groom a horse.

What do you soak horse brushes in?

If you are soaking your horse brushes use a gentle soap or special brush cleaner designed for horse brushes. If you use a special brush cleaner make sure to follow the instructions on the label.

How often should you clean horse brushes?

It is smart to deep clean your brushes around every 2 weeks depending on how often they are being used. However, you should clean your bristled brushes with a couple of swipes on the curry comb or shedding blade every time you use them.