Take a good look at your groom boxes. Are all the brushes clean and respectable, and the bottles and the gadgets nicely organized a la Martha Stewart? Or are your boxes equine versions of a seventh grader's gym bag? Let's be honest now. Are the brush bristles smashed down and full of grit? Is there a rusty old hoof pick lying next to a mouse nest at the bottom of the box? It's a good bet that you bought those brushes twenty years ago when you first started riding and haven't replaced them since.
Besides being unsightly, old dirty brushes with worn bristles won't get your horse clean. Gummy, sludgy hoof oil, well past its prime, has probably lost all moisturizing ability. And a moldy stinky sponge breeds bacteria-yuck! It's understandable, with all the equine details to attend to; there's not much time to spend thinking about updating your groom boxes. But find some time to sort, throw out all those old brushes, cruddy hoof picks, and empty bottles, and start over with new stuff, after all, brushes, hoof picks and the like are cheap. But where do you begin? Before heading off to your local tack store, let's review the basics of the grooming box.
The Daily Kit
Brushes. Brushes come in all sorts of fibers: natural-plant fibers such as Tampico and Palmyra, and horsehair; or synthetic-generally polypropylene. Natural fibers tend to be a bit more expensive than synthetic, but both works very well. Choose a brush that fits comfortably in your hand. Brushes are made for a child's hand and a small hand so pick one you like. Also, know your horse. Some horses are very thin skinned and can't bear stiff bristles. Some horses, on the other hand, are tough guys and crave a scratchy brush.
Your kit should have three brushes: 1) the stiff brush. Used for sweeping away hard clots of dirt, this brush is used for tough cleaning jobs but will not take off the finer particles of dirt. That is the job of number 2) the body brush, and all-purpose brush which whisks away both fine and large particles. Follow up with 3) the finishing brush. This soft brush polishes the horse's coat and brings oils to the surface. The finishing brush has soft bristles and is tailor made for your horse's face.
Currycombs have come a long way since you bought your brushes twenty years ago-metal curries went out with the Spanish Inquisition, by the way. Nowadays, curries are made of rubber and come in all sizes and shapes and are even ergonomically designed to fit the groomer's hand. Curries, used for scrubbing the dirt up to the surface, are made for the tough customer and on down to the wimp.
Tail brush. There are lots to choose from but which one? Well, it depends on your tail philosophy. The Tail Tamer finishing brush is a nice compromise between those who like to brush and those who are frightened of breaking off hairs. It's gentle and you'll get minimum hair breakage.
Hoof pick. Available in rubber covered handles, foldable, wooden handle, and extra fine pick. They are cheap, so purchase two for that inevitable time when one "goes missing".
Sponges. Include two sponges in your groom box: a small one for the face and nostrils, and a tiny tack cleaning sponge for what else? Tack cleaning. Housekeeping Tip: save the mesh sack that potatoes come in. You can store your wet sponges inside and hang it in the tack room to dry.
Miscellaneous grooming items. Take a page from the British and add a rub rag to your kit. The British use soft rub rags to take off the very fine dust particles and they use a tougher "cactus cloth" to remove sweat marks-a great idea instead of a hose off. Also, pack a terry cloth towel to wipe of tack, mouths, your hands, etc. Don't forget saddle soap! Store bars of soap in a plastic box or purchase soap in a container.
There are many to choose from: lids, no lids, wooden, lockable, stand-on-topable, canvas totes, etc. All are great but have their own pros and cons. Lids are nice because they discourage mice and "sticky fingers" and your gear has less of a chance of falling out and getting sucked into the twilight zone. However, lids also have disadvantages. Tall bottles don't fit well under lids and if you lay the bottles on their sides, they tend to leak. Plastic totes are great because all of your things are easy to find and tall bottles fit nicely. However, gear can fall out easily and the open style is an invitation for rodent housing. Canvas totes are great if you go to shows because they hang comfortable on your shoulder.
Rubbermaid makes a terrific box for shows. It's actually a toolbox that doubles as a footstool. You can put your show things inside. Use it at competitions for a mounting block, or to stand on and dress manes. Rubbermaid also makes a large trunk that is useful for storing all your boxes and buckets. The fifty-gallon size holds two boxes, one pair of tall boots and a bucket, with room left over for odds and ends. The domed lid has a hasp for a padlock.
Instead of a tote box for bath gear, consider using a bucket. You can store your shampoo and conditioner and combs neatly inside. When it's bath time, take the whole thing over to the wash rack and you're ready to go.
This sounds a bit excessive but include three shampoos: a gentle basic shampoo, a brightening shampoo (for shows and or yellow socks), and an anti-fungal shampoo (if a fungus appears you can get on it right away. Sprays are also nice too.). Include two conditioners: a leave-in (for weekly use), and a deep conditioner (for once a month). Throw in a wide tooth plastic comb as well. The Jumbo Rake De-Tangling Comb is just the ticket for wet hair.
Include a sweat scraper (rubber or plastic), green spot remover, such as Cowboy Magic, (for white and gray horses), and a large sponge and towel.
The Show Groom Box-everything ready to go!
Keep at least a soft brush, if not a complete set of brushes, in your show kit. Add a hoof pick, and several soft clothes for wiping bits and boots. You'll also want to add in a mane-pulling comb, rubber bands, braiding things (a pull through, mane clip, mane divider, and a small scissors for cutting yarn). Keep your braiding yarn in a plastic bag to keep it clean. Exhibitor Labs makes a great product called Quick Braid. If gives you a great grip for tight bands and braids. Best of all, it combs out easily. It's also great for flattening Mohawk manes. Toss in a grooming apron and you're ready to go.
Just picture how neat and tidy boxes, brimming with new things, will make your stable life more pleasant and functional. Oh, and don't forget to put horse treats in all of the boxes. But that's a given, isn't it?