With lower temperatures it becomes generally harder to bath our horses and for some of us, it is difficult to manage any time a year. I for one have never enjoyed the bathing process unless it was a particularly warm day. However brushing alone is often not up to the task of getting that deep down dirt off, especially when the winter coat is thick.
So here is the tool that I use that provides an effective method of getting the dirt free from deep in the coat, An Electric Leaf Blower.
Now every time I say to someone who is having issues grooming their horse “You know, you could just use a leaf blower.” I tend to get a cheerful smile and friendly laugh. “Good luck with that, let me know how it works out.” But when I say, “No, I am serious. I do it all the time,” they often stare mutely at me, with a look of profound disbelief on their face. It is if I just suggested they ride their horse through the local car wash.
My wife and I saw the leaf blower grooming method demonstrated by some acquaintances of ours, a while back. At the time, we were not only quite impressed by how well it worked, but by the fact that the horse it was used on was completely unfazed by the experience. Consequently we decided to give it a try ourselves and we have been using this method as a standard part of our grooming regiment ever since.
Grooming the horse this way allows for the removal of dirt without removing the natural oils in the skin, as washing can. It is fast and effective and promotes a shiny, healthy appearance. As part of the process you obviously must first break up any caked on mud with a curry or shedding blade, then use a body brush to free any dirt that may be adhering to the coat or skin. After the prep work is done, you can use the blower, directed against the natural lay of the coat, to lift the hair and remove the dirt below. Broad sweeping motions of the blower work best. The first time you actually manage to direct the forced air at the horse like this, you will be surprised how much dirt is sent up in a cloud. But before you can witness this, first you must get the leaf blower close to the horse.
This method of grooming my not be for every horse, but we use in with all the horses at our facility, including those that come in for training. A certain level of trust and rapport must be established between human and horse for the horse to accept this, but then the same can be said for clippers or even a water hose.
My suggestion would be to not attempt this with a horse that is tied. Instead, the person operation the blower should also hold the lead in their fee hand. If the horse feels the need to move, allow them to do so, in a circle around you, with only enough pressure on the lead to keep the horse bending and circling. Be very careful not to allow the horse to get tangled in the power cord as it circles. Always lower the blower to allow the cord to lay flat on the ground before the horse passes over it. It is also vitally important that you give the horse complete freedom the instant it stops moving and only take up the contact again if it begins moving. The horse starts to dance away, you take up the lead and keep it circling, when it stops, lower the lead hand and give the horse complete freedom. This reward of trust when they give is vital.
Introduce the blower slowly, first by simply switching it on for a few second and then switching it off again. Keep the blower facing away from the horse for this first part. Keep repeating this, allowing the blower to run longer each time, until the horse calmly accepts it running, then start pointing it a little bit at a time at the horses chest and shoulders, for a short duration, then directing it away again before the horse has a chance to react strongly.
Once it becomes clear that the horse is not going to flip out, you can lengthen the duration and allow the horse to circle you on the lead as it needs to. As the horse circles, any time it tries to stop, direct the blower away as a reward and allow the horse to stand still, with a slack lead. Pause a few moments, praise the horse and then continue the introduction process, you can repeat the process as many times as necessary, until the horse no longer tries to move away from the blower. After this, you can start moving from front to back and expanding the process until the horse stands completely still. (Note: Do not try to start at the back of the horse and work forward and do not point the blower at the horse’s feet and try to work upward.)
While I have always managed to get the horse to stand for the full grooming relatively quickly, particularly sensitive horses, or one that may not be the most trusting, it may take several sessions over a few days to acclimate to the process. Once they have accepted it, as long as you do not rush the process and surprise them, or give them some other reason to develop a problem, then you should be home free. In fact, some horses really enjoy this grooming method.
This method can not replace soap and water in all situations, as I all too well know as an owner of gray horses, but if you have access to an electric leaf blower, you might consider giving it a try. ;>