Big Brown Horse is once again turning brown. By late summer he was looking suspiciously like a buckskin. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but he just didn't look like his normal, dark brown self.
Izzy looks pretty good as a buckskin, although he loses all of his shine. Even so, I've never bought or sold a horse because of his color. Well that's not exactly true. When I bought Speedy I was looking for a gray, but you don't have to search very hard to find a gray Arabian.
Like it does each September, Izzy's nearly black coat popped out almost overnight.
I think it's fascinating how quickly he loses his faded coat color. It literally changes every single day during the end of September through the beginning of October.
By the next day, he was an even darker shade of brown, almost black in fact.
By early November he'll be seal brown with dapples. But of course by mid-winter, he'll be back to his lighter coat color. Just for comparison, here's that August photo again.
I've never had a horse whose coat changed that dramatically from season to season. There should be a prize for this. Can we at least get a ribbon?
I'll admit that I fall somewhere down the middle when it comes to grooming. I don't use products and every brush in my arsenal every day. I also don't just swipe their backs and saddle up. My grooming routine could probably be classified as clinical. My daily grooming is really to check for hidden cuts or scrapes and to monitor my horses' general health.
Every once in a while though, my hidden beauty queen rears her head and insists that my boys are looking a little unkempt and scruffy. And then it's on.
After repeatedly wrestling Speedy's bridle through the jungle of mane that seemed to spurt up overnight, I finally pulled out my clippers and took a little off the top. I just couldn't stand it a moment longer. And when I was done, all of 5 minutes later, I felt so much better. Why is it that something so satisfying takes me so much mental energy to accomplish?
And of course, since I had the clippers out, a task that takes two minutes, Izzy's bit of a five o-clock shadow got cleaned up too.
For some reason though, trimming Izzy's bridle path isn't nearly as satisfying as doing Speedy's. It must have something to do with that Arabian neck and head.
Work has been really stressful this past month. Cleaning something up, even if it's just a bridle path, gives me at least a sense of being in control. Bring it on, October. My ducks are in a row.
Sometimes, it's the little things.
After I gave the Haas brush a glowing review, someone asked if I had tried Epona's Tiger's Tongue Horse Groomer. Why no, no I had not. But at $7.80 with free shipping with my Amazon Prime account, one was on its way to me immediately after I read her comment and the reviews on Amazon.
If you haven't seen one of these scrubbers, they come shrink wrapped at about a tenth of their thickness. As soon as I cut away the plastic, it poofed up nicely. Once again, I used Yellow Dog to see if I liked the way it felt in my hand. She was less than impressed, but Tobias, our black lab, gave it a big smile. When I saw how much dirt came off of him, I rinsed it off with the hose and was surprised to see the scrubber grow even more in thickness.
The day after it arrived ended up being too hot to ride; it was over a hundred degrees, so I decided to make it a grooming day instead. I love getting new stuff, so I was happy for the excuse to try out the Tiger's Tongue on Speedy and Izzy. I adore Izzy, really I do, but that horse isn't picky about much, so Speedy's response to new stuff is my real litmus test.
To manage the dust, the ranch owner runs sprinklers in all of the horses' dry pastures twice each day. The horses just stand there enjoying the respite from the heat, but it makes them rather crusty by the time I get there. Speedy was really gross that afternoon, but rather than being annoyed, I rubbed my hands in delight. The Tiger's Tongue was going to get a real work out.
Except it didn't. To whomever recommended this thing to me, THANK YOU! Within jut a few swipes of the groomer, Speedy's coat was clean and soft and free of rough patches. I've owned horses for nearly 40 years. How have I not come across this particular tool before? It is truly amazing. And cheap. And my horses loved it.
I didn't even bother to use a halter. I just scrubbed Speedy's coat for a few minutes with the Tiger's Tongue - nothing else, and then stepped back to have a look. He coat was gleaming and looked as though I had just spent an hour scrubbing him. It was equally as effective on the big "buckskin" horse.
Izzy's barrel is so yellow that it's hard to see how shiny he was after using the Tiger's Tongue. After scrubbing the dried salt from his rump, I worked at the encrusted dirt along his back and sides. By the time I was finished, he was soft and smooth, too.
Since the groomer is basically a really porous sponge, it worked really well on both legs and faces. In fact, Izzy really leaned into it when I rubbed his eyes and forehead, Even Speedy appreciated his face being scratched with it.
I don't know how well the Tiger's Tongue will work on heavy winter coats, but for summertime use, I am hooked. I found mine at Amazon, but I am betting they are available wherever grooming products are sold. I am obviously in a buying mood, so if anyone else has the scoop on some other brilliant grooming product, let me know!
I wanted to be unimpressed. I wanted to be disappointed. I was neither. Holy smokes, people, the Haas magic is real. It's a thing, and I am now under the spell.
I needed to spend just a few dollars more on a recent Riding Warehouse purchase in order to get free shipping, so I searched through their collection of Haas brushes until I found one that seemed like it would suit my needs without breaking the bank. I ended up choosing the Haas Fellglanzburste Grooming Body Brush. The list price is $16.95, but with a 15% discount code, I only paid $14.41. I've spent more on lesser brushes for sure.
Out of the box, there were no sparks or love at first site. It wasn't as soft as I was expecting, and the handle felt sturdy but not magical. Haas prides themselves on the quality of their bristles, so I was a bit disappointed to notice that one of the holes on the edge was missing its bristles. It didn't seem worth sending it back though, so I tried it out on Yellow Dog who thought it was the best brush she'd ever felt. I was reserving judgement.
My favorite grooming tool of all time is a jelly scrubber, those plasticky things that run around $4.00. I have several that are now old enough to be super flexible. Both of my horses like them, and they work equally well in winter or summer. They are the first tool I grab, and sometimes the only tool I use.
Since Speedy was particularly crusty on Saturday morning, I dug into his coat with the jelly scrubber. I can scrub pretty vigorously along his neck, shoulders, belly, and hind quarters, but I have to use a much lighter touch across his back. Here's what the jelly scrubber lifted out of his hind end.
After a solid going over with the jelly scrubber, I took out the Haas Fellglanzburste. I am not going to lie. Within about three strokes I was hooked. I cannot explain it, but the brush felt ... alive in my hand. I could feel the bristles working their way through Speedy's coat, almost like my own fingers. But best of all was that he let me use firm pressure all over his whole body, including his back!
It was almost addictive. I brushed and brushed and brushed and brushed removing layer after layer of deep dirt. Speedy never fussed or grew tired of the grooming session, and he's not the biggest fan of being groomed. The brush worked equally well on the larger areas as it did on his legs and even his face (I was quite gentle there).
I found that shorter strokes helped lift the dirt from his skin, and then a gentle flick sent it off his coat without settling back down. After grooming his whole body, his coat felt clean and soft, almost as a good as after a shampoo.
I also used the brush on Izzy who responded in the same way. He is slightly less picky than Speedy, but he does let me know if I am too firm with the jelly scrubber. He never flinched with the Fellglanzburste brush.
This brush is of a medium stiffness, but it worked great on both of my horses' fine summer coats. I don't know how it will do on heavy winter coats, but now that I've tried one of the Haas brushes, I will definitely be adding more. And fortunately for me, there is a huge selection from which to choose.
Which ones are you using?
I'm a teacher, so books and stories are frequently on my mind, especially Laura Numeroff's series about the mouse who gets a cookie and then wants a glass of milk to go with it. When children's literature or even adult literature comes up as a topic on Jeopardy, my husband just looks to me for the answers. Books are kind of my jam. Anyway, in the story, giving the mouse his glass of milk leads to another request and another and another. You get the idea.
Summer has arrived here, so I can't spend quite so much time in the saddle. I guess it's less can't and more don't want to. I still like being at the ranch though, so even though it was a bazillion degrees a week or so ago, I decided to clean some tack. After I did that, I hosed out a bucket. And then it was on!
With cool water to splash on my face and a tank top to get a little sun on my shoulders, I started looking for other things to clean. The next thing I knew, I had drug out a bleach bottle and every grooming tool in my arsenal. Everything went into the bucket. Several times actually.
The more things I scrubbed, the more things I found to scrub. I scrubbed things that have never been cleaned before and others that should have been cleaned long ago. Before long, I had quite a pile of wet and drippy things drying in the million degree heat.
And then I washed three pairs of gloves and a couple of extra buckets. While I was searching for even more things to hose off, I realized that the feed room/tack room was now a mess. Somehow, stuff that should have been shelved neatly had found a new home on the floor.
Most of the junk on the floor was a result of consolidating my grooming tools into one portable bucket. That was a great idea, but I am not 6 years old. Things can't live on the floor. There is no before photo because I am lame, but here's what happened after my hurricane of a cleaning frenzy whipped through the room.
I know it looks as though it needs to be organized, but trust me, there is a system to the madness.
Over the years, my preference in grooming totes changes based on what I am using at the time. As a teenager, I was desperate for a monogrammed trunk and a wooden brush caddy. I am sure I saw one in a horse magazine and thought it epitomized what a true equestrienne used as she groomed her glossy steed. Today, I think about how heavy and awkward those things are.
Growing up in the 1980s and then again as a young adult in the '90s, I used a plastic-styled caddy. I am pretty sure I found the first one at the hardware store as they're pretty multi-functional. I know for a fact that later ones were found at Target. Totally off topic here, but I hate having to write the "19" in front of the 80. That's what happens when you get old; your childhood experiences happened in another century.
After the plastic caddy, I moved on to the soft bucket grooming totes. I had several different versions, and up until recently, one of these lived in my horse trailer.
When those got to be too small for all of my bottles of this and that, I moved on to a similar but larger soft bag. It was almost like the switch from the hard-sided Samsonite suitcases of my youth (only you old folks will remember the gorilla slamming around that orange American Tourister) to the expandable, soft-sided luggage that became much more fashionable. It's funny that hard-sided luggage is back in vogue. Maybe it never left.
I know the jumbo, soft-sided grooming totes are still readily available. I have the bag below in burgundy. And up until a few weeks ago, it served me well for toting around Speedy's many brushes and hoof picks.
A year or more ago I started schlepping Izzy's stuff in a small, 8-quart bucket. I groom him in his dirt pasture, so I needed something to haul his hoof pick and jelly scrubber in. Before I knew it, there was also a soft brush, some fly spray, and some coconut oil to daub on his boo-boos. Speedy's bag got a lot lighter. A few weeks ago, I pulled out Speedy's necessities and put them in a similar bucket.
All of a sudden, I found the floor space int the feed room/tack room occupied by a lot of buckets. The ranch owner has her daily buckets, and I have a boatload of my own. There is one for Speedy's morning senior feed that I leaved filled every afternoon. There are two more for both boys' lunch. Izzy's grooming bucket sits next to my shelf o'things alongside a bucket that holds clean towels and sponges. There's also one for my shampoo stuff. Suddenly there was another bucket for Speedy's grooming supplies.
I rolled my eyes in total exasperation. Enough was enough. I dumped all of my grooming supplies from both buckets on the floor and decided to consolidate everything that I use daily into one bucket.
It's a bit of a squeeze, but everything fits. I have all my essentials in one place:
What's in your bucket, bag, tote ... ?
With out first show of 2019 just days away, I gave Speedy a final haircut. My pre-show grooming routine isn't particularly fancy, but I do like Speedy to be neat and tidy.
Out of sheer laziness I've jumped on the bumper of the German "fuzzy muzzle" bandwagon. I quit shaving muzzles a few years ago. Since both boys live outside, it's justified. I miss a clean shaven chin though. While I leave the muzzle hairs in place, I do clean up his jaw and beard. A shaggy head is rather unattractive. And besides, it's easier to keep the jaw cleaner when it's clipped. Flies can make a mess in between the jaw bones.
I've never been a fan of shaving the inside of the ears though; ear hair keeps flies out, although I do gently clip anything that's protruding. Speedy might be approaching old many status, but there's no reason to advertise. I also like a freshly clipped bridle path, even keeping it trimmed throughout the winter.
A few weeks back I tackled Speedy's fetlock feathers, cutting off most of the hair in a rough cut. His feathers get really, really long. Like pony tail long. Izzy hardly grows any fetlock hair. Go figure. Since it's a pretty big job, I saved the "finer" cutting for this past Saturday. You can still see the clipper strokes, but by Sunday, it will have evened out. The judge can't see it anyway.
As I trimmed up the hair from his front feet, I scrubbed at the crusty skin left over from his winter of woe. You might remember the many times he tried to maim himself, including tearing off both front feet. I am happy to report that the hair has grown back over the wounds of both front legs, hiding any scar tissue. Unless you rub your hands over the bumpy skin, you can't even tell he had sutures.
I rubbed a squirt of Knotty Horse oil treatment through his mane and tail, and once his tail was tangle free, I banged the ends. I don't think I've mentioned it, but I bought the 1.5 oz size of Knotty Horse for myself. I use it several times a week and am thrilled with how soft and silky my hair is getting. That stuff is amazing.
I also used my tail thinning comb to thin out the bushiness. That tool was an awesome find. I checked on my link to the comb and discovered that it doesn't work anymore, but a quick search on Amazon revealed that it is still available here.
Of course on show day, Speedy will get a bath, and I'll braid his mane. He enjoys showing, so even if his girl doesn't go all out on grooming, he brings enough sparkle to make up for it.
Run and do it right now! You won't be sorry.
I am not much into fads, and so far I've resisted all of the specialty grooming brushes currently out there. Oh, but if anyone wants to buy me a Haas brush, I'll take this one. Since I don't (yet) have a Haas brush, I stick to my jelly scrubbers and a soft brush for each horse. They aren't fancy, but they get the job done.
With Speedy shedding more slowly than usual though, I started looking for a shedding tool/blade/brush that might get the job done more effectively.
Enter the HandsOn Revolutionary Grooming & Bathing Glove. Each pair comes in three colors - black, lime green, and purple. They sell for $24.99 (pair), but with coupon code RWEJ, Riding Warehouse will knock 20% off the purchase price.
Both of my dogs absolutely loved these grooming gloves. They kept shoving their way in trying to get just one more scratch down their backs and faces. I figured that if the horses didn't like them, I knew I could leave them at home to use on the dogs.
I needn't have worried. Both of my horses enjoyed the grooming, relaxing as soon as I started. The glove pulled off Speedy's winter coat hair in literal handfuls.
The two things that I liked best about the gloves were 1) they worked really well on legs, and 2) my hands didn't get nearly so tired. Not gripping a brush or arching my hand underneath a strap gave me more energy to use on swiping the brush. It was also very convenient to have a "brush" in each hand.
While the gloves worked great on Speedy's still shaggy coat, I wondered how they'd do on a nearly slicked out coat. While Izzy was slick and clean already, he thoroughly enjoyed getting his back scrubbed. And surprisingly, a fair amount of dust came up even though he looked clean.
If you have still have a horse that is in the midst of shedding, you need these gloves. If your horse is nearly slick but enjoys his back scratched, you need these gloves. They can be used wet or dry and you determine how much pressure you apply. For once I am on board for a grooming fad.
These gloves are my new favorite grooming tool. Anyone else?
This past February, I wrote about my ancient clippers and how poorly I care for them. Let me rephrase that, your Honor - I don't do any clipper maintenance unless you count blowing the loose hair off of them. Either here or on Facebook, someone chastised me about my lack of a maintenance program. "I hate your face right now" (as one of my colleagues is fond of saying) because you finally guilted me into opening the 20-year old manual for the second time ever.
The first time I opened the manual was a few weeks ago when Maureen politely asked me if I'd make a copy of it and mail it to her. I almost just mailed her the original as I clearly was never going to use it. Joke's on me, I guess. With my OCD tendencies, I couldn't unsee the invisible look of reproof from Oster regarding my own clippers and their obvious need for some TLC.
I apologize to whomever's face I just claimed to hate. It's really the fault of my 5th grade English/Language Arts curriculum. For the last few weeks, I've been teaching the differences between scientific and technical texts. Since the whole clipper thing was fresh in my mind, I stupidly told my kiddos that I had been leafing through my clipper's manual which would be a technical text as it tells the reader how to make or do something. And since I DO NOT TELL LIES, I felt compelled to actually look through it.
Again, I couldn't unsee the fact that my clippers REALLY NEEDED SOME MAINTENANCE. So, I sat down over the weekend and flipped through the booklet, mentally ticking off the things I was willing to do - clean the area beneath the blades, check; remove the cover from the bottom cap, check; remove the cover of the gear mechanisms and lube it all, um ... are you kidding me? Big fat NO. But remember, OCD.
In the end, I started with the easy stuff, see those filter caps above, and figured I'd just clean the parts that seemed easy to reassemble, and go from there.
Funny moment: as I was peering into the cavity of the gear box thing, I realized I couldn't see diddly squat. I suddenly remembered that I keep a headlamp in my barn bag, so I tossed that on for a hands-free light. My husband walked in about that time, and I know he had to try very hard not to laugh at me because this kind of crap is NOT MY JAM. It helped though, and as a bonus, it made me feel all kinds of empowerment. I actually took out all of those innards.
Once I got going, it was - dare I say it? fun. Gross, sticky, and black, but I felt like I was doing the community a service. Go, me. But of course, just about the time that I was feeling quite successful and well, mechanical, a random washer dropped onto the table from the towel that I had been using to clean the parts. Well, hell's bells. Where did that come from? I had clearly said that part out loud as my husband snickered from the living room.
In the end, I sort of just guessed where it went. When I told my husband that I was hoping everything would still work when I plugged it in, he asked how much clippers could cost anyway. When I replied that several hundred bucks would cover it, he urged me to FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS.
To my relief, they whirred to life just as they always do. They've even already been put back to work, and before I put them away, I blew on the blades to clear out the loose hair.
See? I have a maintenance program. Don't judge.
This is definitely not a topic I've ever covered here before. Why would I; who wants to talk about clippers? When I first had that thought, I realized the answer was just about every other equestrian in the normal world. Clipper land is just not some place I visit very often which makes me the abnormal one. Weird, but true.
While I could body clip, or at least do a trace clip, to make winter grooming easier, I prefer not to. I don't blanket because our winter weather is just way too mild. We rarely get temperatures that are both wet and cold. On top of that, it only rains about 10 times a year. If I were to blanket, they would have to be removed every morning and replaced every afternoon. The ranch owner doesn't really want to do that, and neither do I. So, my boys grow winter coats and shed them when they're ready.
Over the weekend, I finally got tired of wrestling my bridles over the jungle of hair that was growing behind both of my boys' ears. Bridle paths, jaw hair, fetlocks, and protruding ear hairs are all that I actually clip. During show season, I keep their bridle paths, and all other above mentioned areas, neatly trimmed. A messy bridle path is more than a little obvious against a sleek, summer coat. During the middle of winter though, it almost disappears, or is at least unobtrusive, when viewed through Speedy's polar bear coat. The same goes for fetlocks and jaw hair.
A month or so ago, I finally bought a new pair of clipper blades, but I hadn't yet used them. See above. With a three-day weekend, I had enough "extra" time to pull out my clippers and replace the old blades. As I was cracking the blades out of their hard plastic casing, I stopped to wonder at how old my clippers were. Pretty old I realized.
I did some quick googling and found that yes, Oster does still make these clippers and they even come with the same accessories that came with mine nearly 20 years ago. I count the age of something based on where we lived when I bought the thing. We've lived here just over 2 years. We lived at our last house for 11 years, the one before that for 2, and the one before that for 6. Add it all up and take away a year or 2 because I don't remember exactly when I bought them at that first house. That means that I bought these clippers somewhere around '99 or 2000.
I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I take terrible care of my clippers. I never clean them, unless you count blowing on the blades to remove stray hairs. I know there is a filter under the bottom cap that I have dusted off, but it's been years. I never oil anything, spray anything (except some cooling spray that is as old as the clippers), or get the blades sharpened. In fact, I use the blades until they literally cannot cut through a single hair. Gross, I know.
The only good thing I do for my clippers is to keep them in a storage bag. I also refrain from winding the cord around the clippers themselves. At this point, I am afraid to do anything other than replace the blades. I am pretty sure whatever dirt and hair are caked to the motor are what is holding everything together.
My clippers get stored at the bottom of my braiding box. Hey, that counts as another good thing I do to protect my clippers. As I dug through the pile of loose braiding bands and discarded candy wrappers (Speedy's not mine), I found an old pair of cordless clippers that never worked right. I realized that my braiding box was a jumbled up mess. I was inspired to do a thorough cleaning.
After attaching new blades and dumping everything out of my box and reorganizing it, I finally got to Speedy's bridle path; Izzy's too. And you know what? New, sharp blades actually cut straight through the hair! In one pass! Who knew?
Both boys started shedding in January. I can't decide if I want them to hurry up and shed the rest, or do I want them to slow down because February is turning out to be much colder and wetter than normal. Either way, I am now armed and ready to tackle this summer's bridle paths. And jaw hairs, old man ear hairs, and Speedy's fetlocks.
Anyone else out there living with old clippers and shaggy horses? We need to form a club.