From Endurance to Dressage
Izzy's coat is the most beautiful in early spring and early fall. By late summer he fades to what many would call a buckskin, and by late winter his coat looks like a grizzly's. Right now, his dapples are just starting to show, and his coat hasn't yet started to fade.
#1 His RPSI Brand
I know Izzy hasn't fully shed his winter coat until his brand starts to show through. I can almost see it now, but it will be another month or two before it's visible without a miscroscope.
While they'll get more pronounced as his coat begins to fade, his dapples are also just beginning to show. He doesn't have them with his winter coat, but when the light hits just right, you can see them appearing.
#3 The Shiny Gene
Izzy has the shiny gene; Speedy doesn't. It's short lived though. Once his coat begins to fade, the shine goes with it. I've learned to appreciate it while it lasts.
#4 Itchy Skin
Along with a beautiful coat, early spring also brings out the itchiness. Izzy's mane has finally grown back so that it is at least long enough to braid. I doubt I'll get to though as he has already started rubbing it out. I've tried a variety of steroids, shampoos, topical ointments, and more, but nothing seems to help. We live too close to the river and the biting, itchy no-see-ums.
#5 Hock Sores
As soon as it warms up, the ground also turns hard. Izzy's paddock is sandy and warm, but that combination seems to be the perfect formula for hock sores. He sleeps on the same dry sand all winter long, but his coat must be thick enough to protect the thin skin on his legs. Without that extra hair to protect his skin, he gets small sores on his legs. This weekend I started using coconut oil to help keep his skin more moist and elastic. After just one application, the sores already looked better.
Horses' coats require different maintenance depending on the season. There might not be any mud to scrape off in the spring, but having such a thin coat means their skin needs a lot of love. Hopefully summer will take its time arriving and won't overstay its welcome.
Izzy's skin and coat would sure appreciate it.
Since I don't clip my horses in the winter - they live outdoors all year long, I have a bucketful of grooming tools that I rotate as the seasons change. We don't normally get as much rainy weather as we had this December, so I don't usually deal with much mud. I have been reminded that grooming muddy horses sucks.
My grooming bucket contains a couple of hoof picks, a jelly scrubber (which is on its last legs), a human hair brush, a Tiger's Tongue (also on its last legs), and a number of Haas brushes. This time of year, I exchange my softest brush, the Diamond Gloss, for the Haas Schimmel which has coconut fiber bristles. That thing tackles crusted on mud like a beast.
Izzy's coat doesn't like the Streigel curry as much as Speedy's coat does, and the Schimmel only works when he has his thickest coat. The Schimmel works great on Speedy for ten months of the year, and I can use the curry all year long. Right now, Izzy has a super thick coat, so the Schimmel is pretty much all I am using on him. The other day, I showed up and he looked like this ...
The other side was worse. I grabbed the Schimmel and started at his jaw and worked my way across his body and even down his legs. After I went over him once, I did a second pass, dusting off any missed mud. Within five minutes, all of the mud from his right side was gone, and he was clean enough to saddle. He wasn't show clean, but he was about as good as he was going to get without using soap and water and all with just having used the Schimmel.
I've always liked the Schimmel for Speedy's polar bear coat, but it is now my go-to brush for Izzy this winter. If you need a good stiff brush for mud on a thick coat, this brush might be what you need. I don't usually like stiff brushes as they make my horses flinch, but this one doesn't. The coconut fibers must give just enough to not poke the horses' skin. While we desperately need the rain here in California, I wish we could do without so much mud.
To those of you who have winter every year, how do you keep your horses clean?
When I ask for advice, I usually take at least part of it. This is particularly true at work. If I ask a colleague for a suggestion, I am well known for taking the advice and reworking it to make it my own. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my ideas tweaked and improved because I reap the benefits. That's what Cassandra Rabini, owner and trainer at First Gem Dressage, did for me in the Tips From a Pro post I wrote the other day - she gave me a seedling of an idea. (I always give my colleagues credit for their ideas, especially if I eventually make them my own.)
While I already do many of the things that Cassandra recommended, she had some other ideas that I want to try, but new habits only work for me if they are easy to do. With that, I decided a pampering station might be the answer. See, reworking an idea. What I have in mind will take a little time (and money) to create. Just to get the ball rolling, I dug out a hanging basket that goes with a portable saddle rack I own. While the idea was good in theory, this particular basket won't work.
Besides all of the safety issues with this basket - see the two hooks in the front? Those things will grab a halter and create a giant vet bill along with ruining everything in the basket; Izzy immediately began poking around inside grabbing things. On top of all of that, this basket is collapsible, so the instant anyone/any horse shifts the front panel of the basket, it collapses, spilling everything to the ground. It's a good idea in theory, but this basket won't work.
After thinking about it for a while, I grabbed a small bucket and a two-sided snap and hung that from the fence. While it was much safer, the bucket hung awkwardly, so I swapped it out for a flat-sided bucket which hung much better. I am not loving the bucket idea though because it won't drain. I could punch holes in the bottom, but I am going to continue to look for a better container.
In the meantime, I am gathering the things that I want to keep at the ready: hoof conditioner, hoof pick with a brush, cleansing shampoo, soft cloth, rubber scrubby brush, and so on. While I already have some products that I love, I hate leaving them outside because the pampering station will be in full sun for a good part of the day. Many products have a tendency to leak when they get hot. Fly spray comes to mind.
While I prefer Knotty Horse over Show Sheen or Mane and Tail, both are much cheaper, so I'll buy one of them to leave outside to use for a quick conditioning. I am also going to add some Ivory soap and witch hazel, both of which are cheap and available at the grocery store. While I have a hoof conditioner, the can is less than half full, so I will be ordering something new as it runs out. While I have a half-full bottle of Mane and Tail shampoo, I'll be adding another grocery store purchase recommended by Cassandra - Dove shampoo. For showing, I prefer Ultra Cruz Equine Foaming Shampoo by San Juan. It smells divine, rinses off cleanly, and leaves the coat feeling soft and clean, but I don't want to use it every day. The Dove shampoo is a cheaper and easier for frequent use.
I do all of my grooming at the barn, so the pampering station will be out on the lawn where I give quick showers. If my pampering bucket is easily accessible, I can start some new habits - cleaning hooves of all dirt and manure, conditioning hooves, cleaning tail docks, and more frequently shampooing and conditioning tails.
Let's see if I can start some new habits. I'll keep you posted.
I've definitely written about the Haas line of brushes a number of times, but really, I like them that much. Of course, take this all with a grain of salt as I am not a groomer extraordinaire. I tend to go with a "less is more strategy," but if you like a pretty simple routine, we're on the same page. I started with purchasing the Fellglanzburste, and went from there.
Right now, the Fellglanzburste and the Diva, the one with the lambswool center, live in my trailer, reserved for showing. I keep a grooming bag in my trailer so that I don't have to load and unload one more thing. The Diva is just too soft for everyday use, especially on a dirty coat. I did get to use it at a show two weeks ago, but I have to admit, it wasn't as awesome as I thought it was going to be.
The brush is amazing; don't get me wrong. And in the past, even just last year, it would have been as wonderful as I had hoped. With Speedy's PPID (AKA Cushing's Disease), his coat has become just a little rougher than when he was younger. His summer coat used to be ultra fine and soft. He would be nearly naked with his black skin visible beneath those super short hairs. Now, he's not so sleek and smooth, but it was lovely to use on his face and neck. He seemed to enjoyed the feel, but for the rest of his body, a super fine brush worked just as well.
Besides those two brushes, the Fellglanzburste and the Diva, I now have four others that I use every day, one of which has become a surprising favorite. For Speedy, I start every grooming session with the Striegel Curry Comb. Since his coat is rougher than in year's past, this thing has proven to be a real time saver. Even in July, he's still shedding, so it makes quick work of the loosest hairs and ground in dirt. When Izzy's coat was a little longer, he enjoyed it as well, but now that he's fully shed out, I don't use it on him unless he's really crusty. I think his thin coat makes it a little uncomfortable.
After the Striegel, I pull out the Schimmel. It's the Schimmel that I am most surprised about. This thing is stiff, stiff, stiff, but Speedy doesn't mind it at all. I can't touch Izzy with it right now, but it works wonders on Speedy's stains. It claims to work well on removing stains from white coats, and initially I was doubtful, but after using it for several months, I can say that it is absolutely the truth - that is if your horse can tolerate the stiff coconut fiber bristles. In the photo below, you can see how much dirt it lifted even after the Striegel.
Once I've scrubbed out the deep dirt, I switch to the Parcour. Both horses like this brush a lot. It's nearly identical to the Fellglanzeburste, but it scrubs just a tiny bit deeper. Often times, I start with this brush when I am grooming Izzy, especially now that he's shed out. But even in the wintertime, this is a great all around brush. It's soft, but it brushes through the hairs instead of just gliding over the top. Even after using the curry and the coconut fiber brushes, you can still see the fine dirt the Parcour has lifted.
I finish both horses with the Diamond Gloss. Speedy really enjoys this brush. He will often swing his head around to look at what I am doing. It must offer a different sensation than the others because he notices when I've switched to this brush. The Diamond Gloss isn't as soft as the Diva of course, but it is still pretty soft. It works great on the face and is perfect for lifting off those last specks of dust. I also like using it to smooth out their tails as well.
If you're interested in the Haas line of brushes, it can be really hard to choose with which ones to start. Initially, I found the whole line quite confusing. Now that I've purchased a half dozen of them, I've come to realize that many of them are repeated; they just fit in a different "line." One way to identify which line you're looking at is by checking out the back handle of the brush. They can be ordered to sort of create a set. Some are colorful, some have the diamond back, some have the straps, some are longer, some have plain wooden backs, and so on.
Myself, I prefer the oval brushes with a strap, and I like horsehair bristles. If you read the descriptions of two brushes, and they sound very similar, it's probably because they only differ stylistically. Of course the composition of the fibers might also be different. Some have horsehair bristles, others are from natural fibers like coconut, while still others might be synthetic.
I noticed that Haas now has hoof picks. I may have to toss one of those in my cart the next time I place an order. I haven't seen another brush that I need, but I am keeping the option to add to my collection. You just never know!
When I bought my first Haas brush last summer, I knew I was heading down a dangerous path. I am a bit of a collector by nature, and I am fiercely brand loyal, so when I bought the next one not long after, there was no going back. I now own six different Haas grooming tools.
Riding Warehouse, my supplier of Haas brushes, recently shared a guide to Haas brushes which I found really helpful. There are so many to choose from that it's hard to know how they're different from one another. In the guide, the RW Crew grouped the brushes by categories. Since I already had three of the brushes, I recently decided to "complete" my collection.
RW's first category was Best Brushes for Tough Spots. After looking over the list, I bought two of them: the Striegel Soft Curry Comb and the Schimmel Grooming Body Brush. Neither of my horses is a fan of stiff brushes, but this is the time of year when I really do need them. Speedy's coat is so thick and dense right now that not much is able to drag through his rug of a winter coat.
The Striegel is made from a softer plastic than a lot of other curry combs. My beloved jelly scrubbers are on their last legs, and breaking in a new one just takes so long. The second I started using the Striegel on Speedy, I gasped in delight. I was shocked at how much dirt and hair, especially the hair, came cascading down. I started out gently, but in no time, I was using as much force as I wanted. Speedy just stood there resting with a leg cocked. He never fussed or flinched, even along his spine. In fact, he pressed into my hand, clearly enjoying the sensation. I really liked how light and flexible it was, and I am hoping this curry will replace my jelly.
The Schimmel is made from stiff coconut fibers, and they are stiff. This brush is supposed to work exceptionally well on grey and white horses and claims to be perfect for working stains out of the coat. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I am not saying that isn't true, but anyone who owns a gray knows that the only thing that really removes stains is a bath. I will say that this brush does a good job of removing mud. Again, I started gently, but I quickly discovered that Speedy didn't mind the stiffness of the Schimmel, for now anyway.
I used both the Striegel and the Schimmel on Izzy, whose coat is nearly all shed out, and he quickly let me know that the Schimmel is too stiff for a sleek coat. He didn't object at all to the Striegel. Once Speedy is nearly shed out, he won't like the stiffer Schimmel either. For thick coats, it works great, but if I were only going to buy one brush for tough spots, it would hands down be the Striegel curry comb. I really like it, and so do both horses.
Next up were the Best Brushes for Bringing Dirt Up. I already have the Parcour, which has become my favorite grooming tool. The bristles are firm while still being soft. I think it is because the bristles are so densely packed together. Both of my boys love to have their faces rubbed with this brush, but it's still stiff enough to lift dirt off the body, and it's especially good for legs.
And then there were the Best Brushes for Shine. I already own the Fellglanzburste Grooming Body Brush, but I wanted something with a longer bristle. The Fellglanzbürste works great on short coats; I reviewed it here. The Diamond Gloss, named for it's glittery back, is a little softer than the Fellglanzbürste, and its bristles are about a third longer.
For each of the new brushes that I tried, I let Speedy take a good long sniff before I used them on him. They must have smelled like something interesting because for each one, he took his time, giving them a solid going over. When I used the Diamond Gloss down his neck and across his back, his head swung around so quickly that I am surprised he didn't suffer whiplash.
It wasn't a pain response, but he definitely felt something new and different and wanted to know what it was. I let him check the brush out again, and he sniffed at it for even longer. Once he was satisfied that it truly was a tool for pleasure, he let me work it through his coat. It's definitely a brush meant to finish with, but even it removed loose hair and dust. I think he would have let me use it on him all day. While the Fellglanzbürste and the Diamond Gloss are both in the category of shine, the Diamond Gloss feels more like a finishing brush than does the Fellglanzbürste.
The RW Crew also put together a list of the Best Brushes for Manes and Tails and the Best Brushes for Small Hands, but those weren't brushes that I needed. Their list of the Best Brushes for Finishing Touches was one that interested me though. From that category, I already had the Diva. Since I only got it this Christmas, I haven't been able to use it yet because Speedy's coat has been too thick, but I know that he will love it at shows. In high summer, his coat is ultra fine and short, perfect for smoothing with the lambswool center.
I can't say I am done shopping though. I keep a separate set of brushes in my trailer, where the Fellglanzbürste and the Diva live. What I really want are two complete sets of Haas brushes, one for use at the barn and another for use at the trailer. My barn set is mostly complete (you never know), now I need to finish out my trailer set.
I'd say I am about half-way there.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Shows Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Completed …
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: