The Fine Art of Grooming a Horse

In case you haven’t heard, Right Out of Nowhere has been released and is available in print or e-book formats. Yay!!!

You can purchase it here: http://bluefeatherbooks.com

or here: http://www.amazon.com

or even here: http://bellabooks.com

One of the characters in the book is a sorrel Quarter Horse with a flaxen mane and tail, named Sparky. I modeled him after the real life Sparky who I had the extreme honor to know and love. He was that one special horse. Don’t get me wrong. All my horses are special in one way or another, but Sparky and I experienced a life journey that will never be duplicated.

I won’t disclose spoilers here, but to say the emotional and physical trauma the horse endured in real life (before he came to live with me, that is) is very close to how I wrote him in the book. In fact, we’d both had had to survive through some pretty tough times before the forces of nature teamed us together to help one another heal. Human (me) and horse (Sparky) lived parallel lives. Trust, confidence and love were foreign to both of us.

You’ll learn more about the horse if/when you read the book. So here’s a little about me. I grew up in a family of 6 with 2 younger sisters and a younger brother. My childhood was pretty rough and I’m convinced I only survived it because of the close proximity of my gram, who lived right across the street. My mother hated me…still does for that matter. I don’t know why (maybe jealousy? It couldn’t possibly be because I’m a lesbian…or could it?) and at this point it’s not important because a few years back I decided to disassociate from them. It just wasn’t healthy. For years and years I had worked to gain approval from them, only to be stabbed in the back again and again with their emotional manipulation. I finally grew a set and walked away. And it scared me to death…for about a day. Suddenly my head cleared and the huge weight I had carried for decades (quit trying to figure out my age!) slid off my shoulders. I finally understood the phrase, “total lightness of being.” With Linda by my side I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to. So I wrote a book…and then another…and…. 🙂 So I’m in a very good place now. Really! But I somehow wonder if I hadn’t experienced the bad before the good, would I have anything to write about? Hmmm.

So let’s talk about grooming. You can groom a horse (or any animal or person for that matter) to take on a specific job or roll. But what I’m talking about is brushing him until he shines. Well, let me tell you…it’s work to get that shine. Before winter slaps it’s cold paw on us, the horse grows a heavy coat…some longer than others. Linda’s horse, Chenoa, grew hair that was 3 inches long and thick as a beaver’s coat. I’d have to body clip him the spring just to encourage him to shed. My horses require very little grooming  over the winter other than a daily swiping with a stiff bristled brush. But when the days start to get longer (notice I didn’t say warmer…that didn’t happen for eons this spring), the horses start to get rid of their warm coat and grow in short hair. A little at first…hardly noticeable except for an errant hair here or there which is often mistakenly believed to be an old one from the blanket he’s wearing.

Then it happens…remember how Pig Pen was drawn in the Charlie Brown series? Hair and dust floating off him in a constant aura? Yeah. That happens for real. Last week I walked into Stetson’s stall and it seems like my body exuded a magnetic pull for the hair that’d risen to the surface of his coat during the night. My clothes were covered in white and brown hair. I went to the tack room, snatched a curry comb from my grooming pail and dared to re-enter his stall. The curry comb is not really a comb. It’s round (mostly), made of rubber and has short blunt fingers on the bottom. The idea is to work it all over the horse’s coat in a circular motion. This moves the dirt from the skin to the surface and loosens more hair. In less than a minute, I was completely covered in hair…static caused it to cling tighter than super glue. There were round hair-discs from the brush littering the stall floor. My nose itched and I swiped at it with the back of my hand. Wrong move. My entire face was now coated. I dropped the brush, and did a face palm, dragged my hands from my forehead to my chin and flung the hair away. Of course the air current created by this slick movement sucked more hair toward my face to fill the obvious void. Good gods, I felt like I’d grown a beard and a monobrow in one fell swoop of the brush. And I’d only groomed ONE horse!! I had two more to go.

Fast forward to two weeks later. Even with daily brushing, it didn’t seem like there’d been any improvement. Except I now kept a pail to put all the hair in. I fondly named it my “fur cup.” When it gets full, I take it outside and dump it in the fields for the birds to use in their nests. I once found a nest made up entirely of horse hair. Anyway…

Eventually, in about another month or so, the horses will have given up their entire winter coat to me (on me) and the oils from the frequent currying and strokes with the bristle brushes will utilize their natural oils and FINALLY make their coats gleem. In the meantime, every so often I look out onto the fields and mistake my population of dumped fur cups for a pack of piebald coyotes. After my heart rate returns to normal, I take a deep breath and head to the barn to do it all over again.

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About laurie salzler

novelist, outdoor enthusiast, animal lover, dog trainer
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One Response to The Fine Art of Grooming a Horse

  1. Mary says:

    I never could groom the horses I rode. As soon as I started to comb them I would start sneezing & couldn’t quit until I got out of the barn. 😢

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