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Safe Use of Grooming Products

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Choose Safe Grooming Products for Your Horse. Learn from the following Article what to look out for when buying commercial products.

By Charlene Strickland

No matter how you use your horse, you want to enhance his natural good looks and keep his “outside” healthy. With a companion animal or sport horse, you also assume the role of equine beautician. Even if your horse never enters a show ring, you could be a big-time consumer of grooming aids. You can choose among hundreds of products, in the bottles, tubes, and cans packed on the shelves of your tack shop. Which ingredients do you want on your horse?

We’ll explore the lotions, creams, and ointments you wipe, spray, or brush onto hair and hoof, along with grooming tools and beauty wraps. Although the substances might boast therapeutic benefits, they aren’t in the same category as medications. And realize that even though these are cosmetic concoctions, anything you use on your horse can lead to harm.

Off The Shelf And Into Action

To groom your horse, you aim to clean, condition, polish, and protect his coat, skin, and hooves. Cleaning comes first. Before you reach for topical solutions, you clean with traditional grooming tools–curry, body brush, or a textured cloth. These hand tools remove dirt and scurf from hair and skin through pressure and friction. The massaging and stroking stimulate circulation.

You can save time by splurging for a specialized vacuum. Choose a model built for the rigors of sweeping dirt off the horse’s coat.

Horses don’t need to be bathed, but you probably include shampooing in your grooming regime. Like other grooming products, the shampoo you apply is a surfactant, or a surface-active substance. It cleanses by lathering and dispersing the soap evenly. A good equine shampoo cleans without removing natural oils of the skin. Some therapeutic shampoos might “degrease” an oily coat. Stain lifters remove brown blotches from light-colored hair.

To condition the coat, you soothe and moisturize hair and skin. Although a well-fed horse will have a shiny coat naturally, conditioning and polishing can make him gleam even more.

Conditioners might contain emollients, or agents that soften skin. These products also rehydrate, to replenish body fluids. Those for mane and tail will detangle twisted hairs.

To revitalize and rejuvenate hair and skin, you might choose a therapeutic conditioner. Some might be exfoliating, or remove dead cells from the skin.

After cleaning comes polishing. Increase the shine with “rubbing” (vigorous brushing or rubbing with a cloth). Use a finishing brush, rub rag, or grooming mitt to distribute oils throughout the coat.

Here you’re faced with a barrage of brand-name products, all promising to make your horse shine like no other. The result of polishing is a haircoat (or hoof) that reflects light in an attractive luster. You also can apply cover-up products to alter the appearance of the color of hair or hoof, along with a gel or mousse to smooth and style mane, tail, and forelock.

Another aspect of polishing is trimming excess hair. You’ll probably pick electric clippers to take hairs off the muzzle, ears, face, jawline, and lower legs. You might even shave the horse’s body, shortening the winter coat to make him easier to cool out after exercise.

With the coat clean, conditioned, and polished, you’ll feel the results of grooming by stroking the smooth hairs. Along with admiring the sheen of a finely groomed animal, you appreciate a pleasant fragrance. Brand names add fragrances to please the human, not the horse.

Products also protect from the effects of environment and insects. Sunscreens can shield the hair and skin from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. They have SPF ratings or contain PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid).

Insect repellents ward off flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and other bothersome creatures. Insects irritate the horse by landing on him, and their bites can sting or even inflame the skin. The horse reacts by rubbing to alleviate the distress.

In your grooming tasks, you look at the results on the surface. Yet what you do to the hair coat affects the skin as well, and contributes to its well-being.

Grooming helps you manage your horse’s health. “We look at grooming as a part of groundwork,” said Tom Tweeten, PhD, a biochemist with About the Horse Science, Inc. “You get a feel for the horse on the ground, before you ever get on its back. It’s part of the warming up process.”

So what’s good, and what’s potentially harmful? Time to read the fine print on product labels! [btn link=”” color=”orange” size=”size-l” target=””]Next: What’s in the Bottle[/btn]

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