Off Horse Activities: Grooming

The series continues! We’ve talked about gross motor skills and fine motor skills and how to help develop those motor skills with off horse activities. Today I want to bring the horse back in to the conversation. As horsepeople, we know that riding is only a small part of being around the horse. Feeding, bathing, hand walking, turning out, medical care, grooming, cleaning tack, and so many other tasks make up our time with horses.

If we want our riders to develop deeper relationships with the horses, what better way to do that than through grooming?

Grooming creates a connection with horses that goes beyond riding. It physically connects us to the animal and creates a sense of reliance from the horse to us. Grooming can also be very relaxing, for both person and animal. If you are unable to use the horse that the rider typically rides, grooming and off-horse activities are a good way to use a horse that may be retired from riding. In the past, we’ve used a mini horse for grooming or a horse that recently retired but still loves attention.

Grooming gives us the opportunity to teach riders new words and a new pattern. “Curry comb” isn’t a phrase you hear in every day conversation and the uniqueness of the word can give our riders something to be proud of – they know something not everyone else knows. Grooming also requires a specific pattern and rules to follow. First, we use the curry comb in a circle on the horse’s neck, shoulder, barrel, and hindquarters. Then we use our hard brush, then soft brush, etc. Riders need to pay attention to each step and make sure the pattern is being followed correctly.

We can do this on both sides of the horse so the pattern is repeated in full and the rider has another chance to remember the pattern. Grooming also engages the gross and fine motor skills. Riders need to balance and watch their feet near the horse and they need to move their wrists and arms in a specific manner. Grooming can also be used to calm an anxious rider, provide a different opportunity to connect with the horse, and teach riders about caring for another being.

What’s your favorite part about grooming? Let me know in the comments!

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