Vacuums Get Right To The Skin

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here’s not always time to give a bath, and some of us simply give up trying to remove that deep dust from long coats — the stuff that seems to magically reappear as soon as you touch your horse. And which one of us doesn’t dread spring shedding' The right horse vacuum can solve all these problems and more. In fact, we think once you’ve used one, you’re going to always want it on hand.

Sound Thoughts
Each of the vacuums in our test were surprisingly quiet. We didn’t have to shout to hear one another, the way you do with a lot of shop vacs, nor did the horse seem to mind the noise.

The vacuums also had similar-feeling levels of suction. Some told us the horsepower, others the amps, and others the waterlift — that’s apparently the catch when it comes to comparing the power from several different vacuums. Waterlift measures suction power and is rated by how far the vacuum can lift water up a one-inch diameter tube.

A vacuum rated to have 100” of waterlift means that it is able to lift the water in the tube 100”. The vacuums in our test ranged from 100” to 130” (the two-speed Rapid Groom was rated at 60” on low and 100” on high). So, they were all truly close in suction power.

They were all also surprisingly simple to use. It doesn’t take long to understand which part goes where and how to switch on the power. What does take some time, though, is learning to maximize your time using the machine.

Don’t expect a vacuum to replace your entire grooming box. While some manufacturers might lead you to believe the vacuum will become the centerpiece of your tools, we disagree.

We believe a vacuum is best used as a dust, dander and shedding-hair remover — the stuff you drag up with your regular grooming session. None of the attachments we used seemed to give the horse the same satisfying, skin-stimulating rub that you get when you properly use a good flexible oval curry.

We studied the attachments and the way they’re made to try to understand why most of the ones that look like horse-grooming tools were large, bulky, hard-plastic imitations. These devices allow you to do a brush-vacuum-type job or a circular-motion currying-vacuum, but it’s just not the same feel as with brushes and curries.

While the vacuum attachments worked adequately, we simply couldn’t get comfortable enough using them, and they were definitely a bit large for our female tester’s hand. We’d like someone to come up with a vacuum attachment that’s closer to a real, flexible rubber curry with hand strap.

Until then, we found the best tool for simply sucking dirt out of the coat was the approximately four-inch wide small attachment that more closely resembled a house vacuum piece than a grooming brush. With these attachments, we were able to remove the most amount of dirt from deep-down in the horse. The serrated metal one from Rapid Groom lifted dirt in one stroke. The next-best piece was from the Vac-N-Blo, which sucked so deeply it nearly lifted the skin up (we tried it on our own arm, and it’s not uncomfortable).

Uses And Misuses
A vacuum should never be used on a wet horse (unless it’s also a washing machine), nor should you use the vacuum in a very wet area. These are electric-powered machines, and you easily could cause a serious electrical shock to yourself or the horse if you use them on a wet horse. That said, if the vacuum has a blower feature, you can use that to blow-dry the horse, if you need to do so.

We also would be extra careful to be sure the horse can’t nibble or step on the power cord, which might damage the cord or cause the groom to trip. We appreciated electric cords that came out of the machine on the end away from the vacuum hose.

Since few of us would want to bring our house vacuum down to the barn for a cleaning, the equine vac will do double-duty in the barn sucking down cobwebs, dropped feed, cleaning the crevices in blanket boxes, bandage boxes and other barn-cleaning duties.

It’s also a terrific cleaner for hair-coated blankets and saddle pads (not wet ones, of course). Sucking that hair into its dirt bag instead of you raising a dust-n-hair storm using your hard brush is definitely a plus. With regular vacuuming, you may be able to lengthen your time between blanket washings, depending upon just how wet and muddy your horse likes to get.

If the vacuum has a blower option, in addition to blow-drying your wet horse, you could blow off ledges, aisleways, table tops, etc. around the barn. Remember, though, if your horses are in the barn, you’re filling the air with dust for them (and you) to inhale. We’d minimize blowing dust around in a barn.

Handling The Vacuum
While each of the vacuums came with shoulder straps, we found them a bit heavy to have over our shoulder while we vacuumed. We preferred to be able to leave them on the ground and simply move around the horse as necessary. If you prefer to have the device on your body, the Challengair 2000EV is best suited to shoulder use, as it was the smallest and lightest vacuum.

Each of the vacuums wheeled around easily, without trouble. The Favorit S6000 is the most upright of the models in our trial, and it was exceptionally stable. While the hoses are long enough to minimize moving the vacuum around, it is simpler to roll the vacuum than move the horse.

Although we tend to prefer to use disposable dust bags, as it’s a messy job to empty a bagless vacuum, we did greatly appreciate the Favorit S6000 vacuum from HAAS. It allows you the choice of going with bags or bagless. We think this is a big advantage, as it’s easy to forget you’re low on bags and run out. A full vacuum bag will decrease the vacuum’s suction power. We recommend regularly changing the bags, depending upon use.

The vacuums all take up little storage space, although it would be nice if they arrived with a vacuum-attachment storage bag. Since they don’t, you can improvise with a bag/box of your own.

Bottom Line
We found that the shoulder-carry vacuums can be tiresome, so we recommend you buy a vacuum with wheels or one that has wheels and a shoulder strap, like the MetroVac Pro 3AG, our Best Buy.

In floor vacs, we were fully impressed with the nifty-looking HAAS Favorit S6000, but its hefty retail price gave us pause.

We think the overall best choice in vacuums is the Rapid-Groom. It sucked the dirt out deep down to the skin in a single swipe. In addition, we appreciated its dual power levels, full-length hose and the handy outlet.