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Looking Good: 10 Homemade Grooming Aids

From the tips of his ears to the bottoms of his toes, the horse is a moving dirt magnet. Here are 10 ingenious tips to make grooming less of a grind.

From the tips of his ears to the bottoms of his toes, the horse is a moving dirt magnet. To keep him from carrying around more than his fair share of his surroundings, try the following tips. They'll increase his presentability without costing you a bundle.

1. To get rid of manure or grass stains on any white part of your horse's coat, all you need is some water and a bit of bran or soybean meal. First, wet the stained area, then make a paste with the water and bran. Smear the paste on the stained area, scrub it in with a fingernail brush and leave it for two to three minutes. Hose off the area and towel it dry.

2. One way to clean your horse's legs, especially if they are white, is to first wet them down, then rub them with sulfur. If they are especially dirty, add some sawdust, too. When the legs are dry, brush out the sulfur-sawdust compound and you'll find bright, white socks beneath it.

3. Stains on white parts, including manes and tails, can be removed by lathering them with water and a glycerine soap bar, the kind normally used for cleaning tack. In addition to removing the stains, the soap will help to detangle the tail.

4. A fine mist of silicone spray on matted manes and tails will speed up grooming and cut down on hair loss and damage. The treatment works wonders on pastured horses, who often come in with burrs and weeds tangled in their forelocks and tails.

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5. White vinegar has a variety of grooming uses including stain removal. Simply rub the vinegar directly on the stain. Vinegar can also be used to detangle manes and tails. A combination of vinegar and olive oil can rejuvenate sun-faded or patchy, shedding hair. Sponge it on the horse from stem to stern and leave it for three days. Then give the horse a warm, soapy bath and admire the results.

6. If shedding presents a grooming dilemma, an old hacksaw blade, dulled by use, can replace the more expensive commercially sold shedding blades. A pumice stone removes ground-in dirt and dead hair from underbellies, legs and faces. Or anchor a burlap bag to your horse's blanket using strips of Velcro to speed underbelly shedding and provide additional warmth during the late-winter months.

7. Baby or mineral oils are inexpensive, indispensable grooming aids that have a variety of use. Rubbed directly into a dull, dry and flaking coat or added to a horse's bath or rinse water, these oils can replenish lost gloss and condition the skin. They can also help remove the last traces of a winter coat. Applied to the hooves they act as a polish; rubbed onto the muzzle, they lubricate after a shave; poured onto a brush, they detangle and smooth manes and tails. A mixture of baby oil and mouthwash applied to a horse's mane and tail may alleviate rubbing. When water is unavailable, use baby oil to soften and loosen caked dirt so that it can be wiped away without picking or scratching. Fly bites and raw itchy skin can also be soothed with oils. One caution, however. Oils are greasy and collect grit and dust if they are overused. They also lack many of the extra ingredients, such as lanolin and silicone, contained in commercial hoof polishes and coat conditioners. But because of their versatility and bargain-basement price, baby and mineral oils can be a handy substitute when regular products run out. Used alternately with a standard grooming preparation, baby oil can help you stretch the life of higher-priced horse products.

8. Petroleum jelly also has a place in the grooming box. Circle a fidgety horse's eyes with a thick ring of petroleum jelly when you're bathing him to keep shampoo out of the area and lubricating oils in. A dab of petroleum jelly or a bit of baby oil can soften and shine the nose of a show horse. For those who object to having lotions of any kind smeared on their noses, add a half cup of cooking oil to their grain rations, and they'll enjoy coating their noses all by themselves. Be careful, however, because petroleum jelly smeared on the nose to moisturize may cause sunburn instead.

9. Horses who spend a great deal of time outside during the summer will benefit from an application of the same sort of sunscreen you use. Zinc oxide ointment, aniline dye (such as gentian violet) or a racing hood may also protect sun-sensitive faces.

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