While brushes made with natural fibers or animal hair have been the standard for years, the choice of colors and ease of care have synthetic brushes finding their way into many grooming boxes.
Synthetic brushes come in a rainbow of colors. Bright colors also make it easier to locate your brushes in a hurry, or identify them if you board in a public stable and they get borrowed occasionally.
Most of the synthetic bristle brushes we tried did a good job. But they aren’t all equal. Plastic can be extruded in many strengths, lengths and in varying degrees of thickness, so some brushes had thick, stiff, straight bristles that tore through dried mud, while others were best for general cleanups. Some were so soft they nearly rivaled brushes made with real hair.
Because synthetic materials can withstand long periods in water, plastic-backed brushes with poly bristles were great for bathing. Crimped bristles also seemed to hold water a little better than the straight bristles. We also found that crimped bristles are easier on the horse’s skin than straight synthetic bristles.
At the end of our trial, we concluded that no one synthetic brush is going to do all jobs. Depending on how muddy your horse gets, you might want a stiff and a medium synthetic bristle brush. We even found some with bristles soft enough to brush a horse’s face, ears and belly, although we prefer natural-hair brushes for those areas.
You’ll also need to consider the type of back you want. The classic wood backs on grooming brushes have been challenged by modern synthetic materials.
Some brushes are now made with backs molded into ergonomically designed shapes and/or covered with rubberized non-slip coatings, making them easy to grip, like the brush from Tail Tamer, which was especially comfortable to hold.
We also love the Haas Kinder Wurzel and the Mini Dolly from German Equestrian Manufacturers — mainly because of the elastic-strap handles. Both sucked up into the palm of your hand and were easy to control while moving all over the horse. The Mini Dolly was a little better in that the bristles were a bit gentler on the horse. Both had molded plastic backs and were easy to wash.
We were won over by the shaped, rubber-coated backs on the Grooma brushes. And the large selection of bristle types — long, medium, straight, crimped, stiff and gentle — provided a brush for every job. All were easy to wash. Every Grooma brush we used was comfortable and easy to hold.
Grooma made this design even more useful with its handy three-quarter size brushes. The smaller brushes have an indentation for the index finger, which helped stabilize the grip. These brushes were easier to maneuver and great for hard-to-reach spots. Our very favorite synthetic brush is the ?? size soft-bristled Grooma No. 740.
However, some men may prefer the larger Oster Grooming Brushes. We liked the high-tech look and the deep, low side finger grips. The ergonomically shaped back had one end smaller than the other, so it would fit either a man or woman’s hand, but some women found it tiring to use.
The Grip-Fit brushes from Decker Manufacturing had plastic backs molded in a surprisingly simple shape that was comfortable to hold. We particularly liked the Decker Grip-Fit Flicker #30. Its thin, crimped bristles were extra long and soft enough to bend instead of digging straight down to scrape the horse’s skin, covering a lot of horse fast.
Kids and those with arthritic hands may find just what they need in the Champion Brush Mini Beastie #550 dandy brush. Its multicolor bristles made it an effective tool, easily lifting dirt and scruff off the coat. It easily earns our Best Buy choice.
If you get tired of dandy brushes flipping out of your hand and sometimes wish you had one with a strap handle, we found one that’s great. The Grenig Madoc from German Equestrian Manufacturers was an unusual brush with a mix of long straight and crimped bristles secured to a molded plastic back. It was lightweight with bristles tough enough to flick out a lot of dirt and hair without harshness. It’s easy to use and one of our overall favorite dandy brushes.
If you prefer brushes with wood backs, the Champion Brush Winners Circle No. 207 was comfortable to hold and its in-between size made it easy to use.