Everyone is familiar with the flexible metal shedding tool. It can be used with one hand or two and, using long gentle strokes, it does an OK job pulling out loose winter hair. it's inexpensive, too, at about $6 or less. However, it doesn't pull out a lot of hair with each stroke. So, we usually reach instead for our traditional oval rubber curry (about $4). Download a PDF of this article.
We like the amount of hair and dirt the curry gets out of the horse's coat, all the while massaging his skin as we work in a swift circular motion. it's been the top choice for shedding season in our barns for years, especially when teamed up with a vacuum (we like the RapidGroom best, www.electriccleaner.com, 800-456-9821).
Still, shedding season is messy and long (see Dr. Deb Eldredge's amusing blog), and anything that makes things easier is welcome. So, when we found the FURminator and FurBuster grooming-tool companies had expanded from their pet lines into horses, we just had to compare them.
The FURminator is a 5-inch wide tool with a stainless steel edge that pulls out the winter hair without damaging the coat. Unlike the flexible shedding blade, the FURminator does comfortably massage the horse's coat and stimulate the horse's natural oils, although not to the degree that we believe we get with the curry. You can get it for about $60 (www.furminator.com, 636-680-9387).
The FurBuster is also 5 inches wide with a straight head and handle, but it has a more angled design, which is said to reduce wrist strain. It also seems to massage the skin as you use it and pulls hair out without breakage.
We used all four of these products under similar circumstances last spring, comparing ease of use, hair removal, how the coat looked when we finished and our horses' reactions. We used the tools on both a thick-skinned Morgan cross and a thin-skinned Thoroughbred. Testers included both adults and kids.
The flexible metal shedding tool offered no surprises. It didn't pull out a lot of hair at once, and our Thoroughbred wasn't thrilled with it. The adult testers weren't excited either, and the kids gave it a decisive thumbs down.
The oval rubber curry was a hit with the adults, who saw a mountain of hair and dirt removed from the horse's coats with relative ease. Both horses enjoyed the currying sessions. Kids found the curry OK, but far from "fun."
Instead, they eagerly grabbed the FURminator, which brought the most amount of hair out of the coat in the least amount of time. The Morgan cross enjoyed the session, but the Thoroughbred was fussy. In addition, we had to be careful on the bony areas.
The FurBuster pulled a lot of hair, too, although our groomers all felt it wasn't as strong as the FURminator. That said, it was definitely the better choice for our touchy Thoroughbred. Note: You can still find the FurBuster in limited markets, however, its availability appears to be limited.
Bottom Line.The FURminator really gets the job done quickly, but we did have trouble swallowing its price that first year. It's average retail price is down from our first story, however. Plus, as we update this article four years later, we can tell you that the FURminator is still going strong in our test barn, making its cost closer to $10/year.
That makes a big difference, causing us to suggest that in the long run it's a solid investment. Still, if you're really watching a budget, that the old rubber curry is only a couple of bucks. All you have to do is add elbow grease.