Bedraggled to Bedazzled: Extreme horse makeovers

What’s lurking just beneath that matted mane, ratty tail and scruffy coat? Laura Cox explains that appearances can be deceiving.

Craigslist: The place to go to find a cheap horse that is 100% bomb proof and perfect in every way…. until you show up in person and notice a few, um, distractions.

Over the years, I have learned a few things about horses; the most important being that looks should NOT matter and first impressions can be deceiving. I know it can be hard to look past long, knotted manes. Or tails that look like baseball bats hanging from the back-end of the pony. An unkempt coat caked in mud and long hooves can also be a deterrent. All of these “flaws” can obscure our views. When horse hunting, especially on a budget, remember what you are looking for in the first place. Every aforementioned detail can be easily fixed. And I’m going to help you with that part.

Before we get started, I want to give you a little background information on the pony being used. Her name is Winter, and she was found on Craigslist by my ever so incredible boss (and friend) Stephanie Bowers, as a potential lesson horse. Upon speaking with the owner, it was determined this pony was extremely quiet and would be a good candidate to look at. So, she went with her truck and trailer and met Winter for the first time, in the dark, in front of headlights, on the side of the road.

At first glance, it was noted there was severe scaring on the left side of her muzzle, she was slightly underweight (but in no way abused looking), hooves were overdue for a trim, and there were lots of knots. And then the owner made reins out of the lead rope (tying it to itself under the halter) and hopped on. Did I mention in the dark, in front of headlights, on the side of the road?

This is what Stephanie came home with:

Winter: Pre-makeover

With all of the distractions that could have caused her to say, “NO WAY!” Stephanie saw the quiet pony she was looking for in this diamond in the rough. She and I were on the same page that all the pony needed was a little elbow grease and she could actually clean up into a cute looking pony. As it turns out, that scar on her face is not all that visible from a distance, and looks better in the daylight (nighttime shadows can play cruel tricks).

So, on to my tricks for instant improvement on a rugged looking pony.

1. If you don’t have a Rubber grooming glove, GET ONE! These are great, especially if you have a sensitive pony or horse. Work it over the horse like a curry comb, but with this tool, you can tackle the face and legs. Remember, elbow grease, Horse Nation, ELBOW GREASE!

"If you don't have a rubber grooming glove, GET ONE!"

Break down the parts of the horse into sections: Neck, legs, sides, belly, and hind quarters. Each area should be curried with the mit for at least 15 strokes or until you have minimal hair loss. Depending on the time of year, this could mean a lot of loose hair.

2. Take a nice stiff brush and flick away all of the loosened hair and dirt. I know it seems kind of basic grooming, and really, it is. But it is also important to spend a few extra strokes, as you have allowed some natural oils deep within the coat a chance to surface. So make sure to brush well to bring out a natural shine.

3. Pull the mane!! Even if you prefer long manes, at this point, it is better to bring all of the mane to an even length and start over growing it out.

A long, uneven mane on a small horse/pony can create an illusion that the neck is much shorter than it really is.

4. DISCLAIMER: If you lack patience, skip this step and have someone else do it for you. For the rest of you, buy stock in Show Sheen, then hit up the tack shop for a few bottles. Cutting your horse’s tail is not the solution to undoing the stoneage club it has become. Spray the entire tail until wet. Then, with a small comb (not brush) work from the bottom to the top. On average, I find that about 2 hours is ample for a completion time. Of all the tails I have worked on, very little hair has actually ever fallen out, and in my opinion, the effort in detangling far outweighs the look of no tail.

5. If desired, trim/clip muzzle, bridle path, and legs. As a note about Winter, she was petrified of the clippers and the sound of scissors, so we did not tackle this step.

6. Weather pending, you can always bath them, but I recommend doing this as the last step. To show you the benefits of a deep grooming, Winter’s before and after shots are steps 1-4 (although show sheen was not used because her tail was not all that bad).

In a little over an hour, Winter went from Bedraggled to Bedazzled.

Winter went from Bedraggled to Bedazzled in just over an hour.

Remember, just because a horse may look a little rough around the edges, keep in mind a little TLC can create a new impression (and for those selling or thinking about selling a horse, try and create a good first impression).

Happy grooming and Go Riding!

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