The Boom in Groom

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Science and technology have met and made friends with equine grooming. If you remember the Dark Ages when you grabbed a rusted, metal currycomb and a weathered brush for equine finishing, then you’ll marvel at the wide array of state-of-the art tools that easily put shine on your horses and make maintenance a snap.

Brushes Go Modern, Natural, Colorful

In 2003, body brushes are sporting bright colors, tougher materials and comfortable shapes. Gone are the days of splintering wooden brushes.

Next, think natural. “Natural” is a term used frequently in the halls of brush manufacturers, according to Theresa Vanden Heuvel, equine products sales consultant for Miracle Corp of Australia. Miracle Corp licenses Oxo Good Grips equine grooming tools and purchased Grooma one and a half years ago.

“Consumers are definitely more conscientious, moving to natural products and away from synthetic,” says Vanden Heuvel. “They also want to hold on to brushes…easily.”

Oxo heard the calls and responded with a natural boar bristle brush, ideal for finishing or face, and an ergonomic handle, with Santoprene grip on all brushes, making them easier to hold when wet.

The Grooma line, when it debuted with its Groomer, featured deep-digging “fingers,” and its Sof-Touch and Broadstroke, proffering a gentler massage. Those tools introduced color, too. Grooma also makes “regular” brushes, with a distinctive aqua tone and enhanced grip.

And you can say goodbye to tugging: Owners are snapping up Grooma’s Mane Master to thin and shorten manes and tails. Comparable products include the Lincoln Mane Comb and SoloComb.

Horse owners also like the convenience of having their grooming products packaged in ready-made kits. In response, Decker Manufacturing Company makes a box with a see-through front and a handle, containing eight grooming tools. The company packages the same items in a hunter green duck canvas courier bag “that allows the groomer to unzip the bag, hang it on the trailer’s side and everything’s there,” says executive vice president Marty Fox. Trainers welcome the kit concept for the first-time horse owner.

Decker also has a diverse line of synthetic- and natural-bristled brushes. Decker, like other manufacturers, sells some horsehair brushes—and yes, the hair is usually from deceased equines. “Natural” bristles can also consist of plant fibers.

Synthetic fibers still have their place, too. “Most brushes are more durable with a small percentage of synthetic bristle,” counsels Fox. “That gives them body.”

Harper Brush Works, Inc. manufactures leather-backed Maguire Brushes. These grooming tools are color-coded so the buyer knows “what brush does what.” Seizing on the patriotism trend, Maguire produced its All-American Line of red, white and blue brushes.

Users say the Oster line is easy to grab, smooth and round so the items feel good, reducing hand fatigue.

In short, the list of choices is long. Boarders find it fun to color-coordinate brushes, buckets and aprons, just the way they do wraps and saddle pads. “Gel” or “jelly” products—both combs and brushes—hustle out tack store doors now, as do newer three-hole combs and “jumbo” combs with handles. “Scrubbers,” glove- or mitt-like tools, now come in cotton, sheepskin and cactus, as well as the traditional rubber. Dutch Horsefriend/RC-Brush’s retractable curry, with a twist of handle, dumps hair and dust right off.

Awash in New Products

As horse follows human, the range of equine shampoos fills myriad equine requirements, whether combating dry skin, fungus or other dermatological infections, enhancing color or whitening, repelling insects, making hair soft or just plain great smelling. Oh, and they do a great job of cleaning, too.

Whether for equine or human, Jim Cummings, CEO of Cowboy Magic, cites the popularity of high-quality “two-stage” shampoos, designed to be used once, then immediately again. The back-to-back applications clean hair, unlock oil and dirt, then fill up cuticles. Try his quick-rinse rosewater herbal shampoo.

Spokesperson Layne Bartl at Healthy HairCare (HHC) agrees that developing products for skin problems makes horse sense, and suggests his new Derma-Dine Shampoo with iodine formulation, one of seven HHC shampoos. In a similar vein, EQyss’ Micro-Tek Natural Medicated Shampoo also tackles skin conditions. JM’s Old MacDonald line includes shampoos designated “citronella”(to repel insects), “tea tree oil” (to control fungus and scurf, keep coat soft) or “anti-fungal” (with the antiseptic Clorxylenol).

There’s almost no end to the benefits of various treatment shampoos. Rio Vista offers an Herb ’N Oats formula with oatmeal that is soothing to horses incurring summertime insect bites or who’ve developed an allergy to feed, plus a basic product with peppermint that’s also antibacterial. Pat Conrad of distributor Thompson’s Vet Supply points to shampoo innovations such as Bio-Groom’s Horse Shampoo with pyrethrins, labeled to kill lice, ticks and fleas, but reported to repel mosquitoes and flies, too.

Other shampoos aim for cosmetic benefits. Cindy Carfore, president of Shapley’s, observes that color enhancing has become popular. “Most everybody wants whitening, true, but they’re also into adding red, gold and black tones,” she says. Her basic HiShine Gentle Shampoo is joined by four color-enhancers under the EquiTone name. Quic Groom makes a line of color-enhancers, too.

Director Rose Marie Towle of Rio Vista Products says that “these types of products reinforce the natural color, augment it and negate negative tones.” Rio Vista offers five shampoos in the color category.

Glow, then Show

The horse that just won the class not only has the right moves, but glistens like a shiny new penny. Odds are the owner spent hours currying and brushing him, but also relied upon an external coat conditioner.

Topical conditioners coat the hair shaft and can also discourage mane and tail tangling, reduce static, deter dust, dirt and stains from adhering and penetrating, and add pizzazz to the horse’s body tone and definition.

At Farnam Companies, Inc., marketing manager Jamie Stewart oversees that company’s conditioner line, including mainstays Laser Sheen High Tech Coat Polish and Vetrolin Shine, plus Grand Champion Instant Coat Groomer, and two newcomers, SunShield and Equinique.

Coat conditioners appeal to all disciplines, says Stewart, who’s amazed to see even ropers and steer wrestlers using them. Farnam’s products, like many applied coat conditioners, contain silicone. This can make the horse slippery, Stewart says, but it does a great job of imparting shine.

Farnam’s newer offering, the SunShield group, contains a coat-fading preventative called Solar Guard.

Perhaps the “granddaddy of ’em all,” ShowSheen was introduced in 1977 and is part of W. F. Young’s (Absorbine) line-up. It’s the number-one selling brand, lining the aisles of most show barns. Believing you can teach an old hair polish new tricks, W.F. Young has debuted its brightly-colored Santa Fe line of grooming products. Its new Miracle Groom cleans, conditions and shines; it’s a comprehensive groomer in a bottle, also available in wipes. UltraScreen spray-on is designed to prevent skin and coat damage from the sun’s rays.

EQyss president Don Van, in Carlsbad, California, aggressively markets Mega/Tek Rebuilder for coats, hooves, and human hair. EQyss’ Avocado Mist Conditioner and Detangler, he says, is “weightless, wax and polymer-free.”

Healthy HairCare Products (HHC) proffers a daily maintenance line and a show grooming line. Show aficionados may choose the Silverado line, including Coat Gloss, which is a silicone emulsion spray, and a detangler. HHC’s Moisturizer is a favorite; pour some in the bucket, add water, and sponge over the horse for a lovely sheen.

At Cowboy Magic, Body Shine is a 30 percent aloe vera product designed to repel dust. But dust repellents have their limits. Says Cummings, “nothing [completely] repels or will shield the horse from dust unless you wrap him in cellophane.”

That said, the current horse- and owner-friendly selection of tools and products is making life easy for horse professionals and their clients.