Horse Grooming Tools Guide

Updated September 25, 2023
smartpak grooming tote filled with brushes

One of the best bonding times with the horses we love happens during grooming. There is nothing better than giving your horse a satisfying scratch or bringing out the shine in their coat, and we can all appreciate a relaxed horse on the crossties enjoying a thorough rub down.

Grooming connects horse and rider to help form and strengthen a relationship that can carry over to other aspects of handling and riding. In addition to strengthening a bond with your horse, grooming is also a great way to assess your horse’s health, increase circulation, and notice any changes in their coat or body weight.

Having all the right tools in your brush box is essential to being able to give your horse a quality grooming session. Here’s our breakdown of the essential grooming tools for horses that every equestrian should keep at the barn.

Curry Comb

A rubber curry comb for horses.

A curry comb is often the first grooming tool used in any horse grooming set. Curry combs are used to loosen dust, caked-on mud, and a little bit of hair. They come in rubber, plastic, or in gloved form (called a grooming mitt) with short or long groves on one side and a slip to put your hand in on the other. The best curry comb for your horse depends on both you and, most importantly, your horse’s preferences.

Use the curry comb by rubbing (or “currying”) in circular motions along the horse’s neck and body. Don’t be afraid to put a little elbow grease behind currying but be mindful to go softer and slower on sensitive areas like the flank, girth area, and under the belly. Typically, non-rubber curry combs are not recommended for use on the face or legs. If you’re a new rider and just learning how to use horse grooming tools, groom read our step-by-step guide on how to groom a horse.

handson grooming glove for horses

For sensitive areas, the HandsOn Gloves for Grooming are a good option as you can easily adjust the amount of pressure you use and it has round knobs instead of “teeth” on your classic curry. Or you can try a soft, flexible jelly scrubber which works great for bath time to lather up soap and wash tender areas.

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Hard, Stiff, or Dandy Brush

A hard brush for horses

After loosening dirt and dead hair and bringing all that grime hiding under their coat to the surface, the next tool to use is a hard brush. A hard bush may also be called a stiff or dandy brush and is a brush that gets used in almost every grooming session. As you’ll see with most brushes, they have a rectangular-shaped handle on one side with grooves for better hand grip and comfort.

Hard brushes have very stiff, often synthetic, bristles and are used mainly on the horse’s neck and body. These brushes are used in the direction of the horse’s hair coat growth, with a slight flick motion. The stiff bristles work well to brush off all the stuff the curry comb brought to the surface. Some horses or areas (such as near their elbows, grith area, or spine) are a little sensitive, so adjust pressure as needed.

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Medium Brush

haas medium brush for horses

Medium brushes have bristles that are softer than a hard brush but stiffer than a soft brush. This is a great option to use after or in place of a hard brush on any sensitive areas on your horse.

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Soft Brush

soft brush for horses

Soft brushes are the final touch in grooming the horse’s body. They may also be called a body brush and have soft bristles and can be made of natural animal hairs or synthetic fibers. The soft brush helps remove fine particles and brings out the horse’s natural shine. This is also called a finishing brush since it provides the finishing touches to the grooming process.

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Face Brush

Face brushes are essentially very soft, smaller brushes that can easily be used to brush the grooves and sensitive areas of the horse’s face. Face bushes are the right product for making sure even their forehead, eyes, and muzzle are clean and have a healthy shine.

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Hoof Pick

A pink hoof pick with brush.

No grooming tool list is complete without a hoof pick! Hoof picks are used to clean the hoof’s collateral grove (the v groove around the frog). The pick is typically made of sturdy metal, while the handle may be made of plastic, wood, or other materials. A great option is a hoof pick with a brush on one end, so you can use the stiff bristles to help you remove additional dirt and debris.

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Mane and Tail Brush

oster tail brush for horses

There are many kinds of mane and tail brushes. Which one works best depends on the horse’s mane and tail length and the texture of their hair. A wide-tooth comb works well for brushing shorter manes or manes that are pulled, or for the tail when trying to help them grow or maintain length. The Oster Mane & Tail Brush is designed for less hair breakage and to ergonomically fit hands of all sizes, so it’s a great option for the tail.

To help make getting out debris and untangling knots easier, use a detangler or coat spray which can make the process gentler and easier for both you and the horse.

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Coat Conditioners and Detanglers

Horse coat conditioner spray bottle

There are a number of coat conditioner and detangler products offered for the skin, coat, mane, and tail. Usually in spray form, they add extra gloss, smoothness, or shine to a coat. Some sprays are oil-based, but those can attract dust. More common coat enhancement sprays are oil-free and are often called “silicone” sprays. These leave the coat very smooth, shiny, and slick.

Most are applied to the horse after he has been bathed and dried, though they can be used on a horse that has not been bathed to add a quick gloss and immediate shine. Keep in mind that when you’re using coat spray, you should steer clear of the saddle area, because silicone-based sprays can leave your horse’s coat slick and slippery.

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Hoof Oils and Conditioners

Cannister of Effol hoof oil for horses.

Hoof oils, ointments, polishes, and conditioners are a finishing touch for shiny, show-ready hooves. Hoof dressings have many different purposes, and we would recommend you talk with your farrier about whether you should use one of your horse’s hooves. Some hoof oils are formulated to strengthen and moisturize the hard outer layer of the hoof while preventing thrush and bacteria buildup. Other hoof dressings may be designed to enhance the hoof’s color, or simply to provide a shiny, polished look before your horse goes in the show ring!

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Pulling Comb

Aluminum pulling comb for horses mane

A good pulling comb is essential if you pull your horse’s manes for shows and braiding. Pulling combs can be made of metal or plastic and are used to help thin out and shorten the horse’s mane in preparation for many types of braids. Read this blog on how to pull a horse’s mane for a detailed step-by-step guide.

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Shedding Blade

metal curry shedding blade for horses

Shedding blades are often made of metal and have “teeth” on one edge. They are often used during the Spring season to help with removing loose winter coat hair. Shedding blades also come in a spiral shaped design with multiple rows of blades to get the job done. Grooming with both a curry comb and shedding blade is a good strategy to get rid of loose, dead coat hair.

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Grooming Tote

Grooming set including a tote and various horse brushes by SmartPak.

Now that we have all the basic grooming supplies listed, all that is needed is a handy tote to carry them in so you can have all your tools in one spot! Grooming totes, bags, and boxes come in many different materials (wood, plastic, or fabric) and often have dividers to help keep grooming tools separated and organized. Fabric grooming totes are often easy to fit in spaces with limited room such as tack lockers or trunks, and can easily be hosed off or put in the laundry to keep them clean.

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There are also pre-picked, complete grooming sets for horses available if you’re starting out and want to be prepared with every brush you may need. These horse grooming kits are perfect for new riders to be equipped with every grooming necessity they may need.

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Video Review of the SmartPak Grooming Tote and Brush Set

As always, please feel free to reach out to our Product Specialists for help finding the right grooming tools for your horse!

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.

Originally published December 20, 2017