1. Relax the skin, strengthen the hair
Scalp massage in humans is a practice that dates back at least 5000 years and is a strong component of Wellness in oriental and Ayurvedic medicines. In one article, the benefits of scalp massage as it relates to prevention of hair loss are described as follows: “Massage for hair loss ...will increase blood flow to the hair follicles, condition the scalp, and enhance the strength of the roots.” This makes sense when we look at how the hair grows out of the skin:
So there is lots going on before the hair ever emerges from the skin! Each hair has a tiny erector muscle that makes your horses' hair stand up when needed or relaxes for a smooth coat. A strong hair sheath will make for strong hair growth, resulting in a strong hair shaft that keeps the hair from breaking.
The sebaceous gland alone is a small miracle: Every hair has its own little sebum factory! “The sebaceous glands are microscopic glands in the skin that secrete an oily/waxy matter, called sebum, to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair of mammals.” [Wikipedia]
You can now imagine how proper massage of the horse’s skin during grooming will result in a stronger, healthier coat.
How it’s done: Early fall is the perfect time to pay special attention to currying. Use a large, flexible rubber curry with a structure that will not only be a pleasant and thorough massage, but also remove dirt and dander in the process. Start at the upper neck and work your way down to the hind end with circular movement. Knock the curry out every now and then to remove dirt from the curry. Finish one side, then move to the other. Pay attention to your horse, stay in areas that he may especially enjoy.
2. De-stress, invigorate, increase blood flow
After a good curry massage, your horse’s fall coat will benefit from some further invigoration and increase of blood flow to the skin and hair follicles. “Increased blood flow to the hair follicle will result in increased nutrient intake. All hair follicles need an adequate supply of nutrients in order to grow.“ [pacificcollege.edu]
The best way to combine this massage with a thorough cleaning is to use a pure coco fiber brush.
Note: This is a great opportunity to practice ‘thoughtful, conscious grooming’ and make this a relaxing exercise. Don’t rush or ‘get er done’! “Reduced levels of stress hormones allow the body to function with increased efficiency and this, in turn, enhances the ability of the hair follicles to grow hair.” [pacificcollege.edu]
How it’s done: Starting at the upper neck, brush in the direction of hair growth with firm, long strokes. Pay attention to your horse and his reactions, focus on areas he may enjoy more. Work the entire body, including legs. Finish one side, then move to the next side.
3. Remove dirt and dander, distribute sebum!
Remember our tiny sebum factories? We want to make sure that your horse gets the most out of the sebum production... by helping to distribute the oils all over the coat.
Step 1: Remove dirt and dander with a medium stiff dandy brush.
Step 2: Distribute oils and remove fine dirt with a wild boar bristle brush, a horse hair/coco fiber mix brush or a horse hair brush with a raised edge.
This sounds like a lot of work. How long does this take?
Anywhere from 10-20 minutes or longer. Depending on how slowly and thoroughly you’d like to work.
I don’t have much time, should I just skip it today?
If you don’t have 10 minutes to groom your horse before riding, you are rushed and should not be riding... ;-). Taking 10 minutes to provide a very beneficial service to your horse should not be asked too much.
You suggest specific brushes, can I just use what I have?
Yes, as long as your brushes are of natural materials and of good quality. Inefficient or even harmful tools (as plastic brushes are in this case), do not get the desired results and can even lead to a dull coat, breaking hair and injured skin (micro scratches from synthetic bristles) that opens the door for infections, dander, and electrical static.
I would like to purchase some of the brushes but would like to start small. What should I start with?
As the bare minimum for fall/winter grooming we recommend the flexible massage curry and a medium stiff dandy brush to start. The next items would be a coco fiber brush, followed by a good finishing brush.
I would like to take advantage of special sales/offers for the Horse Wellness brushes. What do you suggest?
You may want to think about purchasing a complete horse grooming brush set. This is automatically a savings of about 10%. On top of that, it will put you in the ‘free shipping’ range for all sets over $50. Other options are to sign up for our newsletter or ‘like’ us on facebook to keep up with occasional sales
Happy grooming and enjoy your horse!