By Sarah E Coleman
It can be hard to get your horse looking show-ring ready this time of year, especially if he lives outside all or most of the time.
In the spring, most horses, whether they live outside 24/7 or are only turned out for a few hours at a time, are masters at plastering as much of their body as possible in mud. If you have an extremely adept Pig-Pen, he may even be able to get it in the creases of his eyelids and down into his ears! Added bonus if he can find burrs to weave into his forelock.
So, how should you make your horse look a little less homeless this spring season? We asked Shannon O’Hatnick, working student for Allie Knowles and a phenomenal groom, for some tricks of the trade.
What is Shannon’s top trick to sparkling clean, amazing looking horses? “Curry, curry, curry,” she says. “If there's one thing I've learned, currying every inch of a horse every day helps to encourage a healthy coat and works to get any dirt loosened to brush off.” She also recommends having baby wipes and a towel on hand to flatten any ruffled hair or quickly wipe off a bit of dirt you might've missed!
For those of us unable to body clip our horses (and some of these beasts get HAIRY!), Shannon reminds readers that you can always make a horse look presentable, no matter what coat he has. A quick bubble bath with some Ivory soap will do wonders, she says, leaving you with only the need to touch up any places that can be shinier. Shannon likes to use Face Glow around the eyes and muzzle, and coat gloss and olive oil for a magnificent shine. For a really put-together look, Shannon makes sure every steed in her charge wears hoof dressing!
Must-have Grooming Goodies
What are Shannon’s go-to grooming products, you ask? Here are some she can’t live without:
- Silverado Coat Gloss
- Silverado Face Glow
- Olive oil spray
- Fiebing's Hoof Dressing
- Miracle Groom
- Ivory soap
- Baby wipes
Show Ring Prep
How does Shannon prep the horses so they look their absolute best?
“Prepping a horse for the show ring always begins with a bath involving lots and lots of scrubbing. Every inch [including their private parts] get cleaned. From there, they'll be braided with a Sleazy over the braids to stay in the night before the show.
Once I'm tacking the horse up before his or her ride, I brush over them while spraying with coat gloss and/or olive oil for a gorgeous coat shine. I wet the top of their tail and throw a tail wrap on to flatten and tame the hair on the top of their tails. [The tail wrap is pulled off on the way to warm up.] Then I use my hand to wipe on some face glow around their eyes and muzzle. A towel or baby wipes [I prefer the wipes] can be used to wipe off poop and dirty noses. Then all you have left is to brush on some hoof dressing for a nice, polished look!”
Shannon also has some tips for those of us whose horses live outside. If you have a dark horse, try to keep on a sun protection blanket to prevent a coat from bleaching, she suggests. Also, regular currying promotes healthy skin, but be prepared for a scrubbing bath if a horse shows any signs of fungus.
Remember, Shannon reminds those of us who aspire to have horses who look half as good as hers: “You can never use too much coat gloss or hoof polish, and make sure you clean everything, on them -- even under their belly and between their legs!”
If you’ve never seen Shannon’s work, you’re missing out. In addition to amazing full-body and trace clips, this girl has mad skills with a set of clippers (just check out these pictures!). Be sure to follow her on Instagram – we promise you won’t be disappointed! @radiant_clips (seriously!).
While it may seem like these skills had been honed over years and years of work, in the grand scheme of things, Shannon is quite new to her trade: She was handed a pair of clippers last year and told to clip her horse—and everything took off from there.
Shannon’s history with horses is quite varied—and she tells us where she really learned how to groom: “I started riding when I was 6 at a western horse camp where I rode for 4 years and then decided to switch to English. I played in hunter and jumper land and did IEA [Interscholastic Equestrian Association] for 7 years until I fell in love with Eventing. I'm also an avid Pony Clubber, which is where I learned how to REALLY clean up a horse!”
Throughout high school, Shannon worked as a working student for a Thoroughbred breeding and training facility (Benchmark Farm) and a Warmblood breeding and training facility (Broad Hill Run Farm), before becoming Allie Knowles’ (Alexandra Knowles Eventing) working student in August of 2016.
Amazingly, Shannon doesn’t clip full-time; she fits it in around working for Allie.
While most of us will never have the clipping skills Shannon does, we can put her tips to use in getting steeds show-ring ready.