Monday, March 30, 2020

a letter to my horse's groom during quarantine

Hey [Name], thank you so much for adding Charlie to your list during this crazy pandemic. I know it's a big ask, considering how your workload exploded since the barn shut down completely for everyone except staff.

Not being able to see my horse at all, even for brief visits, has been devastating. Especially knowing this could last for months... I honestly still can't even think about it without crying.

It means the world to me, tho, that you've got Charlie's back. Literally and figuratively haha.

i didn't know it at the time, but this would be my last ride on charlie indefinitely
So again, I'm extremely grateful we could work out a grooming arrangement during this period. The rate we agreed to should cover 2x weekly grooming for Charlie, with each session lasting about 20min and covering his whole body.

Here are the details, expectations, and pro tips for what that might entail:

Grooming Tools

- hard plastic curry (purple, slightly war-torn)
- medium natural bristle body brush (wood oval with hand strap)
- hoof pick (lime green with brush)

The above tools are all you need to clear off any mud, loose hair, and sweat from Charlie's body and invigorate his coat into a nice glossy bloom.

this picture is from 2016 and my routine is basically exactly the same. except charlie doesn't wear bell boots in turnout anymore, and the gelotion is long gone. literally still use exactly the same brushes tho
The lion's share of your time grooming will be spent with the curry, which should be used on literally every single inch of Charlie's body. But especially some problem zones we'll get to below.

The body brush will swipe off the dust, dander, and loose hairs, and will give Charlie a nice soft smooth feeling when you're all finished.

The hoof pick is self explanatory. Charlie is a little funny about lifting his feet tho: you have to press his chestnuts like they're buttons and he'll pop right up.

Other tools that can be used as you see fit include the red rubber curry (great for getting out loose hair), the purple scritchy hand mitt, or the pink tail tamer hair brush.

this is definitely not an everyday occurrence, and 100% not necessary during quarantine
Mane, Tail & Forelock

Please please please do not use a brush on Charlie's forelock or tail. You can use your fingers for gentle detangling as needed, or to pick out pieces of hay or debris from the field.

The mane, however, you can brush and brush and brush to your heart's delight! Feel free to use that Cowboy Magic shine spray on it too, and also on the rest of his body as you see fit.

Skin Funk Identification, Symptoms & Treatment

Shedding season means: Skin Funk, which can present in a few different ways. Charlie will sometimes start with hives on his neck, shoulders, chest, flank, or hindquarters. Then, after a day or two, the hives will fade into tiny scabby bumps. Sometimes there won't be any hives at all, but you'll discover localized areas of crusty scabby bumps that peel off with clumps of hair.

plenty plenty plenty of mane to brush tho! would have trimmed it if i knew the lock down was coming...
You'll commonly feel these by running a hand through Charlie's coat along either side of his spine - all the way down his flanks. Start around where the saddle would sit then go all the way to the tail, and down the back sides of his legs.

It's a good idea to run your hand down the horse's "top line" at the beginning of every grooming session. Rain rot can also make a horse suddenly appear very sore in his back, which you will notice with gentle pressure into the muscles over his top line. If you observe soreness, start looking for funk.

Early identification of skin funk issues is key. Charlie does very well with liberal application of MTG to the problem zones. Not everyone loves how it smells, but it works wonders for Charlie. You really have to massage it in there, too.

pictured: various problem zones haha. as a point of pride, charlie went into this lock down with exactly ZERO skin funk anywhere on his body. i guess we'll see how long it stays that way....
Problem Zones

Vigorous currying is the #1 best preventative measure for any rain rot. Important areas to focus on include:

- All the long muscles covering his body (don't forget under his mane - it can get really itchy under there!)

- Charlie's flanks and haunches will be the likeliest candidates for rain rot, followed by his shoulders. Stay diligent with your currying and you won't have a problem!

- Legs are prone to skin funk too. Don't forget to brush the inside and outside, front and back, top to bottom, of all four legs -- allll the way down to the coronet band. Armpits too!!!! (If Charlie's armpits are really crusty and flaky, there's bag balm in my grooming tote)

not sure when i'll get this view again
- The back of Charlie's fetlocks and pasterns (and especially his white leg) will be prone to mud fever / scratches. At first glance this will just look like clumps of mud, but it could actually be nasty painful bacterial scabs that burrow into the skin and can be really hard to get rid of once established.

- Therefore -- do not let scabs get established. Every single time you groom, use your fingers and the curry comb to clear out any and all clumps of mud etc.

- If you see any irritated red skin or anything that looks like a sore underneath the mud, or if Charlie seems really sensitive, just go nuclear on the whole area with MTG. If the MTG doesn't clear it up within a couple days, let me know and I'll tell you where I hide the other atomic bomb.

- Hind legs in particular can get more funk. The fronts of the hindleg cannon bones accumulate a lot of nastiness, so curry curry curry. Also the back of his tendons below and above the hock will sometimes get crusty. Pay attention to these areas and you won't have a problem!

it honestly feels really unfair
Things Charlie Likes

- He likes having the big long muscles along his neck and shoulders gently massaged

- Pulling his halter farther back behind his ears will expose the soft squishy tissue on top of his poll. He really likes it if you gently massage this area along with his forelock. He might actually fall asleep haha!

- Sometimes when his ears are itchy he likes the inside base of them rubbed.

Things Charlie Doesn't Like, But That Should Be Done Anyway

- Charlie is ticklish about his belly, starting with his chest and between his front legs, and going all the way back to his hind legs.

- It's important to still brush this area, however, as especially when he plays in the field, he can kick a lot of mud up between his hind legs.

- When the gnats and bugs get really bad, they will also bite the ever loving crap out of Charlie's belly and up between his hind legs. Pay attention for crusted blood or sores.

obviously i understand this is a small sacrifice for the greater good -- i understand that not being able to see my horse is the most luxurious of "first world problems"
Pro Tips

- In wet muddy conditions, brush off most of the mud from Charlie's legs and hooves first, then shift focus to his body. After his body is done, you can return to the legs which should be more dried at this point and easier to get the rest of the mud off

- Occasionally run a hand under Charlie's chin, between his jaw bones, and back toward his throat. Sometimes he hides ticks or other weird lumps and bumps back there, and it's a prime location for a small sore to get infected undetected.

- Use your fingers to lightly scratch Charlie's tail -- He will tell you if it feels itchy and he wants more scratches. If that's the case, check through the whole tail for any areas of crustiness that could indicate a tick. Same story with his mane.

- Charlie's skin is prone to being dry and itchy, so whenever possible I prefer that you use grooming instead of bathing to get him clean.

but still. it's hard to describe what losing this quiet barn time means

Hoof Care

- If it's been wet out or really muddy, maybe once every week or two squirt some Thrush Buster or Durasole into and all around Charlie's frogs (esp the gap between his heels). Try not to touch this stuff yourself tho.

- If it's been dry out, and esp when the bugs come out, once or twice a week brush Keratex onto the wall of Charlie's hooves -- paying special attention to the nail holes for his shoes. Avoid getting this stuff on his coronet band (or your skin!).

- Keratex is super expensive, so to avoid spilling any, I just pour some into the cap, then put the full bottle back on the shelf where it's safe, then use the cap to brush onto Charlie's hooves. One cap-full will usually do all 4 feet.

- Avoid using Keratex on the same day as the Thrush Buster or Durasole, or mixing these with any other products. They contain harsh ingredients that when mixed together might create a chemical burn on Charlie's skin.

other than saying... it's really really sad
Ultimate Check List 101

Ultimately, when grooming Charlie, always go through the following checklist:

- 2 Eyes
- 2 Ears
- 4 Legs
- 4 Feet
- 4 Shoes
- Cuts?
- Swelling?
- Heat?
- Nasal Discharge? (white? yellow? clear? signs of blood?)
- Eye Issues? (is one more shut than the other? clouding? discharge?)

If you have any problems, questions, concerns, please please please do not hesitate to reach out and ask. I will always be able to tell you if something is normal or not, or if something is a problem. I can also tell you where all the various ointments etc are hidden throughout my locker.

Thank you again so so so so so much for your help during this time. This has been heartbreaking for me, but I'm so grateful that Charlie has you watching out for him!


  1. Ugh. It is really hard. I stopped going to the barn 1.5 weeks ago. It's so hard.

    1. ugh i'm sorry to hear that too. we haven't even been 1.5 weeks yet and it already feels like it's been forever...

  2. This hit me right in the feels. Hang in there, we're going to get through this.

  3. oh this made me so sad. Your post is great though.

  4. I'm so sorry! <3 I'm still able to visit my Ava for the moment, but that could change any day. Sending you and Charlie all the love.

  5. I love how comprehensive this list is - those pro tips are key! Val got the daily behind the elbows + up inside the hind leg check this morning because that's where ticks love to latch.

    Feeling for everyone in this situation right now. I picture a massive cathartic tear-shedding event when things finally get back to normal...

    1. i honestly cannot wait for "back to normal" even tho i also honestly can't even really imagine it either... things feel so different right now!

  6. This post was so sweet and detailed and made me so sad all at the same time. I kept my Ernie care notes quite short since there are so many horses to care for and I'm not paying anyone extra to do it (although I am paying my trainer to ride him because I don't think 4 hours of turnout a day is enough to make giving him time completely off a good idea).
    I'm still quite sad his owner wouldn't let me bring him home so he could have long turnout but he's not mine so it is what it is.
    I have a feeling I'm going to have another whole month out of the saddle for April, but we shall see. The rules don't say that yet...
    We are all in this together and it's going to be so nice when we get back to our ponies again.

    1. aw that's a shame she wouldn't agree to it - tho i guess everyone makes choices their own ways...

      and yea the above is extremely detailed, but his groom is also a young adult beginner rider just starting her horse journey and has very minimal experience. she's passionate, LOVES charlie, and pays attention to details -- but it's also entirely possible that nobody has ever sat her down and really taught her the ins and outs, the nitty gritties, of grooming.

      and yea haha, part of the whole reason i hired her separately from barn care was bc i wanted to have a separate individual channel that gave me a little leeway to be.... uh, extra... haha

  7. aww... great list of stuff and great that you could hire this person to do some extra groomies for Charlie.

  8. I'm so sorry you can't even go see him, that's so hard :( This can't be over soon enough.

  9. Oh gosh, I am so sorry! This breaks my heart :(

  10. Awwwww this gave me sniffles! 💔 Hang in there

  11. I'm so sorry you can't see him at all! I can't imagine not being able to my boys, I will give them both an extra hug for you. Hope you're going ok!

  12. I've been home and away from horses and job since March 13th. It is such a surreal and odd feeling. I know it's what we need to do, but I miss the horses, the smells, the atmosphere.

    We've been getting videos sent several times a week thru MarcoPolo app if you think your groomer would be up for it!


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