“I Want the YUMMY Hay!”

MJ has a fixation on timothy hay. He is outside in one of the grass paddocks that also has a big hay roll 24/7/365 so he always has something to eat. But to the refined tastes of MJ the hay in the big roll is inferior to the timothy hay from square bales. The stable workers spread flats from the timothy bales every day so the outside horses can get some, but MJ also LOVES getting some timothy in the barn before being ridden, not that he needs the extra hay, it just tastes better.

The days when he is not provided with his own private flat of timothy hay before being groomed are simply horrible to him, he is being deprived of his preferred hay, and he reminds Debbie and I every single minute that we have severely disappointed him. Did we forget? He is willing to accept that we are imperfect and have memory lapses, but when he pointedly reminds us that he is lacking his timothy hay and the hay is not forthcoming he gets impatient with us dummies. He is not “bad”, but he tries to put his muzzle in our faces, gives little impatient looks, and just does not want to settle down and enjoy being groomed.

I started his grooming with my new Epona flexible curry comb. He did not seem to like this curry as much as the Retriever dog washing rubber glove, with a few “watch it lady” comments. Then I used the Haas Damen Wurzelkardatsche synthetic rice root “dandy brush”. This brush does reach down to his skin and gets the dirt elevated up to the hair coat. I was worried that MJ might find this brush too stiff for his sensitive skin but he did not seem bothered by it. Next I used the Amazone stiff horsehair brush, by his reactions it may be a little bit too stiff for him, but this brush picked up an amazing amount of really, really fine dust as well as the usual crud. I used the slightly softer Haas Lipizzaner horsehair brush next and that one seemed OK to him. Then I used the Haas Cavaliere horsehair brush on him, he got antsy but that could have been because he was making a desperate last ditch attempt to remind us that we forgot to give him his flat of timothy hay. He settled down when I used the very soft Grundy's Finest body brush on him. Already MJ was getting shinier, however Debbie cannot really enjoy seeing his shiny coat in the ring since we put on his exercise sheet and neck rug on him since it is colder.

MJ got re-shod two days before and that affected our ride. He wanted me to spend the first two minutes in two-point and he was not very happy when I got tired and needed to sit down again, but he kept on going. When I asked him to extend his walk stride he would, just a itty bitty tiny bit, and if I asked for more he gave me a trot. Well, I was going to trot anyway so we had a good trot around the ring and weaving around the jumps. I did get him to go into a decent hunt seat trot, he picked up his feet and actually had some suspension in his stride.

Since we had warmed up at the trot I asked him to extend his walking stride again, and again he just did not do it. So I did the opposite and asked him for a super slow walk, it took him a few strides until he got down to the speed I wanted then he seemed content to go on for a while just creeping around the ring. Our final trot I asked MJ to stretch his stride out a little bit which he did sort of reluctantly, then I asked him to slow down to a sitting trot. The first two strides his back did not relax, then the next two strides he started relaxing his back, then the final two strides were rideable to me.

At least his turn on the hindquarters improved, after one stride he “planted” his rear end (with his hind feet still doing the walk sequence). I sent him to Debbie for well deserved praise.

When we took his tack off after the ride Debbie told me about grooming her problem child Tercel with the Haas Lipizzaner brush and the Grundy's Finest body brush I had lent her. According to her Tercel LIKED these brushes. Instead of his usual shifting, dirty looks, side passing to the limits of his rope, and little threat movements of his head, he stood STILL and let her groom him in complete peace and quiet. He relaxed into the grooming and seemed content afterwards, a BIG change of attitude!

Debbie said she could see that by using the Haas brushes regularly that they could probably skip giving the horses a bath before going to a show. The amount of dirt she got out of his coat with just his regular curry comb equivalent and these two brushes was a lot more than she usually gets out of his coat when grooming him. I told Debbie that this was one of my hopes with these brushes since I hated seeing the girls and ladies giving their horse a bath in the cooler weather and the horses did not seem to like their cold baths either (the water was warm, the breeze was cool.) Unless the horse is really hot and sweaty I don't think they really enjoy their baths as much as they can enjoy a good grooming with good brushes.

I have had experience with this. Many years ago, with the help of a Stubben horse or goat hair body brush, I had managed to get a really deep shine on my pasture or dirt paddock horses, a shine that was completely ruined by giving them a bath no matter how much Show Sheen I sprayed on them afterwards. Long ago, back in the Dark Ages and long before stuff like Show Sheen, good grooms would get this deep gorgeous shine on the horses, it was a matter of pride for the groom that their horse was shinier than all the other horses around them.

There is an unconscious status judgment here. People react to a horse whose coat has a deep shine differently than they do to a horse with a sprayed on shine. This deep shine makes any horse look superior, and since the horse is more comfortable in his own skin the horse often shows pride too. You cannot get this result from giving the horse a bath, it only comes from consistent thorough grooming, every day, often a grooming that lasts 30 minutes to an hour with regular grooming tools. With the Haas brushes this result comes a lot quicker, ideal for busy horse people who want their horse to look his best. The shine starts showing when using the first Haas brush and improves every Haas brush after the first one.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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