Book Review: World Class Grooming For Horses



By Cat Hill and Emma Ford
Trafalgar Square Books

*This review originally ran in The Chronicle of the Horse.*

Cat Hill and Emma Ford offer tips from their years of grooming and stable keeping for top riders of all disciplines in World-Class Grooming For Horses.

Even if you learned how to care for your horses from a mentor, Pony Club or by picking up tips from others, you’re sure to find something useful. It’s all there in one spiral bound book, making it a great resource for experienced horsemen and novices alike, and it should be considered required reading for those looking into working student or groom positions.

The book covers all aspects of horse care, from getting tacked up to ride, cleaning the barn and basic equine health care, to more detailed jobs like clipping, taking care of horses at a show, wrapping and studs.
Ford has spent most of her career as a groom for top eventer Phillip Dutton, and Hill works mostly as a freelance groom for eventers these days, but they’ve both worked for a variety of riders, so even if you’re not an eventer, you’ll find their knowledge useful. Both authors spice up the book with personal stories of mistakes and lessons learned from their years of working in the industry, which gives a fun insight into the care of upper-level horses.

Everything a groom does for a horse is done not only for its health, but also its safety, so the authors make sure to point out every little detail. Nearly every page is full of step-by-step photos to make sure you’re raking your herringbone pattern on the barn floor properly or folding your horse’s winter blanket so it doesn’t look messy.

Whether you’re looking for instructions on how to do hunter braids, wrap a leg or properly adjust a figure-eight noseband, you can be sure Ford and Hill have done it thousands of times, and they’re eager to share their knowledge.

Product Review: Rapid Groom Vacuum

2014-03-30 11.31.11

After this winter’s horrible wet and mud, I decided it was time to invest in a horse vacuum. My horses, Oh So in particular, love to be encrusted in mud. I actually saw Sam go down in a giant mud puddle and completely submerge himself and Bear loves to get both sides dirty the minute I put him back out after a ride.

There aren’t a lot of options out there, with the high end Electro-Groom being a top choice, but also more than $600, and the Vac N’Blo receiving less than stellar reviews, so I went with the Rapid Groom after some research.

It retails for about $370. The vacuum comes with two nozzle ends, one metal and one rubber for vacuuming legs and sensitive areas, and three bags. Extra bags run about $4.

The vacuum itself if pretty small, but is heavy at 32 pounds. It has little wheels on one end so you can drag the vacuum by the hose around the horse. I’ve also found that picking it up by one end and rolling it works too.

In a perfect world, the cord to plug it in would be retractable, but it’s simple enough to put up by wrapping it around two hooks on the outside of the body.

The nozzle were simple to put on. The metal one comes with a small screw to help hold it in place, while the rubber one just slips on to the end of the hose.

The 10′ hose is supposedly “crush proof”, but thankfully I haven’t tested that theory yet!

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A nearly full bag.

I wasn’t quite sure when to change the bag, so after about two weeks of use on 2 horses, I opened the end of the vacuum and pulled it out. It was nearly to the top, and changing it was simple. I laughed as I realized that all of that dirt could have been on me! THAT is why I bought a vacuum!

Oh So and Bear took to it pretty easily. They were actually more scared of the hose and of me dragging the vacuum by the hose in front of them, but I just rubbed it on them, let them sniff it, and that was that. I turned it on near Sam once and he started shaking with fear/spookiness, so as I expected, I won’t be using it on him!

The vacuum has two speeds, high and low. Low works well for dust and dirt, but high is definitely better for crusted, dry mud and loose hair.

It is loud, although the company says the motor is quiet. I’d never used any other kind of horse vacuum before, so I can’t say whether this one is particularly loud.

I definitely noticed my horses were cleaner and had more of a shine to their coats after using the vacuum. With regular use, vacuums are said to bring out the naturals oils in the coat, but I had pretty good results right off the bat.

Oh So is very fidgety about being groomed and he’s definitely quieter when I use it. In fact, when I go back to brushes sometimes, he gets agitated.

Bear likes the suction feel on his skin and does a little lip thing, as does Rocky.

We’re at the end of shedding season now, but when I used the vacuum a few weeks ago, I followed up with a curry comb or my Laser Sheen shedding block to really get the hair out.

When Oh So is particularly encrusted in mud, I’ll sometimes use a curry comb to get the big chunks off first, but in the end, I end up cleaner than I would be by grooming by hand and that’s a definite plus!

The only negative I’ve found is that to take off the end to change the bag, you have to unravel the cord to open the snaps, which is inconvenient, but it’s a small price to pay for a clean horse!

A few of my favorite things

It’s spring shopping season and I’ve picked up a few things for myself and my horses recently that I’m really loving. Here are a few of my favorite items so far.

2014-04-12 08.22.45Higher Standards Leather Care – I kept seeing a topic on the Chronicle Forums pop up about a user who started her own business making saddle soap. Someone in the office tried it when we wrote a story about her, and with plenty of rave reviews on the Forums, I decided to try some.

The soap is made of natural ingredients and you can choose your scent from rosemary mint, lavender vanilla, citrus ginger or unscented. I picked lavender vanilla, which is pleasant, but not over-powering. The 8oz jar, which will last me a really long time, comes with a nice sponge. I’ve barely made a dent so far, but it does clean my tack and leaves it moisturized. It’s not too sudsy, which is a pet peeve of mine. I hate when suds get in the holes of my bridles and stirrup leathers, so this is perfect!

2014-04-12 08.13.35Shedding block – I didn’t clip Oh So for the first time ever this spring and this is a miracle worker for getting all of his hair out. Just scrape off the hair, brush on the concrete aisle to rough up the edges, and repeat.



2014-04-12 09.17.45Back On Track Polo Wraps

As Oh So has come back into work, I decided to start using polo wraps for our trot work and decided to invest in a pair of Back On Track ones. Similar to the BOT blanket and hock boots I have, I’ve never really seen a night and day difference with the ceramic-infused fabric, but I figure, why not?

I tried the 12ft and they were way to long, so I went with 9ft, which are plenty for Oh So’s average leg. They claim to be stretchier than traditional wraps, but I’ve found they’re not because the edges are stitched. They need to be put on perfectly even and straight or you’ll get some looser spots. They stay on through our workout though and his legs are warm when we finish, which is a result of the ceramic fabric reflecting the heat back into the leg.

Pile Lined Boots-500x500Horze Pile-Lined Boots

Ever since Oh So had a bad skin reaction from wearing neoprene boots last summer, I’ve been on the lookout for a different kind of turn out boot. I found these at for a reasonable price and decided to try them for Bear first.

They’re lined with fleece and extremely lightweight. They have two velco straps, which are much easier than trying to do three hook and loop straps every morning. His legs were pretty dry after a few warm days outside, but I haven’t tested them in wet weather yet. They don’t have a big shock absorber on the inside like some splint boots have, but they’re thick enough that I think the trade-off for no neoprene is worth it. They run a little large, so I bought mediums for Oh So and Bear’s front legs. The large’s were very large.

advancedbellbootdove_1Horze Advanced Bell Boots

Bear was in need of some durable bell boots for jumping so I tried these affordable no-turn boots from They’re made of a thick neoprene and also run a bit large. The double-lock velcro is very strong and they stay in place. They also feature ventilation holes to keep air flowing. So far, so good for riding and I think they would be a good choice for turn out too.