Grooming

Grooming

Aeia slips into Snowflake's stall with a halter over one shoulder. The light palomino form moves towards her in delicate steps, and she smiles, reaching over and drawing the halter over her nose in a smooth gesture. She buckles the halter.

"Today," she announces to the assembled students, "I will give a quick description on grooming. I've chosen Snowflake today, because her light color makes dirt very visible." She leads the leggy filly out of the stall and into the aisle, stopping her with a gently spoken "Ho."

She indicates a set of crossties hanging on the walls. To either side of Snowflake's head, ropes hanging from near the tops of the stalls dangle on the walls, terminating in clasps. "These are crossties," she explains. She picks one up from the wall and opens the clasp, hooking it into the ring on that side of the noseband. She crosses in front of Snowflake and hooks in the other tie, and then lets go of her halter. "I prefer you not to groom in the stalls, and although some of our runners ground tie, I would also prefer if you crosstie anyone before grooming. Notice there is some slack in the ties, so her head isn't held rigidly between the two ties. Also, near the tops of the ties, they are actually fastened to the walls by twine, and not thick rope. This is an emergency feature, for if a runner startles and tries to rear, a firm, strong rope would just yank back against his head and he could lose his balance and fall. Or he could get himself tangled in the rope. Whatever happens, he is likely to be driven into further panic if he feels trapped. Therefore, the twine is *designed* to break in the event of the runner completely going berzerk."

Aeia stands beside Snowflake and looks at her students. "To prevent troubles such as these, be very careful when you groom. Make no sudden movements, and as you move about the runner, it is always a good idea to keep in contact with his body. A hand trailing along his back as you move towards his hind end lets him know exactly where you are, and makes him a lot less likely to be startled. Remember that with his head tied, he can't turn to look at you, so always let him know where you are and where you are going. When at his head, run your hands up the neck rather than just moving them through the air towards his face. When you are at his hind end, avoid crossing directly behind him, and when you do, make sure he knows you are there and that he doesn't mind." Her face turns dark, and she says softly, "Carelessness is more than just dangerous. It can be fatal. What happened to Wayen can happen to any one of us should we ever cease to be careful. Remember that." She lets the warning hang in the air for a moment, and then moves on, allowing the dark mood to dissipate.

She walks over and picks up a box from against the wall, moving it closer to Snowflake before putting it down. "If the runner has been outside, you'll want to begin with his hooves. Runners pick up stones and sticks when they are outside, and these can be harmful. Journeyman Matison will be giving a lecture on hoofpicking later, so we will skip it for now."

Aeia reaches into the box and draws out a flat, dark oval. She slips her hand through the strap on the back so that the oval rests in the palm of her hand. She holds the object out for people to see, revealing concentric raised ovals of bumps on the surface. "This is a curry comb," she explains, and turns to the filly, placing it bumps-down against the upper muscles of her neck. "You use this first, in a small, circular motion, pressing firmly against the runner. Because this is a very hard object, you don't want to use it in places where the runner is particularly bony, or particularly sensitive. Keep to the muscling on the upper part of the neck, the shoulders, the back on either side of the spine down to about halfway down the barrel, and the hindquarters. Press firmly as you use a sort of scrubbing motion. The purpose of this is to bring the dirt, loose hair, and oils to the surface of the coat."

Aeia then does as she says, scrubbing at the filly's neck and back with small, circular rubs. In the wake of the currycomb, brown dirt and loose hair appear on top of the light golden coat. After a few moments, she turns and knocks the comb against the wall, causing dust to fall out. "Hit it on the wall every few seconds to knock the dirt out," she mentions.

When she has finished, she picks up a brush from the box. It looks very similar to a brush for a human, but much larger and with no handle. She holds the wooden back, which is about eight inches long, and draws her fingers over the three-inch bristles. "This is a hard brush, or a dandy brush. You use this after the curry comb, making short, straight swipes with a little flick upwards at the end. The purpose is to use these firm bristles to brush off the majority of the dirt you have just brought to the surface." She turns to Snowflake and brushes her in firm strokes, using the flick upwards that she explained. The dirt begins to leave the tawny coat. "You need to clean this brush as you work, too, or it becomes ineffective. Therefore, keep your curry comb in your left hand-" and here she picks up the curry comb- "and every few strokes, scrape the two together to get the dirt off the brush." She puts her palms together and with a few quick swipes, creates a cloud of dust. She coughs a little and continues with the hard brush against Snowflake's hide. "Cover the same area you covered with the curry comb, removing as much dirt as you can."

When yellow coat is finally visible again, she stops. Putting down the hard brush, she picks up another one almost identical to it. "This is a soft brush, otherwise known as a body brush. And, true to its name, you can use this brush on the entire body. Clean the face, throat, legs, and stomach, as well as everything else you've already covered. On the main body, you're just polishing off the job, removing the last of the dirt and bringing out some of the natural oils in the coat. You should clean just about every outside surface, and during the summer, also check inside the ears for bugs. Gentle brushing in the ears with the soft brush can dislodge the scabs and eggs bugs leave behind. Your strokes now should be long and smooth, and you should continue to clean the brush every so often as you did before."

"You can also brush the mane and tail with the soft brush, pulling out the worst of the tangles with your fingers. For the tail, stand to one side of the runner and take the entire tail in your hand, pulling it to the side. Allow some of the hair to hang straight down, and brush that. Add a little bit of hair at a time, brushing the tangles out of each new set of strands, until you drop the entire tail.

"Now, if you've already done the hooves, you are finished. You can put your runner back in his stall, where you can be sure he'll lay down and get all dirty again instantly." She smiles. "Class dismissed."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License