LTR MULES: Musing on Mini Grooming



Since I now have 16 equines, 3 donkeys, 12 mules and a miniature horse, it is not always convenient to bring them all up to the Tack Barn work station for grooming. I used to have 32 equines! As I get older, I find myself a lot busier (One would think it would be the other way around…LOL!). I am glad I have less animals to groom each week! My show days have long since passed, so I limit the training to those who need core strength tune-ups and simple pleasure rides around the ranch. Forunately, my routine way of management and training resulted in good behaviors and a willingness to comply with my wishes. Sometimes, to save time, I just fill a bucket with my grooming tools (Plastic human hairbrush, Johnson’s Baby oil, clippers, Cool Lube, scissors for ergots, Neosporin and Tri-Tech 14 fly spray) and groom them in turnout areas, or in the stalls and runs. I call them to the gate, give them a reward for coming and begin my routine grooming.

I start by clipping their bridle paths in the summer and fall. This keeps them from getting over-heated. I will let their bridle paths grow out in the winter and spring to keep the warmth within their bodies. Grooming gives them great pleasure when it is done correctly and politely!

They are always rewarded for cooperating during grooming, so they hang around and don’t wander off. I even reward the ones in the neighboring pens to reinforce “handing out.” I always clean ears, eyes and nostrils, and will do this daily with donkeys that typically have runny eyes. It isn’t their favorite, but they will tolerate it for the crimped oats reward! They all like to SUPERVISE the grooming of each other! They are pretty funny! It makes our time together very enjoyable!

I use my multi-bristled, plastic human hairbrush both to apply the lightly-sprinkled Johnson’s baby oil AND to go over their bodies as they are shedding. It gets all the way to the roots, flips out the dirt, and promotes a well-aerated, healthy hair coat. When the coats are short, I can use a dandy brush, or bring them up for vacuuming with yearly baths in July.

A common practice is to braid manes and tails to get them to grow longer. I have found that this will often cause the hair to break. Plus, it is difficult for the animals to swat flies with braided manes and tails. Quite simply put, it hurts! I use Johnson’s Baby oil during weekly grooming, sprinkled in the manes and tails. It does a good job of protecting the hair and doesn’t get as greasy as you might think. The day before a show, I bathe them with water only over the body and scrape off the dirt with a shedding blade. I only use Tres Semme shampoo and Aussie #X conditioner in the manes and tails. If I am going to show them, I let the manes and tails partially dry and braid them for overnight. When you take out the braids the next day, their manes and tails will be much fuller! Even the thinner and wilder manes on mules will respond positively to this treatment.

Lots of my animals are older and have issues with runny eyes. If I am not showing them, I will “cut their bangs” to keep the hair from irritating their eyes. Even when showing, I can trim the bangs so they aren’t cut straight across and look funny.

The minis are much calmer when I try to stay down at their level whenever possible. I gather the excess hair and remove it from the areas where I groom. If they decide to eat it, it could cause impactions. Better to be safe than sorry!

Although they are all fine with fly spray, this time, I am going to take pictures for this article so I am haltering them and tying to the fence. Then I will just go down the line and fly spray them all at once. They are very willing to stand the way I position them for the pictures. When I am done, I release them! Grooming is FUN!!!

To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at Also, find Meredith on FacebookYouTube and Twitter.

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