How To Introduce Grooming To A Young Or Nervous Horse

Below is a list steps in order to safely and positively progress a horse through the process of learning to be groomed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: To teach a horse how to accept and relax while being groomed requires that the person teaching the process is calm and confident around the horse.  The horse will be relying on the teacher to be relaxed and competent in teaching the task!



Ensure the horse is familiar and comfortable with the yard or area you will be grooming the horse in.

A secure yard free from obstacles with safe fencing is ideal.

Spend time in the yard with the horse just allowing the horse to investigate the space.

Give the horse some hay or bucket food and water and allow the horse to spend some time alone in the yard but can still see other horses or his paddock buddies.

This step will be complete when the horse can confidently and calmly relax and stand still with you in the yard and eat by itself happily.  When complete you can move on to adding step 2.


Introduce the horse to the grooming brushes, kit or bucket that you keep everything in.

Do not tie the horse up even if they are used to being tied up, instead hold the lead rope short but not tight with a soft sag so that the horse cannot step over the lead and get caught up.

Encourage the horse to move toward the brush kit/bucket that is either on the ground or hanging from a post.  Invite the horse to move closer, look at it, sniff it and stand by it.  Keep offering encouragement to the horse to keep checking it out until he can comfortably stand still by it and not be bothered.

Once the horse gets the idea, use a spot close to the grooming kit as the place the horse must stand at, you can mark the spot with a cone to help the horse understand where his place is.  If the horse moves, bring him patiently back to the spot or cone to stand.

When the horse can stand still relaxing by the grooming kit you can move onto step 3.


If the horse has never been touched very much, you will need to firstly introduce the horse being touched all over.

Use a long rigid stick to do this, it keeps you out of kicking range if the horse objects in a particular area, giving you the space to remain safe.

Touch the horse on a small area of his body standing at the side of the horse, some horses prefer the initial place to be a front foot or others prefer the neck.  Be guided by your intuition and experiment. Keep the initial touches short and sweet and rest a minute before trying again.  Don’t overwhelm the horse with too much too soon.

If one area is going well leave it and change sides.  Do a little bit each day about 5 minutes and before long you will be able to touch the horse all over.

If the horse is okay with being touched all over, you can introduce the horse to each brush, letting him reach out to sniff it, bite it and explore it.

Once the horse is satisfied the brush is okay, proceed with a gentle brush stroke down the neck.  Stop and check in with the horse.

If the horse at any time moves away go back to step 2, take the horse back to the spot by the grooming bag and start again.  If the horse is agitated with the brush go back to either touching with the stick or your hand.

Reintroduce the brush to the horse and brush where you first brushed. This part is important to remember because it’s the place the horse accepted and is familiar with.

Make sure to choose a soft body brush.

Once the horse can stay still and relax with a few brush strokes move on further along the horses body and legs. Use the same technique when touching a new part of the horse’s body for the first time, one brush stroke, stop and check in with the horse.

Slowly keep expanding on this while monitoring that the horse is okay with what you are doing.  For example, the first day you may manage 3 brush strokes on each side of the neck with the horse relaxing and standing still. The next day you may be able to add brushing the shoulders and the third day the front legs.   The fourth day use the soft body brush to brush the mane.

Remember if the horse moves, don’t chase them with the brush and start brushing again where the horse stops.  Instead go back to step two and take the horse immediately back to stand by the grooming bag before you start brushing again.

By building on the areas you can brush slowly and progressively with the horse standing still, the horse will accept and relax being groomed and develop trust with the human.