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Horse Illustrated Grooming Challenge Contest Results

The winner is revealed, plus editors' favorite picks.

December 2010 Extra

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We received hundreds of entries for the Horse Illustrated Grooming Challenge contest in our August 2010 issue. Thanks to all who entered—apparently, you aren’t afraid of a challenge! Dirt, mud and wild horses couldn’t keep you away. With so many great stories, it was tough for us to pick just one winner. But in hot pursuit of the grand prize, a grooming gift basket from Absorbine, we had to narrow down the field.

Editors’ Choice Awards

The following contestants captured our attention in various ways that we thought deserved some recognition. These editors’ choice winners will all receive a one-year Horse Illustrated subscription or renewal:

Best Photo


2010 HI Grooming Challenge Best Photo


Alexa Shirey and Dakota
Alexa submitted this great shot of her Welsh Pony, Dakota. “Believe it or not, there IS a pony under all of that hair!” she says. This grooming challenge speaks for itself, and we wish Alexa the best of luck.

Best Before and After


2010 HI Grooming Challenge Best Before


2010 HI Grooming Challenge Best After


Grace DeFelippis and Treasure
In her entry, Grace told us about multiple grooming challenges in one Percheron-size package. That’s a lot of surface area to keep clean.

“Treasure is a white Percheron mare who presents a multitude of grooming challenges every day,” writes Grace. “Her white coat is a magnet for dust and dirt, while her thick mane and tail always seem to be stained yellow. She also has feathery feet which constantly get clumped with mud. To make matters worse, Treasure has an affinity for mud puddles. She enjoys nothing more than rolling around in them, grinding the mud deep into her coat. She is not satisfied until she has covered every inch of her white coat with brown. Brushing and currying can take care of most of the dirt and dust patches found on her from day to day. Multiple baths with tons of shampooing and scrubbing are needed after one of her mud baths. Even after all of this grooming, an hour later another dirt patch will appear on her coat.”

We love Treasure’s before and after photo. Great job on the clean-up, Grace!

Best Product Endorsement

2010 HI Grooming Challenge Best Product Endorsement


Chris King and Dazzle
Chris King, who became a first time horse owner at the age of 50-plus, got a crash course in equine beauty school. With a little help from some friends and generous use of Absorbine products, Chris discovered that a sunbleached pasture puff can indeed become a dazzling show horse.

“My friends who own and show horses found a horse that needed a good home. They had trained Dazzle in the past, but for the last five years the horse had been a lawn ornament. I went to see Dazzle and I liked her, but was concerned that she did not have that polished look like my friends’ show horses. Although my friends assured me I could make her beautiful, I didn’t see how I could change her from sunbleached and matted into a show ring beauty. However, Dazzle came home with me and my learning began.

“I started to brush her matted mane, and it was so brittle it broke off in tiny pieces. Concerned, I researched products that could moisturize and repair the damage and found Absorbine's ShowSheen Moisturizing Detangler. Using this product I managed to only lose a small amount of very damaged hair. I use it every week to moisturize and repair her sun damaged mane.

“Dazzle’s body was so sunbleached, I didn’t even know what color she was supposed to be,” shares Chris. Daily currying and brushing, along with weekly application of Absorbine Show Sheen Finishing Mist, was their grooming strategy. Cleaning up Dazzle’s “chrome” was another challenge.

“I thought the stains on her white stockings would never come out. With extreme frustration I turned to the Absorbine family of products for help. I found Show Sheen Mane and Tail Whitener. After using this product all the stains disappeared in a hurry, “ reports Chris. But the problems didn’t stop there.

“The farrier informed me that Dazzle's hooves were dry and flaking off easily. Now I needed to find a hoof conditioner to balance the moisture in Dazzle's hooves,” says Chris. “Once again, Absorbine had a product for us-- Hooflex. I am using this whole collection of Absorbine products to improve all aspects of Dazzle's care. After only a month, Dazzle looks 100 percent healthier and more beautiful. In a few weeks Dazzle and I will enter our first halter class at a local horse show. We are now ready thanks to the help of so many wonderful Absorbine products!”

Chris did a fantastic job with a grooming challenge, making sure Dazzle lives up to her name. (We also thought our contest sponsors at Absorbine would also appreciate Chris’ loyal use of their product.)

Mane Event

Nothing is worse than a bad hair day, be it horse or human. Many of your grooming challenges had to do with high maintenance hair. Here are two tales that we found compelling, on both the long and short side.

2010 HI Grooming Challenge Best Mane


Breanna Baker and Greta Golightly
Breanna and her horse Greta Golightly, a Swedish Warmblood/Quarter Horse cross that she describes as “sweet and quirky,” experienced some growing pains in their first year together.

“When I first got Greta, her mane had been roached from when she was a polo pony. As it grew out, it went all over the place and was known around the stable as her ‘caterpillar mane’ because it looked like a grey fuzzy caterpillar was growing on her neck. I had to wait about nine months for it to grow out, and it didn’t get any prettier!”

The real work began as Breanna tried to get Greta’s mane under control. “Greta has zero tolerance for the traditional pulling method, so that option did not work. I ended up using a SoloComb to shorten and thin it, and braiding with lots of QuicBraid to flatten her incredibly stubborn mane. It would be flat one day and then back to the way it was the next morning. It was very tempting at times to just roach the entire mane off again! As of now, almost all of it falls over to the left side, except for a small section at the top. It has been a very painstaking process, but she looks beautiful and her mane will be much easier to braid for dressage shows. As with anything involving horses, patience always pays off.”

2010 HI Grooming Challenge Best Mane


Staci Sperandeo
Staci Sperandeo sums up her mane challenge by the numbers: “One foot of forelock and 30 inches of mane. Need I say more?” Staci reveals her horse’s routine “mane-tenance” schedule requires at least an hour of washing, detangling, and braiding.

Most Unusual Grooming Challenges

Not all grooming challenges are as tame as merely managing mud and manes. For a mustang fresh off the range and a horse rescued from a sinkhole, grooming is a footnote to a bigger story.

2010 HI Grooming Challenge Most Unusual Grooming


Lara Matthias and Buddy
Lara Matthias adopted a wild Mustang and took on all of the challenge that entails. Making contact was the first hurdle she faced with the untamed (and ungroomed) 2-year old gelding she named Buddy. For Lara, grooming was not just a chore but an important part of the process in gentling and bonding with Buddy:

“Buddy was a pretty dirty horse considering he hadn’t been touched, let alone brushed by a human. Once I could touch him my goal was to try to just rub all that dirt off of him and untangle his mane,” shares Lara. “Within the first two hours Buddy had come up to me and let me pet him, so that was a start. By the second day, I was able to rub all the dirt off him with my hands. Not only was he getting clean, but he also was getting used to me this way. Buddy and I have made a lot of progress already in our first month. I can already halter him and I’m introducing him to brushes so I can groom him for real.”

Diane Langdon and Hickory
On New Year’s Eve of 2008, Diane Langdon received word from the barn where her 36-year-old Appaloosa, Hickory, was boarded that the horse had fallen into a sinkhole.

The only part of him that was not submerged in the muddy quicksand was his head. Fortunately, firefighters and volunteers with a backhoe were able to free Diane’s horse after several hours of hard work. Once Hickory was safely out of the sinkhole, the grooming challenge began.

“Hickory had mud and ice caked on his legs, and his tail was one chunk of brown ice. His mane was also a row of brown icicles,” says Diane. “We took buckets of hot water to try to remove as much mud as possible, and had to towel him dry since the temperature was in the single digits. The following day, we curried, blow-dried, brushed, combed, ShowSheened and toweled Hickory to get my friend back to his normal white and gray color.”

Today, Diane reports that Hickory is still around and still gets covered in dirt and mud any time he possibly can. “He is a local hero and is well-known as the ‘sinkhole horse’ thanks to the local news. It is comforting to know that at his old age he still enjoys a good roll in the dirt.”

Congratulations to Diane and Hickory for surviving and cleaning up after their ordeal. In addition to the grooming challenge, we think Hickory’s story qualifies as a true miracle on ice.

Best Mudders

2010 HI Grooming Challenge Best Mudders


Jennifer Hudock and Sassy
If you haven’t seen enough mud yet, Jennifer Hudock and her Quarter Horse Sassy can add another layer of depth with their story.

New horse owner Jennifer Hudock took on a challenge with a young rescue horse. “I had never owned a horse, and she had never known what it was like to be cared for,” reports Jennifer. “There were so many things to learn, with grooming being one of the most important. I was learning proper grooming techniques while Sassy was learning to stand still!”

Five months into their relationship Sassy decided that it was time to put Jennifer’s developing grooming skills to the test. “One warm April day, Sassy found the muddiest corner of her paddock and decided that she needed to take a roll (more like a swim) in it. The only area of her body that was not drenched in wet, heavy mud was a strip down the middle of her face. She appeared to be quite proud of her accomplishment,” shares Jennifer. “Unfortunately, we did not have an indoor wash rack and it was still too cold outside to connect a hose. The mud was so thick that I could barely move it with a towel. I had to simply let it dry! When I returned to the barn the next day she looked like she was wearing a coat of armor. The mud had literally dried rock hard. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the task in front of me. It took a lot of grooming, over several days, to finally remove all of the dried mud, but I did it--laughing the entire time”

However, the process was well worth it to Jennifer, who says, “My beautiful little Sassy has not only provided me with my greatest grooming challenge; she also provides me with an abundance of laughter, learning and love.”

And the Winner is…
For the winner of the grand prize grooming gift basket from Absorbine and our 10 ShowSheen winners, click here.

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Horse Illustrated Grooming Challenge Contest Results

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Reader Comments

Eliza    Marne, MI

11/28/2010 2:19:48 PM

wow they havent seen muddy until they've seen my Norwegian Fjord!!!

Susan    hallsville, MO

11/5/2010 3:08:16 PM

Curls are always a challenge especially when the mane rolls into horsey dreadlocks. I find that carefull hand combing first to seperate the hairs is the no pull way to fix it then a good human hair brush works wonders. For the bashkirs curls try a good dog slicker brush made for long haired dogs or a detangler. they work wonders and do not pull or pinch.

Emily    Cedar City, UT

11/1/2010 7:29:01 AM

love the fluffy pony!!

Horselover    Somewhere, CO

10/24/2010 5:01:39 PM

Very interesting to see- I wish to comments better matched up with the descriptions

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