How to Properly Bath and Groom Yearlings

“Yearlings require the proper nutrition, exercise, bathing and grooming” says 30 year breeding veteran Richard Schibell.  Fail in any of these areas and your yearling won’t meet its potential, especially in the context of the all-important sales ring.  Though a lovely coat is nowhere near as important as physical features and pedigree, a glossy shine that appeals to the eye really does make a powerful impression.  A yearling featuring a well-groomed coat will stand out from the rest of the crowd and generate plenty of attention.

Yearlings and Exposure to Light

Yearlings spend the majority of the day in barns so they are not exposed directly to the harsh sunlight.  This light has the potential to damage yearlings’ coats and diminish physical aesthetics.  Appearance is just about everything on sale day.  Horses are typically turned out in the evening hours around the time the sun is setting and subsequently brought in at sunrise.  This scheduling provides yearlings with enough time to venture out and about, grazing without compromising coat quality.

Proper Yearling Grooming

The majority of yearlings are groomed for about 45 minutes per day.  Grooming is centered on the removal of excessive hair that requires extensive brushing performed with a specialized curry comb.  This is an opportunity to teach yearlings ground manners that set the foundation for subsequent success across posterity.  Yearlings have the opportunity to learn patience as they are forced to stand for an extended period of time for tail grooming, feet picking and the treatment of scrapes.

Individualized attention is provided to certain yearlings’ manes.  The left side is particularly important as it is the side prospective buyers see.  Manes should fall to the right to permit the buyer to view the animal’s neck without visual interference.  Yearlings that have cowlicks or middle portions will require braids or bands so the mane remains on the proper side.  Yearlings are cleaned each day when exiting the walker yet they are not fully bathed more than once per week.  This bathing limit helps the coat retain its shine.  The animal’s mane is pulled and its ears are tended to ahead of the sale.

The Sale

The yearling remains barefoot all the way up until the week prior to the sale.  Once on the sale grounds, the animal is closely tended to to please potential buyers ready to perform their analysis.  All of the work detailed above pays considerable dividends once the hammer drops and the yearling heads off to a new home.

Richard Schibell has been breeding thoroughbred horses and racing them for well over 35 years. Stay up to date with our content by following the blog at!