What are quarter marks?
They are a great way to have fun with your horse while grooming!
Remember when you were a kid (like 15 years ago HA!), and you couldn’t wait for the chance to just groom and brush and groom and brush and have fun with your horse?? Well, I sort of stumbled upon a way to do this now, as an adult. All you need is one horse, a brush or two, and some water. And toss in some imagination, and ta-dah!! Some fun.
I’m talking about quarter marks - which are a way to personalize your horse’s bum with a pattern brushed into your horse’s hair. They seem to be a bit more popular overseas, as I have rarely see horses with them here in the US at dressage or jumping shows.
These are "Shark's Teeth" on the hindquarter.
Quarter marks are traditionally a few flashes, which are wide stripes that originate at the spine and come down over the top of the croup. Flashes are typically seen in hunters. For a hack or riding horse, you will find a checkerboard pattern on the croup. For eventing or dressage horses, flags, checks, and custom patterns are common. Along the flank you will sometimes find shark’s teeth below the croup design, or they may stand alone.
The basic flash, with shark's teeth below.
Quarter marks are designed to highlight your horse’s assets (ha ha) and maybe even detract from a less than stellar neck, for example. Most importantly, they are fun to do!
So - how do you “make” the quarter marks??
First, gather some “tools”. I like to use a super short and tight finishing brush to make flashes, shark’s teeth, and for use with any stencils. You can use a cheap, plastic barber shop comb cut to size for most other patterns, like the checkerboard. You also need a source of water, like a hose, sponge and bucket, or spray bottle. I personally just wet the finishing brush with the hose, shake off, and that’s about as much water as I need.
The purpose of using water is to make the hair easier to brush against it’s normal grain, which creates the pattern. You can also make your horse damp with a sponge and water, or use that spray bottle. I always seem to get too much water using those methods, but that may just be me.
For the flashes, just swipe your finishing brushes from the spine, downwards towards the ground. Most horses look fine with two or three evenly spaces swipes. Don’t worry about the “end” of the flash, as you will make one swipe with the brush WITH the hair growth so the ends of the flash are clean and uniform. So - in a nutshell, swipe from spine down, move your brush over, swipe from spine down, move your brush over, then swipe across!
For shark’s teeth - you may need to practice a bit (like me, who practiced a LOT…)
- Start by swiping a stripe from above the stifle to top of tail.
A short finishing brush makes lovely quartermarks.
- Your second swipe will be from about the hip to the bottom of the hamstring, this makes a V that is sideways (your first shark tooth.)
- Now swipe just below your first upwards swipe, following it’s line. Now swipe in the downwards motion, mimicking your first downward line, to create your second tooth.
This was super tricky for me to figure out, but once I got it, it was quite easy. (A true blonde) Luckily, if you “mess up”, you only have to brush the hair in the correct direction and start over.
For stencils, lay your stencil on the croup where it can be subtly seen. Too high, only birds can enjoy, too low and you won’t have room for your shark’s teeth! Use your finishing brush to run over the stencil. I find that short strokes work best! If your brushing gets carried away under the stencil, you can touch it up with your finger.
For a checkerboard, wet the hair on the croup where the design is going. Then, just comb in! I used a cut off end of a barber’s comb. I used the end that has the super close tines. Again, you can fix mistakes with your finger, or just brush out with a finishing brush.
Part of a barber's comb that can make checkerboards and other finely detailed designs.
Many Grooms will use a touch of hair spray or fly spray to “seal” the design, it’s up to you if you want to do this!