How do I introduce and use the vacuum on my horse?
The vacuum is one “luxury” item that every Groom can learn to love. Horses, too! I know lots of barns that have the horse model - big, blue, and heavy. Some barns use an adapted shop-vac, which are typically more affordable than the big blue models, and can swivel all over the place on handy wheels.
The advantage to having a vacuum is that it can replace some of your elbow grease if your horse is dusty and dirty. But first, you need to introduce your horse to it. I have known hundreds of horses that don’t even blink around the vacuum, and only one that was terrified of it, even when off and practically out of sight. We tried to get him used to it, but in the end it wasn’t worth it.
You can introduce the vacuum just as you would clippers - safely, slowly, and in steps, often times over a few days or weeks if needed. The vacuums have long hoses, so if your horse already is weary about cords and “snake” like things, be careful around the hose and your horse.
Hanging the vacuum tube is a great way to declutter your aisle.
Introduce the machine by simply letting your horse see it (turned off) while parked in the grooming area or barn aisle. You could then graduate to moving the nozzle and hose close to him, all the while reinforcing good behavior on his part. Have a friend hold him with a lead rope, skip the cross ties during this for safety.
Eventually you can work up to turning it on, and then turning it on when you are touching him with it. The sensation will be new, but his body language will tell you immediately his reaction. You may need to return to previous steps if he’s tense and tries to run away.
Again, have a friend help you as you introduce the vacuum. Also, I recommend turning him around in the cross ties to do the other side and NOT putting the hose over his back or pulling the machine and cord in front of him. This is disaster waiting to happen - even if he likes the vacuum he could get spooked from something else and get tangled in machine, hose, and cord.
It's good to have fun when you are working around horses. Grooms work long and hard, and sometimes you just need to get creative and have a good laugh with the vacuum instead of crying about how dirty your horse is.
When using the vacuum, there seem to be two types of vacuum users. Those that curry before, and those that don’t. I prefer to curry before, for a few reasons: massage, circulation stimulation, oil gland stimulation, dirt is lifted to the top, shedding hair is helped along, and most horses love it! Then the vacuum can zip up all that hair and dirt an dust. It’s also fun to see if you can write your horse’s name in the dust…. Ha ha ha!
You can watch your horse’s reaction to the vacuum and it’s different settings (most have two). More sensitive areas like the neck, flank, and belly do best on “low”. I could give you some weird pattern to work in, but really your horse will tell you if you are doing it right or not. You will follow up with a hard brush anyway, so, if you zig zag along it’s fine. I would not recommend using the vacuum on the face, ears, or legs. Even the belly is questionable, depends on the horse.
You may notice that on drier days, the vacuum creates a lot of static. You can nip this in the bud by using a damp cloth over your horse, you can spritz him with product or water, or you can just spritz some water from a spray bottle directly into the nozzle. (This is your best bet). You may need to do this a few times over the course of a vacuum session.
A canister vacuum - also a great choice.
For shop vac vacuums, you can use pool hose to create a longer connection between the nozzle and machine. Be sure to clean regularly away from the barn, as the hair and dust will create quite the storm. Save this chore for a non-windy day.
Spray some water in the nozzle for static shock reduction!
Can you live without your vacuum?