Monday, June 30, 2014

Why are stomach aches in horses so bad?

Colic. It's a word no horse person wants to hear, but laymen often respond with "Colic? Isn't that just a tummy ache."

Horses are unusual amongst large grazing animals in that they are not ruminants. They are what we call "hind gut fermenters."

A horse has a small stomach and a massive gut. The small intestine is 50 to 70 feet long. The large intestine has three sections - the four foot long cecum that actually performs the task of digesting high cellulose food such as grass, the 10 to 12 feet long large colon and 10 to 12 feet long small colon. So, in total, a horse's gut can be as much as 98 feet long!

And, horses are unable to vomit or burp. Any gas that forms in that massive length of gut can only go one way - backwards. Because of this, when a horse gets gas it's much more painful...and long-lasting...than when we get gas. The most common cause of colic in horses is gas, but it's really unpleasant for the horse and we often give them a pain reliever such as banamine. Some horses get gas colic every spring without fail - highly annoying for their owners!

However, because of that vast length of gut and the very complicated system, horses are also prone to "torsion" or a "twisted gut." This means part of the intestine has gotten tangled around another part, which can result in cut off circulation and the death of part of the gut - which is an emergency surgery situation. A twisted gut can easily kill a horse. Because of this, colic is always a veterinary emergency in horses. Colic can also be a result of simple "impaction" - otherwise known as constipation, but it's always desirable to check.

The three other things that can cause abdominal pain in horses are:

1. Sand colic. On very sandy soils, horses can ingest sand along with the grass they're eating, which can then cause an impaction. Psyllium is fed as a supplement to "ball up" the sand and help it pass through the gut.

2. Stomach ulcers. These are seen most often in competition horses and are so common in racehorses that many trainers just give ulcer meds to every horse rather than checking for them.

3. Female symptoms. Mares in heat can get, well...that thing so many human women dread about "that time of the month."

A horse with colic will tend to be off their feed, they will be restless and may kick or look at their sides. They might pace, lie down and get up repeatedly or roll. They often also sweat up. Note that this behavior is also seen in mares about to give birth.

Traditionally, horses with colic were walked because it was believed that would help remove any impaction and because it was (wrongly) believed that a twisted gut was caused by a colicky horse rolling. These days, there's some disagreement on that, but if you're writing anything set before about the 80s or in a secondary fantasy world, then walking a horse with colic would probably be standard.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Why Don't We Just Use Our Voice?

Training and working with horses involves all kinds of equipment - including a bit and bridle. One question often asked is - why do we need this? Why don't we just train them to voice the way we do dogs?

Answer: Dogs and horses have a key difference.

Dogs have a dedicated part of the brain for understanding vocal communication. Horses don't. This is reflected in the fact that you can't change an adult dog's name - the dog won't cooperate. You can change a horse's name. They don't care.

It is very easy to teach a dog to come when called or whistled. It is possible to teach this to a horse, but it's a lot harder, and some of them never get it. Natural verbal/vocal signals in horses are pretty much limited to "I'm here, where are you" and "Hi." Domestic horses may also vocalize in order to get the attention of humans, having worked out that it's effective.

Horses are trained using some very simple verbal commands, especially draft horses. "Whoah" or "Ho" is a universal that I've heard used by speakers of all different languages. Teamsters use "Gee" and "Haw" to turn. And some school horses learn the names of the gaits and respond to them. They aren't incapable of understanding verbal communication. But while an intelligent dog can develop a working vocabulary of 2-300 words, I have yet to encounter a horse that could understand more than a dozen - Whoah, Walk On, Trot, Can-ter, Gee, Haw and perhaps their name.

So, right, that means dogs are smarter?

Not at all. I'm looking, right now, at the current Grand Prix dressage test. It contains about 30 different actions the horse is requested to take by the rider. That's thirty "words" just to do that one test, and the horse already knows a bunch of actions that are done only at lower levels. On top of that, a trained dressage horse knows a lot of "fine tuning" like "would you please lower your head a touch" or "step under yourself with the right hind a little more."

On top of that, horses have a rich social life with friendships, enmity, socialization.

The thing is - they are simply not verbal. All of a horse's natural communication except for a few signals for when they get out of sight of each other is based off of body language and touch. A horse can't understand what you're saying to him, but he knows what kind of mood you're in right away. (And they distinguish sounds very well - I once worked at a barn that had 60-70 head of ponies that mostly ran out on 80 acres. When the vet's car pulled up, every one of those ponies was in the far end of the field within, oh, seconds. And only the vet's car...)

But because horses are non-verbal, they're often thought of as less intelligent than dogs. I don't think that's true.

For world-building purposes, maybe somebody has bred a breed of horse that's more verbal than others? There are certainly ways to explain a culture that trains horses to voice alone, but it wouldn't be normal.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Do Flies Bother Horses?

I'm nursing an "injury" right now. Stupidest thing. Last week I was riding and was apparently bitten by a horse fly.

This is a rare occurrence - I usually get "got" about once a year - horse flies generally don't care for the taste of omnivore blood. And today I was in the doctor's...the bite got infected and now I have a seven day course of antibiotics to look forward to.

So. Flies and horses. Horses attract biting flies and insects including mosquitos. Horse flies are in the family Tabanidae and are biting flies. The females feed on blood to get extra protein for reproduction (as with most biting insects, only the ladies are dangerous).

And yes, horses are very much bothered by flies, sometimes to the point of accidentally tossing their rider. Fly repellents of various sorts have been used for generations. Horses will kick, buck and bite to get rid of flies. Flies also carry diseases - swamp fever, west nile virus, etc. So, applying fly repellent to horse and rider is part of the routine.

Fly masks are also sometimes used on horses, both for turnout and riding. These masks are mesh and cover the horse's eyes. The "ear covers" you might see on competition horses are also for fly protection, as are the fringes that drop down from them or from a browband - aimed at keeping flies out of the horse's eyes. It's for the comfort of the horse - and the protection of the rider.

And, as I'm being unpleasantly reminded right now, you don't want to get bitten.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When Were Bits Invented?

Like the domestication of the horse itself - we aren't sure. In fact, our primary evidence for the early date of equine domestication is horse skulls with teeth marks that indicate some kind of bit was being used - with a date of around 4000 BC. We know for sure bits were in use by 3000 BC.

The earliest bit was probably a bit of rope, but we aren't sure when somebody thought of putting it in the horse's mouth as opposed to around the nose and worked out this was generally more effective. And, of course, we don't know how long people were riding or driving horses before they thought of it. Until 1300 BC, bits were made of rope, born, horn or even wood. In 1300 BC, bronze bits came into use.

As a note, nickel was a favored metal for bits in the 19th and early 20th century, but was mostly replaced by stainless steel in the 1940s. (However, nickel bits do sometimes show up, and can be associated with problems such as allergic reactions).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Do Grey Horses Get Cancer?

Yes, actually, they do.

To be more precise, grey horses are at higher risk than other colors for melanoma. This is because the greying mechanism locks melanin out of the hairs and concentrates it in the skin. If you look at a grey horse close up and part the hairs, you'll see that its skin is black or very close to. Most horses have medium to dark grey skin. (Pink skin is seen on highly dilute horses and under white markings). (A few grey horses also have skin that lightens with age).

However, "Grey horse melanoma" is generally not serious. Yes, it's cancer, but it grows slowly and seldom spreads beyond the skin. It is most often found under and around the base of the tail, but is also seen around the genitalia, lips and eyelids. In some cases, these lumps may be surgically removed (especially on harness horses where they can interfere with placement of the crupper). However, the vast majority don't spread and don't even seem to bother the animal.

Rarely, however, grey horse melanoma can become malignant. They may spread into the lymph nodes and lungs. It can be hard to predict, and rate of growth is generally the only way to tell the difference.

The cancers generally show up in horses that are older, at least 15 years old. If grey horses happen to be prized in your culture, then "age lumps" might be a thing that would be discussed. Melanoma does also show up in non-grey horses, but is much less common.

(A dapple grey Quarter Horse mare).

Monday, June 23, 2014

What is a coggins test?

If you look through horse ads in the United States, you'll see "negative Coggins" on a lot of them.

The "Coggins test" is an antibody test for Equine Infectious Anemia. This is an unpleasant disease that's sometimes called horse/equine malaria or swamp fever. It's transmitted by biting flies and is a viral infection. (It can also be transmitted by using contaminated needles or surgical equipment). It's called the Coggins test, after its inventor, Leroy Coggins. (There are also other tests, but they are more likely to result in false positives).

It's endemic in the Americas, some parts of Europe, the Middle and Far East, Russia, and South Africa. (It is not known in Australia or the United Kingdom).

EIA can be fatal in the acute form. Horses that have chronic EIA can recover, but remain infectious their entire lives. Many horses remain asymptomatic carriers or have infrequent "episodes" of illness. Coggins testing is conducted every twelve months (sometimes more often in horses that are at particularly high risk).

Positive horses are almost always euthanized, although pregnant mares may be kept alive long enough to deliver - although transmission through the placenta is known, it's rare). If the horse is kept alive, it can never be allowed within 200 yards of another horse as long as it lives - and most horsemen consider euthanasia a more humane option for these highly social animals. Also, in most of the United States, vets have the option of ordering euthanasia and not allowing the quarantine option.

Symptoms of acute EIA are fever, depression, anemia and loss of muscle tone and condition - but other diseases can present the same way, so an antibody test is normally performed.

All racetracks and most showing organizations in the United States require a negative Coggins test. Transporting a horse long distances (across state or country lines) except for slaughter also requires negative Coggins, as does sale by auction.

There's currently no EIA vaccine, but a lot of work is being done on it. And, of course, if you're operating in the past, the Coggins test was only developed in 1970 and approved in 1973. (In fact, Leroy Coggins only died in February of this year). So in your historical fiction or fantasy, "swamp fever" could be used if you need an equine epidemic - maybe to make somebody desperate to find healthy horses...

Depending on the level of knowledge, your characters might take anti-EIA precautions - which can be as simple as using a lot of fly spray.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How Do We Get Them To Do What We Want?

I've had non-horse people stare at me when they see a 130 (barely) pound woman dealing with a 1400 pound equine and apparently having perfect control over him.

"How do you make him behave?"

Of course, really, no human can "make" a horse do anything it doesn't want to. Horses can withdraw their consent to be ridden at any time - something that's happened at least once to any long-term rider. Getting "tossed" is an occupational hazard.

But most of the time, these huge animals do indeed do exactly what their handlers ask them to. How?

The answer is several-fold.

1. We've bred these animals for many generations to be tame. Horses that aren't compliant are simply not bred - or in some cases shot and eaten. (And believe me, I've met a couple I would cheerfully have added to my dinner plate).

2. Horses are highly social animals. Unlike dogs, they are not motivated directly by food - horses don't give each other food in nature the way many carnivores do. What they are motivated by is approval (and they can indeed learn that a cookie means approval). If you watch videos of riders you will notice praise being given to horses frequently - because it works.

3. Horses have been bred and conditioned to see humans as above them in the "herd hierarchy." They may challenge that - some more than others - but ultimately they feel secure and happy when they know their place and who is in charge. Which is why you will sometimes see what seem to be harsh techniques being used. If you have a dominant but mentally healthy horse and you kick their butt once, they won't fear you afterwards, they will respect and like you.

The short version is, we get them to do what we want through a combination of dominance and approval that works with horse psychology to convince a horse he wants to do what we want. And, in some cases, by making what we want them to do into a fun game.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Can Horses Catch The Flu?


Horses can, indeed, catch the flu. The symptoms are pretty much the same as flu in humans - coughing, a runny nose, and a high temperature. (If horses get body aches with the flu, they can't tell us, but it's likely).

Equine influenza is highly contagious, but almost never jumps into humans (It's far less likely to than avian or swine flu). It did, however, cause an epidemic in the American south a few years back when a strain of equine influenza jumped the species barrier into dogs.

Most working horses in modern times are vaccinated against influenza. The vaccine is administered yearly and, unlike in humans, is normally given in the early spring. This is because the high risk period for horses is not the winter but the active show season when horses from different barns mingle. Racehorses, which are at particularly high risk, are normally vaccinated every six months.

Treatment is about the same as for humans - the animal should be isolated from other horses and allowed to rest. If fever is bad, medication may be given to bring the horse's temperature down. Horses with respiratory symptoms may also be given cough syrup (yes, there is horse cough syrup). A more traditional remedy that might be seen in a medieval barn is "steaming" a horse. This process involves grabbing a couple of handfuls of hay and putting them in a water bucket, then half filling the bucket with boiling water. You then hold the horse's nose above the bucket - this clears out the sinuses. I was taught this method as recently as the 1980s and would still use it if I had a horse with a runny nose. (It's also effective on humans).

Mares with respiratory illness are likely to miscarry if early in pregnancy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a skin condition that's not uncommon in horses. It causes circular patches of hair to fall out. The infection then spreads outwards and the hair grows back in the center, hence the name.

Ringworm is caused by one of a number of species of fungus. It is highly contagious - it's not unknown for the entire barn to get it, sometimes before handlers realize a single horse is infected.

Left untreated, ringworm generally goes away in a few weeks, but horses can be re-infected and continue to infect each other. In modern times, it's generally treated with an anti-fungal wash (it's not uncommon to have to try two or more) which is applied after thorough cleaning. Severe cases may receive oral medication.

Ringworm can be transmitted to other animals, including humans, so handlers wear disposable gloves when treating it. (The treatment for humans is the same as for horses).

In lower tech levels, ringworm (see the name) is probably mistaken for some kind of parasite and its contagious nature may or may not be known. It's highly annoying but seldom serious.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What Is Thrush?

Thrush is a common bacterial or fungal disease that generally affects the sole of a horse's foot. (It is a different pathogen from the one which normally causes thrush in humans).

Thrush is most commonly found in horses that are stalled for extended periods of time, especially in moist or humid conditions. The best prevention is to keep stalls clean and avoid using deep bedding unless the situation warrants it (and to turn out as much as possible).

It's treated with thorough cleaning - often involving a bath in Lysol dilution or mild dish washing detergent). A topical bactericide or fungicide might also be used. Thrush generally takes a couple of weeks to clear up.

Thrush is not directly contagious from animal to animal and, contrary to popular belief, is also not contagious from animal to human. (I'll talk about some conditions that you can catch from a horse in the future).

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why do some horse people refuse to use barb wire fencing?

I'm actually going to have an opinion on this one - but I'll try to present the facts.

Barb wire or "bob wire" is wire fencing with points on it. The idea is that animals will respect it after touching it once (electric fencing, of course, works on a similar concept).

Barb wire is often the only thing that will stop cattle, who tend to walk right over fences. However, many people say it should never be used with horses. Others state boldly that they've used it for years or decades without a problem.

The problem comes in the psychological difference between horses and cows. A cow that gets stuck in a fence will wait patiently for somebody to get it unstuck. Most horses will panic if they get stuck. That means that they can cut themselves up very badly indeed on barb wire.

The people who have no problem? Horses rarely get themselves stuck in fences (although I do know one mare who managed to injure herself severely twice in six months on the fence - which was board fencing). They respect fencing so, yes, it's possible to have a herd in barb wire for 40 years with no accidents.

However, the accidents tend to be more serious when they do happen. I personally would never use barb wire with horses (unless co-grazing with cattle, in which case the risk of the cows getting out would be more serious). But I'm not going to tell people more than that I don't approve of it. I've had a tangle with a barb wire fence myself and was lucky not to need stitches, so...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

When Did Horse Racing Start?

Honestly, we don't know. Likely not long after the first person sat on a horse's back. Humans have raced everything else - including themselves - to the point where it appears to be a natural human desire.

The Romans raced horses both under saddle and in harness. Chariot racing was a particularly popular (and dangerous) sport - its spiritual descendants include modern harness racing and the rodeo chuck wagon race (which is also quite dangerous). Hippodromes were present in most major cities. We also know that chariot and bareback racing were included in the original Olympics (horse racing is not part of the modern Olympic games, but some equestrian events are).

It's likely that organized horse racing also took place in China and Japan, and likely in North Africa and the Middle East - certainly horse racing is a popular sport in the modern Middle East, where Arabians and Thoroughbreds are both raced.

We also know racing took place in Medieval England and that professional jockeys were working as early as the 11th or 12th century - with the first recorded race for a purse happening somewhere between 1189 and 1199.

Modern racing started in the 17th century with the King's Plates in England and racing for betting in France. In 1664 the first racehorse in the United States was set up on Long Island. As importance increased, the modern Thoroughbred was developed.

Harness racing, on the other hand, developed out of match races between farmers, with the Dales Cob being the oldest known breed bred specifically for harness racing at the trot (it has long since been eclipsed by the modern Standardbred). These races took place at the trot or pace because they were originally conducted using the same vehicles farmers took their goods to market in. The modern Standardbred was refined in the US, but is now regularly seen in Europe.

What Weird Terms Might You Hear On The Racetrack?

Because I'm on a slang roll, here are some fun terms you might hear on the racetrack.

Backstretch - refers to both the side of the racehorse away from the grandstands and to the track stables. Backside is also sometimes used for the stables.
Front stretch - the side of the racehorse next to the grandstands.
Blue Light Special - a horse that the owner paid next to nothing for that turns out to be a stakes winner.
Black type - a stakes winner or placed horse in a horse's pedigree.
Pony - a horse used to lead a racehorse to the start (US only - other countries expect the racehorses to go to the start on their own)
Nickel-bred - poorly bred or common.
Sprinter - a horse that prefers shorter distances
Router - a horse that prefers longer distances
Furlong - an eighth of a mile, commonly used to measure horse races
Place - to come second
Show - to come third
Across the board - a bet on a horse to win, place, or show
Added money - a purse is normally made up out of the money paid in entry fees. If somebody donates more money, it's "added money."
Allowance - a race with certain conditions. Most races are allowances.
Apprentice - a novice or inexperienced jockey.
Bug - a slang term for an apprentice
Baby race - a race for two-year-olds
Bat - whip (also used by stadium jumpers)
Breakdown - a potentially career-ending injury. The horse "broke down in training."
Claiming - in a claiming race, all of the entries are for sale at a designated price.
Distaff - a female horse
Flat race - any race with no jumps in it, as opposed to steeplechase or hurdle races
Maiden - a horse that has never won a race
Prep race - a race a horse is entered into not with the plan of winning, but to ensure fitness for a different race.
Silks - the colorful jacket and cap worn by jockeys
Shedrow - the stable area
Sloppy - muddy

And that's just a few of them - the racing industry has its own entire language.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What colorful words are used to refer to horses?

Horses are so important to human history that it's no wonder English speakers have come up with all sorts of interesting terms to refer to them. Especially in Britain. Here are just a few:

Gigi or GG
Hay burner
Mr. Ed (from the TV show)
Beast or beastie
Money pit
Bottle of sauce (Cockney rhyming slang)

And those are just the ones for ordinary horses. Here are a few colorful terms for "useless" horses:

Moose (usually for a big, clumsy horse)
Meat horse

(And any variant on the first and last. I remember growing up angry riders threatening to send their horse "to the hunt" - which I think needs no explanation).

Oh, and a longears is a mule (or sometimes a donkey).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What is a "bombproof" horse?

A bombproof horse is the opposite of a spooky one. The term comes from military training and cavalry horses being taught not to spook at explosions.

True bombproof horses are very rare (I've only known a couple). Any horse will spook given enough provocation, even old reliable pony ride ponies.

"Bombproofing" is another term for desensitization training - these days it's mostly done by show people and also by mounted police, and involves exposing the horse to all kinds of scary things in a controlled environment until it settles down and realizes they aren't so scary.

Monday, June 9, 2014

What is a "spooky" horse?

Horses are flight animals that startle somewhat easily. When a horse startles while being worked, we say the horse has spooked (US) or shied (UK).

A spooky horse is one that is prone to startling or spooking more easily than others - it's obviously considered a negative trait. A spooky horse will startle at the silliest of things such as, for example, its own shadow, your trainer's bright pink shirt, the click of a camera, etc.

Spooky horses are generally put through some kind of desensitization training to make them less spooky - people can fall off when a horse spooks badly enough, especially if they're less experienced.

Another related term is "looky" - when the horse doesn't startle or spook, but easily gets distracted by things that are going on and starts looking at them not, say, where it's going.

Some spooky horses may actually have anxiety disorders and in extreme situations might even benefit from medication.

Friday, June 6, 2014

What does "eat the dirt" mean?

To "eat the dirt" is one of the colorful euphemisms riders sometimes use for falling off. Around a barn you might well hear stories where somebody says "I ate the dirt." or "I really thought I was going to end up eating the dirt."

Other colorful euphemisms for falling off include:

Going "out the door" - sometimes specified as the "front," "side" or "rear" door.

Doing or making an "involuntary dismount."

"Chewing gravel" is sometimes used in the west, with similar implications to "eating dirt."

Jumpers may mention "jumping the fence without the horse" - which is self-explanatory.

And if it's the horse's fault?

You got "thrown," "tossed," "dumped," "bronced," "dusted," "grassed," or "busted off."

A "wreck" is sometimes used by western (and some American English riders) to refer to a situation where both horse and rider fell, or where injuries resulted from a bad situation such as a horse getting stuck or taking an uneven or unstable trail. (I've also heard that some cowboys use this to refer to a fall caused by the horse being crazy, but not the ones I know).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What is "mechanical" lameness?

"It's just mechanical lameness."

Mechanical lameness is an alteration or hitch in a horse's gait that's caused by a physical problem with the joints rather than by pain. A horse with a mechanical lameness is often usable with some limitations, but has to be treated carefully as sometimes the gait unevenness can cause problems in the back or with one of the other limbs.

Such horses, however, would not be up to hard work and a war horse or a modern show horse with a mechanical lameness is generally retired. (In any case, modern show horses have to look sound to be shown). They tend to end up being used to train riders or for light trail riding.

However, the key factor with mechanical lameness is that the horse is not, in fact, in pain and working them is not in any way cruel. It's generally caused by damage to a joint that has caused smaller bones in the joint to fuse, restricting motion.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What is feather?

Horses don't have feathers...right?

Actually, depending on the breed, they do. Feather is long hair that covers a horse's lower legs and hooves. It is seen in draft breeds and also in cobs and most of the "native" northern European breeds.

Feather is seen on horses that are adapted to cold weather, so its purpose is probably just what you would think - to keep the horse's feet warm.

Some people trim feather off. It's most common to do this if a horse only has a little bit of feather - sometimes pony crosses or draft crosses may have just a bit of straggly hair at the back of their leg that generally doesn't look good. Others trim it off in summer when it's warm and let it grow in winter.

Draft horses are supposed to have feather and draft show grooms spend a lot of time brushing it out and sometimes washing it (especially on Shires and Clydesdales, that generally have white legs) to make it look perfect.

An Irish cob mare showing great feather. Image source: Mary E. Graybeal of Silver Feather Gypsies, via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Do You Ever Clip or Shave A Horse?

The answer is: Yes.

Most often, clipping is done on horses that are working hard in the winter. By removing the winter coat you prevent the horse from overheating when worked. You then have to replace the coat with rugs.

There are four basic clip patterns:

1. The full clip - where all of the coat is removed. This is very, very seldom done - a fully clipped horse is left with no protection at all.

2. The hunter clip. A horse that is "hunter clipped" has the legs and a saddle-shaped pattern left intact and the rest of the coat removed. The patch under the saddle (generally made by putting the horse's saddle on while clipping it) is seen as increasing the horse's comfort when ridden. The legs are left fuzzy for protection when riding through vegetation or jumping. It's called a "hunter" clip because it's particularly popular with English foxhunters.

3. The trace clip. Trace clipping is removing the fur from the belly and flanks only, to about the height where the traces fall when a horse is driven. This is by far the most popular clip. It leaves enough coat on that the horse can be comfortably turned out, but shaves the parts that sweat the most.

4. The blanket clip. A rectangle is left on over the horse's back, with the flanks, belly, chest and neck clipped.

This foal has an unusual clip - the head and neck have been shaved, but this shows "clipping lines" clearly. (Source: Montanabw via Wikimedia Commons).

Monday, June 2, 2014

What Is A Face Brush?

Exactly what it sounds - a face brush is specifically designed to be used on the horse's head and face.

A face brush is really just a very small body brush that fits more or less in the palm of your hand. Using a larger brush on a horse's head increases the risk that you'll accidentally poke a horse in the eye. I've also met horses that would not tolerate a larger brush near and around their head.

Not everyone considers a special face brush to be necessary, however. But if you see a very small and thin brush in a grooming kit, that's what it is.