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Making Your Mark: How to craft the perfect quarter marks


When teaching grooming clinics, quarter marks are one of the main items I get asked to show people. There are many styles that can be done, depending on your ‘artistic’ skills you can go from the simple diamonds to your favorite motif.

Getting Started
Always start by brushing the hair in its natural direction with either a wet sponge or brush. Sometimes I will use fly spray to dampen the coat as this gives a little bit of extra hold for the pattern. You cannot get the coat too wet, the pattern will show up better.

Stencil It In
If you are starting out you may want to purchase a pre-made quarter mark stencil. Some people make their own, however I do not have the artistic talent with that one!!
If using a stencil, you need to line the top up with the dorsal line of the horses back. Using a short-haired stiff brush, stroke the brush downward over the entire stencil. Be careful when removing the stencil that you don’t drag it across the pattern. Ensure you lift it clear off the horse’s quarters.

Free Hand Designs
I’ve put together four quick videos to demonstrate the free-hand quarter marks I personally use, along with step-by-step tips on how to achieve the look.

1. “Racing Stripes” and “Shark Teeth.”

The shark teeth can be changed to your personal choice, 3 ,4 or 5 stripes, depending on the size of your horse’s quarters!

Again using a short-haired stiff brush, draw two strokes vertically from the horse’s dorsal line. Put one brush width between each stroke. To tidy up the pattern, brush the coat in the normal direction along the top and bottom of the stripes. This should leave sharp definitive lines.

For the shark teeth, first brush the coat in its natural direction, then, using a semi circle pattern, think about brushing the top half of the circle below your stripes. Now imagine cutting off one quarter of the semi circle. Do this three or four times, remember if you make a mistake, no worries…just go back and brush the coat in its normal direction and start again!!

Last but not least, draw a ‘half moon’ into the horses rear. Standing at the tail, draw a semi circle starting at the top of the tail down towards the top of the hind leg. Fill in the center by brushing the coat in its natural direction.

2. “The V”

At approximately a 45 degree angle, starting at the dorsal line above the flank, brush diagonally down towards the center of the quarters. The second line starts approximately one hand’s width from the top of the tail. To sharpen the image, brush a line across the top and bottom of the ‘V’ in the natural direction of the hair.

3. “Diamonds”

To get this image, take a human fine tooth hair comb. Measure approximately one inch and cut the comb into inch pieces. For a sharper image, use the center section of the comb, as the end pieces have the largest teeth on the outside and therefore do not create such a clean line.

Starting in the center of the quarters approximately one hand’s width from the dorsal line, use the comb to swipe one 1 ” square into the hair. Using the outside corners as a guideline for the next row, swipe two more squares. Do three or for consecutive rows, decreasing in number of squares until you form a diamond shape.

When doing the opposite side, stand on a step stool so you can align the first square correctly with the opposite side.

4. “The Half Diamond”

Again using the comb, draw a line with the edge approximately one hand’s width perpendicular to the dorsal line. Draw in a line of inch squares, leaving a comb’s width between each square. Move down the pattern decreasing in number of squares until you have one square at the bottom.

Practice Makes Perfect
Practice is the only way to get good at quarter marks – as a child I use to put them on my pony on a daily basis when grooming!! I’m sure starting out some of those patterns were not so pretty! I owe a big thank you to Colby Bauserfeld who helped me video and do some of the quarter marks. She was Phillip Dutton’s head groom from 1995 to 2003.

Good luck and remember: practice makes perfect!!

Emma Ford

Emma Ford is one of the most respected grooms in US Eventing. Born and raised in the UK, Emma came to the US in 1998 to groom for top eventer Adrienne Iorio. After seven years with Adrienne, Emma moved to True Prospect Farm to work with five-time Olympian and 13-time USEA Leading Rider of the Year, Phillip Dutton. During her tenure with Phillip, Emma cared for many famous equine athletes including Connaught, TruLuck, Woodburn, and Mystery Whisper. She’s groomed at Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, cared for horses at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, 2007 Pan Am Games, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and groomed at Rolex Kentucky and Fair Hill International every year since 2001. And now she’s here to help you! Submit your grooming questions and Emma just may be able to teach you a few of her tricks!

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2 comments on “Making Your Mark: How to craft the perfect quarter marks
  1. Tracy Dean says:

    I was wondering how to braid the dressage type tail and fix it because I have a horse with a long natural tail and don’t want it to break off when in turn him out to pasture.

  2. Emma Emma says:

    Hi Tracey, thank you for your question. From your question, I am asumming you mean daily turnout. I feel you have a couple of options. Split the tail into three or four sections and braid down fastening it with a rubber band at the bottom. You don’t want one large braid as when flicking off flies it would feel a little like a bat hitting him!! Your other option is to use tail bags. You an buy ones that attach to a fly sheet or other blankets. If you are handy with a needle and thread you can sew d-rings into the blankets to attach the bags. There are also tail protectors available now that you attach below the dock and then braid into the tail. To help breakage make sure the tail is well conditioned. Once a week I would apply a good conditioner, wrap the tail in Saran wrap and let the conditioner do its job for about 15mins before washing it out. This should leave the tail soft and very flexible. If I have misunderstood your question let me know and I’ll try again!!!! Good luck

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