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Regardless of whether you are going to compete at club level or in a big national competition, you want your horse to be looking its best. Here are some suggestions for what you can do.
Give yourself plenty of time before the competition and begin by washing and grooming your horse. There are various products you can use, e.g. shampoo that is a little bit more effective such as white horse shampoo, which is excellent at removing stains from white/light coats and shampoo that enhances/adds depth to the colour of the coat. Don't forget to wash the shampoo out thoroughly so that no residue remains.
Depending on the weather, it can be a good idea to allow the horse to dry under a rug, e.g. fleece, acrylic or wool, which draws moisture away. Remember to change the rug if it becomes too damp. It is a good idea to walk the horse dry if it is cold. If your horse has a thin tail, you can braid the tail while it is still damp. When it dries, brush it through properly and it will look thicker thanks to the waves. The tail's length is a matter of personal taste; in general, jumping horses have a slightly shorter tail than dressage horses, but it is up to you.
If you do not have access to water and a shower, or if there is not enough time, spray shampoo is available. You spray this onto stains you want to remove and then rub with a rag and brush out. Read the instructions on each product.
The mane is usually braided if you are going to compete in dressage. The mane can be left unbraided for show-jumping.
If you want to groom the hair in the horse's ears, do this by pinching together the ear and cutting away the hairs that stick out. You should not cut inside the horse's ear as this hair provides good protection against insects, for example. Nor should you cut the horse's sensory hairs around its muzzle and eyes.
If possible, scrub the hooves clean and paint them with hoof oil or hoof grease and have the horse stand in the stable until its hooves have dried.
For an additional finishing touch, rub face fix or baby oil into the horse's muzzle/nostrils and around its eyes to give the horse a more expressive appearance.
Finish off by spraying or brushing coat sheen onto the horse. If your horse has white marks on its legs, be a bit more thorough on these as coat sheen also makes it more difficult for dirt to stick. Remember not to use coat sheen where you want to place tack as it reduces friction.
Shorten the mane and maybe thin it out a little; a reasonable length is usually about 10–12 cm. Divide the mane into equal bunches; you can use normal hair-grips to keep them apart. You can use gel on straggly manes to get more firmness. Try to make the braids as tight as possible so they keep together better. Fold in each of the braids once or twice and secure them with a rubber band or sew them in place using a darning needle and strong thread (special mane thread is available).