Get the gear.
Although bathing a horse is not technically challenging, a few tools make the job immeasurably easier. A sweat scraper is an item that shaves tons of time off the drying process. A curry comb lets you really loosen dirt and sweat up out of your horse’s coat and gets shampoo down to the skin while sparing your fingernails. A grooming mit also does the job. A few soft sponges are helpful for delicate places such as the face, and some extra towels and a bucket are handy as well.
How often can you bathe a horse?
The age-old question regarding bathing horses is: how often is too often? While there is no definitive answer, a few guidelines will help. First, over-bathing will deplete your horse’s natural skin oils, leaving his coat dry and flaky and prone to skin infections. Bathing more than once a week is more than likely too frequent. However, quick spot-cleans and shampoo-less rinses can be done with greater regularity. The type of shampoo also factors in to frequency. General multi-use shampoos are usually milder than the blue shampoos used for making whites whiter. Consider using a hypoallergenic shampoo if your horse has sensitive skin or you need to bathe him frequently over a short amount of time. Always read the instructions, as sometimes dilutions are required.
Start with safety.
Even if your horse is a pro in the wash rack, there are few safety aspects to always keep in mind when bathing your horse. First, make sure the standing surface is non-slip. Slick concrete should be covered with a rubber mat to prevent falls. Another option is to bathe in a grassy place. This is for both your horse’s safety and your own. Second, keep an eye on that hose. Don’t let it get tangled between your horse’s legs and never leave the nozzle on the ground where it could get stepped on. Third, don’t rush. If you don’t have the time for a proper bath, settle for a spot-clean. You want each bathing experience to be relaxing for your horse. Plus, you need to give yourself plenty of time for adequate rinsing.
Deal with drying.
A sunny, warm and breezy day is the perfect recipe for the ultimate drip-dry, but how often do we get to pre-order the weather? Most horses are still damp at the end of a bathing session and there’s nothing a wet horse would love to do than have a good roll. Instead of watching all your hard scrubbing go down the drain with one stop-drop-and-roll, here are a few guidelines:
- If you have the time, make sure your horse is completely dry before releasing him;
- If he is still damp and it isn’t too hot out, fit him with a sheet to keep his body clean if he does decide to roll;
- A clean stall or grass paddock is the best place to put a drying horse. When—not if—he does roll, at least it’s on a clean surface. Watch for and remove fresh piles of manure, too.
Avoid tails of woe.
One thing that makes us horse lovers drool is a sleek, gorgeous, tangle-free mane and tail. A conditioning detangler is key to avoid a rat’s nest when washing your horse’s tresses. After a rinse then a scrub, gently ring out excess moisture and tease apart the hairs with your fingers. Never yank out tangles with a brush. Patience is key, but a good detangler goes a long way. Spray-on tail conditioners also help keep a freshly-washed tail looking sleek for days afterward.