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Give Your Horse a Bath

Summer’s warm days are perfect for giving your horse a bath. Here’s how to get him squeaky clean, and put a shine into his mane and tail.

When you wash your horse's face, avoid getting the soap inside his ears. Rinse the soap off thoroughly with the hose or a sponge. Photo by Heidi Melocco

Ready to give your horse a bath? First, read up on these tips to make sure you get him clean and shiny from forelock to fetlock.

  • Warm the face water. If you have access to hot and cold water, that's great. But if your water comes right from the hose, fill your bucket with water and set it aside. This will be used later for the face, so allow the sun to warm the water a bit while you're washing the rest of your horse.
  • Hose your horse's legs. When you go swimming, you start by putting your feet in and gradually walking in further and working your way up, thus allowing your body to adjust to the water temperature. Starting at the legs is a good way to get your horse accustomed to the running water, too, so that he's not surprised by a blast on his body right away.
  • Hose front to back. Allow the hose to run over your horse's feet and lower legs. After that, go to the upper neck and work your way back toward the hindquarters. It's not a big deal when you're wetting him down, but you're going to use the same sequence when you rinse him. This way you're letting him know the routine.
  • Shampoo his mane and tail. Apply a horse shampoo to your horse's wet mane and tail and work it in well with your hands. It may not suds much right away. If that's the case, add more water, rinsing out the heavy dirt as you do. Then shampoo again. The second time will lather more. Separate the hairs, and rub deep down into the base. Equine skin is often more sensitive than ours. While many human products work fine on horses, the various fragrances and other ingredients may irritate and dry your horse's skin.
  • Start at the legs to get your horse accustomed to the running water, so that he's not surprised by a blast on his body right away. Photo by Heidi Melocco

    Shampoo his body. Fill an old shampoo bottle  two-thirds full of water, then add shampoo to it. This way, you can easily squirt the diluted shampoo over your horse's body. That saves on shampoo and helps you get the shampoo to all parts of his body.

  • Use a curry. Using a rubber curry and circular motion, work the shampoo into the hair coat. Use a curry mitt — like a glove — to scrub the legs, since it conforms better in the hard-to-reach spots. Don't forget about your horse's belly, udder, outside sheath area and under the tail. He'll appreciate your using a sponge, rather than a curry, in those areas.
  • Wash his face. With your gloved curry or your hands, use your "no tears" baby shampoo to wash your horse's face. Avoid getting the soap inside your horse's ears. Rinse the soap off thoroughly with the hose or a sponge.
  • Rinse his body. Rinse the rest of the body, starting again with upper neck and working your way back. If your water doesn't rinse off clear, your horse may still have some ground-in dirt. You may need to shampoo him again to get him really clean.
  • Add conditioner. Now you can add conditioner by using your rubber curry to work it into the hair coat. This will leave your horse with a soft, shiny, great-feeling coat. Scrape the excess water off to allow for a shorter drying time, and if it's chilly or breezy, put a cooler over your horse until he's dry. Use a towel to dry your horse's face. (Most horses love this.)
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