HomeExpert AdviceArticleTo shampoo or not to shampoo?

To shampoo or not to shampoo?

Posted in Management

The subject of bathing horses is under hot debate on the H&R forum. What have our members had to say on the matter?

  • A girl at our yard shampoos her horse twice a week without fail when she goes out to compete – but surely this is stripping the coat of its natural oils? She also keeps him clipped throughout the summer. The poor horse’s coat looks so lack-lustre, with no nice natural shine and sheen. If I’m off to a show, I’ll hot-towel my boy with a bucket of hot water with a few drops of vinegar in it – the vinegar helps get rid of any extra scurf. jimama
  • Honestly, this really makes me mad. I personally only washed my ponies’ coats before events, but then I didn’t compete twice a week, more like twice a month. If I was to compete more and therefore wanted my pony looking clean and smart, I would wash him every other trip or so, then spot-wash the areas that were particularly dirty the other times, like his tail, feet and any stable stains. HollyGee
  • I think a nice bath can really improve the coat but probably would only be most effective if done quite rarely. hessy
  • I think it’s nice to give horses a bath after the winter when they are just finishing losing their coats and are itchy and scurfy. Also when they are have been rubbing a lot and are feeling really itchy. But other than that , I really feel it should be left to special occasions, if the weather is warm enough. I don’t see the benefit in washing them all the time because constantly stripping the oils from their coats must leave the hair and skin really dry and out of condition, plus the oil gives them a lovely shine. Snipper

…Read more members’ opinions here! What are your views on the matter? Join the Horse&Rider forum today and have your say

If you do fancy giving your horse a bath…

…(and let’s face it, what better way to spend a hot afternoon on the yard?) follow Horse&Rider’s guide to brilliant bathing…

You will need

Grooming kit
2 sponges (one for the face, one for the body)
Sweat scraper
Clean, warm, moisture-wicking rug

How to do it

1. Tie your horse up securely to some baler twine

2. Give him a thorough groom to get rid of any superficial dirt

wash horse's face3. Fill a bucket with warm water, dip the sponge in and gently wash the head. Watch you don’t get any water in the delicate eye, ear and nostril areas. Shampoo is optional here!

4. Using the hose, first spray the horse’s front leg to get him used to the temperature and pressure. Then take it to the top of the neck and use the sponge to wash in circular motions along the back and barrel, down the forelegs above the knee, over the hindquarters and down to the hocks. Repeat on the other side.

5. Take the shampoo and apply in a circular motion – either using a clean body brush or your hand – to the same areas. Rinse thoroughly with the hose, using the body brush or your hand in a circular motion. Repeat shampooing if necessary.

6. Condition the coat if you wish (bear in mind that conditioning a mane can make it slippery – not ideal if you want to plait up), but make sure it is rinsed out thoroughly.

7. Use the sweat scraper to scrape off all the excess water on the body, avoiding the face and legs.

wash horse's tail8. If it’s warm and sunny (which hopefully it is!), your horse will dry naturally quite happily. However, if it is a bit on the chilly side, cover him with a clean, moisture-wicking rug.

9. Fill the bucket with warm water and dunk the tail up to the dock – stand to the side of your horse if you feel it is safer to do so. Rub shampoo in then rinse thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.

10. Apply conditioner to the tail, leave in for a minute or two then rinse thoroughly. If it is safe to do so, stand at the side of your horse’s hindquarters, gently lift the tail and swing it in a circular motion to get rid of the excess water – but watch out for other people on the yard!

wash horse's leg11. Next, take the hose and rinse off the horse’s legs again before applying shampoo (using the same brush as before) to clean the areas below the knee until sparkling. Rinse thoroughly with the hose.

12. Lastly, take a towel and make sure your horse’s feet and legs are nice and dry.

Result? A sparkling clean horse!

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