13 Tips on How To Bathe a Horse

how to bathe a horse

It’s the season to be…….bathing!

As soon as the weather starts to get warmer, horse owners bath their horses to get rid of all the scurf and grease that has built up over the winter. However, it shouldn’t be just a one-off event as our horses and ponies need to be bathed, hosed off or at the very least sponged off if they’ve broken a sweat when exercising. After ten years of having a bay horse, I now have a grey horse so, as you can imagine, I’m getting lots of practice bathing my 17.2hh! You might think this sounds like an easy task but when you’re not used to doing it, like I was, you need it to be as quick, easy and pain-free as possible. Before you get started, however, remember these two golden rules:

Rule 1. Only bathe your horse when it’s warm enough to do so!

Rule 2. Allow plenty of time, especially for your horse to dry off!

If you're OK on both of the rules, you and your horse are ready to get started! Read on to learn what you need to do, and how to do it!

1. Get your supplies to hand before you start.  Have a dedicated wash bucket for bathing that has all the items in it that you need for a bath.  Make sure that you’ve also got something to stand on so that you can reach the horse’s head properly.

2.  Be considerate about the time and the place.  Pick a day and time when you don’t think that loads of people will want to bath their horses, i.e. when others need to bath their horses if they’re off to a show or a competition.  Choose a place where you won’t be in the way and also where the water will drain away but not of course in to anyone’s stable! 

3.  Settle your horse before you start.  Tie him up and perhaps give him a hay net.  

4.  Get him used to the water when you start, especially if you’re using a hose and cold water!  Do bear in mind, some horses may never have been bathed or be scared of water, so stop and then start again when he’s calm.   If this is your first time bathing your horse, consider using only water. If your horse turns out to be difficult to bathe, you won't have to rinse off shampoo.

5.  Prepare the bath water.  Follow the quantities of shampoo to water on the bottle that you use.  Don’t be tempted to add more shampoo than is recommended just because your horse is very dirty.  

6. Bathe away!  It’s much easier to bathe a horse with a soapy sponge on a wet coat.   So hose or dampen them first just with water.  Start from the legs and work up so as to not scare your horse.  Dip the sponge in the soapy water and rub it on the horse's coat, mane and forelock.  Rub in the direction of the hair; cover the entire body. Use a rubber curry comb to get dirt off with.  Pay particular attention to the hind legs where sweat builds up around the tops of the legs as it can chafe and get uncomfortable.  

8. Rinse the horse off. You can use a sponge dipped in clean water, buckets of water or a hose if your horse isn't bothered by being hosed off. Make sure you clean off all traces of the shampoo.

9.  Use the sweat scraper to remove excess water. Follow the direction of the hair. If you don't have a sweat scraper, you can use the side of your hand instead.

10. Carefully comb your horse's mane.  If his mane is badly knotted, spraying it with a ‘Mane & Tail’ spray will make it easier to comb or undo the knots with your fingers and then gently comb the mane.

11.  Dip a sponge in clean water and gently clean your horse's face. I do actually use a soapy sponge on my horses face but some owners don’t like to.  It’s up to you.

12.  Dry your horse.  Leave him somewhere to dry, ideally in the sunshine if there is any!  You could rub him with an old towel, put him on the horse walker if you have one or walk him around until he’s a bit drier.  If it's a bit cool, you could put a cotton sheet on him.  One word of warning:  when you put him in his stable after he’s had a bath, he’ll probably roll.  So make sure that you’ve mucked out and that’s he’s as dry as possible so that he doesn’t get dirty again immediately!  

13.  Wash the tail.  Give it a good dunking in your bucket of soapy water.  Allow it to be completely immersed.  Then sponge off the top part of the tail.  Rinse with clean water, and squeeze out the excess water.  Towel gently if necessary to remove more of the dampness.

Looking for more information?

We also found this great video on YouTube which you may find useful.

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Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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