Shampooing 101

Shampooing 101

It’s really tempting to buy shampoo for your horse in the same way that many of us horse owners do for ourselves, i.e. based on smell and colour, because obviously, we want our horses to smell like roses. Reality check here - they prefer to smell like dirt and stuff, but I’m pretty sure shampoo that smells like dirt won’t be a best seller.

But there are so many choices, aren’t there? How do you know which one is the best shampoo for your horse, especially when most don’t have ingredients listed?

What do you need your horse's shampoo to do? 

Does your horse's shampoo need to:

  • Remove stains
  • Create shine
  • Brighten white
  • Enhance colour
  • Counteract sun bleaching
  • Soothe irritated skin
  • Support healthy skin
  • Help with dry skin?

Once you’ve established this, you can then begin to narrow down the choices.

For stain removal

You might try a dry shampoo or a spot cleaner. These are designed to treat a specific stain, not the whole horse. The bonus is that they don't require rinsing, you can use them in the winter, and one bottle lasts a really long time. I find that a thorough curry combing before pairing a spot remover with a hot steamy towel will lift 99.9% of stains. No need to shampoo the whole horse!

Horsewise Water Free Shampoo

For shine

Look for a product with mild, gentle, shiny words. Remember that oils and shine in your horse’s coat are his way to block stains, so keeping as much oil on your horse as possible is ideal. So, a milder shampoo will do the trick. Avoid tough stain removing or heavy-duty shampoos with words like turbo, detergent, or mega strong on bottles.                                                                                            

HySHINE Magic Sparkle 2 In 1 Shampoo And Conditioner

For brightening whites

A horse shampoo that’s typically blue or purple does the trick here. These shampoos use colour to balance out the dingy yellow tones of white and grey horses. Extra hard work with a curry comb will pay dividends. Sometimes they’re super drying, so use sparingly. Use a coat shine spray after a bath to help put some oily protection back on your horse. It’s recommended that these shampoos are used on “special occasions” only, such as shows.                                                                                          

Supreme Products Blue Shampoo

Enhance colour

Dull, dried out, sun damaged coats can be rejuvenated using a colour enhancing shampoo. They enrich the natural colour of the horse by use of colour enhancers and optical brighteners to intensify the natural coat colour to a show ring standard.

Follow our suggested guide for picking a colour:

Red for chestnuts, red bays and sorrels,

Black for dark bays, browns and blacks,

Gold for palominos and duns,

White for greys and light coats.

                             Animal Health Company Groom's Choice Super Shampoo GoldAnimal Health Company Groom's Choice Super Shampoo RedAnimal Health Company Groom's Choice Super Shampoo WhiteAnimal Health Company Groom's Choice Super Shampoo Black

Counteract sun bleaching

Another instance of when a mild shampoo should be used. The goal is to remove the salt but leave the shine and oil to prevent future sun bleaching. As suggested above, get a tinted shampoo to match your horse which will add some colour back in. Battling sun bleaching can be a marathon, not a sprint, so be prepared for a few baths!

                               Shapley's Equitone Colour Enhancing Shampoo BlackShapley's Equitone Colour Enhancing Shampoo GoldShapley's Equitone Colour Enhancing Shampoo RedShapley's Equitone Colour Enhancing Shampoo White

Soothe irritated skin

Herbal ingredients such as lemongrass and tea tree oil are known to be soothing to skin. Again, these are going to be on the milder end of shampoos, so they can support healthy skin and natural oil protection. Be sure to test a spot if your horse is super sensitive, and really that goes for any shampoo or product on a horse.  It’s similar to doing a test on your own hair if you've ever coloured it.

Shapley's Medi-Care Shampoo

Support for healthy skin

Ditto the above paragraph here. Many horses dance that fine line between a super wonderful coat and chaos breaking loose on their skin. Some of the herbal and essential oil infused shampoos help keep your horse on the healthy side of things.                                                                                             

Wahl Showman Aloe Soothe Shampoo

Help with dry skin

Oatmeal is an ingredient to look for here, as are some of the herbal and essential oil shampoos. Also, add in extra curry comb sessions and ensure your horse has a balanced diet.                                                                                              Wahl Showman Oatmeal Essence Shampoo

Take-home message…

Have fun with bathing your horse. Avoid using people products and detergents at all costs! We have a different pH from horses, so our shampoos are not designed for use on horses. Also, detergents are for laundry and fairy liquid for plates and crockery - not living, breathing creatures.

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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.


  • Caroline East posted on May 26 2019 at 11:05 AM

    This was really interesting, and helpful. Thank you

  • Kay Taylor posted on September 08 2019 at 06:09 PM

    Hi Kim, I think your blogs are great, super useful and I always read them even if not pertinent to my horse. Always informative and very simple to understand. Please keep them up. I always learn something new. Thank you.

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