What do I need to bath my horse?
With the warmer weather finally gracing us with its presence, the prospect of summer is on the mind of many of us equestrians, and with the warmer weather come thoughts of bathing our horses. Follow my seven steps on how to bath your horse to get yourself a squeaky clean steed...
Gather the correct supplies
Bathing a horse requires an assortment of tools and supplies. So, before you even turn on the water, get everything together that you’re going to need as this will make the task much easier and quicker for you.
- Most important among these supplies, is the shampoo that is specifically designed for a horse, as this has the proper pH balance that ensures the skin and hair won't dry out or become irritated.
- A couple of sponges: one for soaping, one for rinsing, a smaller one to handle the facial area, and possibly a fourth to handle the abnormally dirty areas.
- A couple of buckets.
- A sweat/water scraper. This is a plastic tool that is designed to scrape the excess water off the horse's skin.
- Something to stand on if your horse is too tall for you to reach its head.
- Access to a water source.
- And finally, a lot of elbow grease!
Choose your spot and time
Choose a place to bath your horse where the water will drain away. Most stables have a wash bay or a place where it’s reserved or acceptable for bathing horses.
Make sure your horse is safely tied with either a quick-release knot, or safety knot, or he’s cross-tied. As always make sure you use breakaway ties just in case.
Pick a convenient time that works for you and for everyone else, i.e. don’t start bathing your horse when, for example, the wash bay is used for horses being brought in as you won’t be very popular with the groom!
So, you’ve gathered all the necessary equipment, picked your spot and chosen a good time - now it’s to start giving him a bath.
Wet your horse
To wet the horse, you can use a hose, or you can soak a sponge in water and wipe it over the horse's coat. Not all horses are happy to be hosed down. So just in case, start slowly with the hooves and gradually direct the water up the legs before wetting the body, mane and tail. This will give him time to understand what you’re going to do. Don’t spray his face with the hose unless he’s used to it as this may frighten him.
To wet his mane, stand slightly in front of your horse's neck so that you are spraying back, away from his head. Thoroughly wet the mane down to the roots.
To wet your horse’s tail, stand off to one side with it so that you are out of the kick zone. Wet it down thoroughly, making sure to soak the hair right down to the tail bone.
To wet his face, dunk your small rinse sponge in fresh water, wring it out so it doesn’t drip and then go all over the face and head to wet it: first from under the eyes down, then up under the forelock (being careful no water drips into his eyes), behind the ears, down the cheeks, and then under the head.
Be prepared for your horse to dance about a bit, stamp his feet or swat his tail when you wet him down. This is simply because the drips of water tickle him. He’s probably not getting at you, just the water! Be careful to keep your legs, and particularly your feet, well out of the way from his.
Suds do the cleaning, so you’ll need to create a lot of them! However, before you do, check the instructions on the shampoo as most need to be diluted before they’re applied. Use a “round-and-round” motion with the sponge to go both with and against the hair, as this will get the shampoo all the way down to the skin. Work it gently into his coat, but firmly to take out the stubborn dirt.
Make sure you clean between his front legs and under his belly. These areas tend to collect dirt, but since they are not easily visible, they're easy to forget.
Try not to allow any particular patch of shampoo to dry as this can irritate your horse's skin and remove the shine from his coat.
When you wash his mane, apply the shampoo, working it right through the length of the hair as the mane can get quick scurfy at the base.
When you wash his tail, apply the shampoo to the base of the tail and work your way down to the end. Really scrub the area around the tail bone to remove the deep dirt. Work the shampoo into suds all the way up the entire length of the tail, reapplying soap as necessary. You’ll probably have to work the shampoo quite hard to get through a thick tail. Separate the hair to make sure you are getting beyond the surface.
Once you’ve washed his body, mane and tail, do his face, as by this time he’ll be used to the water and what you’re doing. Most of the time, it's best not to use soap on his face, but if you must, just use a small amount of heavily diluted shampoo and be very careful around his eyes. The simple way to wash it is to wet the sponge and clean his face that way. Wash behind the ears, down over the cheeks and under the eyes, then in front of the ears, above the eyes, and down the nose, taking care that suds don't get too close to the eyes.
Rinse off the shampoo
When you rinse off your horse, start in the same way as you wet him down, i.e. start slowly with the hooves and work your way up his body. Rinsing must be thorough. Repeatedly rinse his coat until no more foamy residue can be seen. Pay attention to the lower belly since not only is this area easier to miss, it's also the area where all the soap from the back will roll down and collect.
Remember not to rinse your horse's face with a direct spray unless you know for definite that he’s ok with the hose - use your clean rinsing sponge instead.
Scrape off excess water
One option is to use a sweat scraper to scrape off the excess water. Be firm enough to scrape the water yet gentle enough not to irritate him. Do not scrape your horse's face. Alternatively, use several clean dry towels to wipe the entire horse over and dry it off.
To wick away the water after bathing as quickly as possible, use an anti-sweat sheet or cooler rug on until your horse is dry.
When your horse is clean and shining, the first thing he’ll probably want to do is roll! So, if you can wait until he’s dry before you turn him out or put him back in his stable or if it’s cold, put a rug on him to protect your hard work.
Ready to bath your horse?