In the wild horses do not “bathe”. They will often roll in shallow water and mud to help with protection against insects but they don’t wash as we do. Horses have oils in their coats to keep them clean, healthy and their skin in good supple condition. This combined with communal grooming helps to keep their hide clean and shiny. Living out in the elements is enough to wash and blow dry their coats but not all horses are lucky enough to live out all of the time in their natural environment.
Horses in work and who are stabled for part or all of the time don’t often get the opportunity to “wash” like wild horses and in order for their coats to be kept in good condition they require frequent grooming, this can remove the natural protection of oils.
Certain medical conditions can cause scurfy, greasy, irritable skin and coats and so in these cases it may be necessary to assist the horse by washing them. Also, if you are perhaps attending a show you may want to “spruce” your horse up and make him look extra shiny. In hot weather your horse might be very sweaty after exercise and will appreciate a “wash” down to remove the sweat and make them more comfortable (usually this is just with water alone and often when you turn the horse out the first thing they will do is roll in the dust to “dry” themselves)!
If you do find that you need to wash your horse then you will need to consider the following: –
- The horse may not enjoy this experience and may even be frightened. Start off slowly, perhaps with a bucket, sponge and plain warm water. Get the horse used to the feeling of water running down their legs and body. Give them a haynet to munch as you do this, it makes the process a little less unpleasant for them.
- Try not to wash the horse’s face the first few times, let them get used to the concept of being soaked before you go into their vulnerable areas.
- Once you are happy that the horse is ok then you could proceed as follows: –
Properly bathing a horse requires the correct assortment of tools and supplies. Chief among these supplies are a shampoo and conditioner specifically designed for a horse. We also use an assortment of grooming tools such as a sweat scraper, body brush, curry comb, mane comb, and chamois leather or towels, together with fresh clean water and a step, to reach those difficult to get to areas!
- Only wash the horse’s face if necessary. The horse is likely to be sensitive about having its face washed, so do this with water if possible, to avoid shampoo getting into their eyes.
- Wet the horse. … one round of water doesn’t do the job when dealing with a hot horse!
- Some horses are ok with you cleaning around their anus and genitals but bear in mind that if you don’t do this on a regular basis then the horse might take exception to you slapping a soapy sponge into their very vulnerable area. If you don’t need to do it then simply avoid these areas.
- Shampoo the horse’s coat, mane and tail…make sure you concentrate on really cleaning the sweat away from your horses back legs, as sweat can build up her after a long ride, which can lead to several problems.
- Rinse the horse… to help you can use a sweat scraper to remove the heated water, excess moisture, and soapy water, and then hose or sponge fresh, cooler water on your horse. Continue this process until the water you scrape off is no longer warm and there’s no more soap residue.
- Dry the horse. You can do this by rubbing down their body with towels or by putting on a sweat/wikka rug and leading them around. To dry the tail, you can hold it and stand to the side of the horse, swinging it in a circle to get rid of the excess water. Remember to do this gently! Some horses might take fright at the movement and noise!
- Carefully comb your horse’s mane.
Remember to give your horse lots of praise during the bathing process, to ensure that he continues to enjoy the experience.
As always, if you are in any doubt about any of the above, then please do drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Morag on 01698 886 492 and we will be more than happy to provide advice and guidance.