If you are the proud new owner of a horse or if you need to wash the horse that you’re currently riding for the first time, then you’re probably you’re a little intimidated on the subject of how to wash a horse.
This is completely normal!
Don’t be embarrassed because you aren’t familiar with the process or you’re a little nervous about what the horse might do. I mean your horse is much bigger than you and it may very well be that he doesn’t like water.
This guide is going to teach you the exact steps of how to wash a horse with your safety and your horse’s safety as the number 1 priority. Furthermore, I’ll go over some tips and tricks that you can use to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Soon you’ll be an expert at washing horses!
Before you start sudsing your horse up
Before you actually start washing your horse, you want to go through your horse’s usual grooming ritual. Here’s our complete guide on how to groom horses just to give you a bit of a refresher.
This just ensures that you’re horse is free of larger debris, that his mane and tail is detangled and ready to be cleaned and that he’s already calmer with the idea of you fussing with him.
Next, just make sure that you have everything that you’re going to need. Here’s a list of what I would have around:
- Dry clean towels
- A sweat scraper
- A hose (water supply)
- A bucket
- Clean sponges
- Clean wet clothes
Finally you want to make sure that you’re ready to get wet and dirty so don’t wear anything fancy or that you don’t want ruined. And you want your horse somewhere that can get wet and soapy as well.
So find a spot outside – preferably on a sunny, hot day – and tie your horse up with a quick-release knot or if you have a quick-release clip.
You want to use a knot or clip you can quickly untie so that in case your horse gets really frisky or spooked while he’s being washed, he doesn’t hurt himself trying to run away. If you notice that your horse is really getting out of control and he just wants to bolt, the best thing to do is release him and let him go.
Hopefully the farm or barn area that you’re in is fenced in overall. But either way, you’re choosing the lesser of two evils by letting your horse run and get away from the situation so he can’t hurt himself by trying to break free.
How to wash a horse
Step 1 – Wet the horse from the hooves up
The first thing you want to do is wet your horse. When you’re doing this – a good way of remembering what to do is to think of how you like to get in the water. Maybe if it’s a very hot day you’ll dive right in but generally you’ll walk in getting your feet wet first and then work your way up to swimming.
Same thing goes for your horse! You want to start at your horse’s hooves and then work your way up to his back. So if you’re using a hose, then hose from the hooves first and slowly bring the water flow up the legs and then eventually across the back.
Unlike you on a really hot day, you’re horse should never be suddenly immersed in water. Your horse is sensitive to quick temperature changes and you want to bring his body temperature down slowly. Furthermore, he’s much more likely to spook if you suddenly are spraying his whole body than if you work up from the hooves.
Never have the hose on a harsh spray setting because this also might spook your horse. Ideally, you want the water just running out of the hose in one smooth stream.
Step 2 – Don’t use shampoo for sensitive areas
One last thing is you want to avoid spraying or hosing your horse’s face, genital area and anus directly.
For your horse’s face, you want to take a sponge, dip it into warm water, squeeze it out and gently wipe down your horse’s face in the direction of hair growth. You want to make sure that you squeeze out the extra water so you don’t get water in your horse’s eyes as he won’t like that.
Repeat this as many times as necessary in order to get your horse’s face clean as you don’t want to use soap on this area. You can tell that this horse on the left did not like getting soap in his eyes!
For the next parts you may want to have someone more experienced with you. It might be a good idea to let them demonstrate exactly how to do the next steps just because your horse will be more prone to spook or get upset.
For male horses, you want to take this opportunity to clean their sheath and penis. You can do this using clean clothes or cotton wool. You want to wet them and very gently wipe down the sheath and the penis.
Be very delicate and also remember to keep your eye out for any abnormalities. Don’t use the cloth or cotton wool that you’ve used for this for anything else as it can transfer harmful bacteria.
Next you want to clean the anus of the horse regardless of gender. Wipe the anus gently and have fresh, clean clothes handy so you can switch every time one gets dirty.
For female horses, their genitals will be right below their anus so make sure you are not wiping towards or on this area as you can transfer harmful bacteria. Also, it’s very important not to stand directly behind the horse but always to one side and be extremely gentle.
Step 3 – Lather the rest section by section
To shampoo different sections of your horse, you want to take a dollop of the shampoo on a cloth per section of your horse or as instructed by the bottle and work the shampoo into your horse’s coat.
Once you’ve done one section, proceed to step 3 and then come back to step 2 when you move on to the next section. This is simply to prevent the shampoo from staying on your horse’s coat for too long and drying out as this will dull his coat and isn’t good for his skin.
On the right, you can see this Percheron has soap everywhere! This is not ideal, although he may look adorable, because some of the areas that were soaping may already be drying out and doing some damage to the coat.
As I mentioned before, the one section you want to avoid using shampoo on is your horse’s face and genital areas. The shampoo isn’t good for these areas and he won’t like it in his eyes even if it’s non-stinging and if it is stinging then he really won’t like it.
Step 4 – Hose the shampoo off before it dries out
After you shampoo each section, you want to hose that section off right afterwards. This will prevent certain areas from drying up, which will negatively affect your horse’s coat and skin.
When you’re hosing off the shampoo you want to make sure that you don’t leave any on the horse. Same as if you leave it on too long, failing to rinse off all the shampoo isn’t good for your horse’s coat.
Again, make sure you hose your horse down with a steady stream of water. You don’t want to spray your horse with a forceful water current. This means it’s going to take a little bit longer to get the soap off but your horse and his coat will be a lot happier.
Step 5 – Finish up with the mane & tail
You should have already deranged and combed through your horse’s mane and tail before starting to wash them as part of the general grooming process. It’s better to detangle the mane and tail when they’re dry to avoid breakage because the hair will be weaker when wet.
If your horse’s mane and tail aren’t wet yet, you want to wet them now. For your horse’s tail, you can mostly dip it into a bucket full of water, shake it around and then squeeze the water out. Repeat this until the dirt is mostly out.
You can do this because wetting the tail doesn’t cool down the horse’s body at all. For the top of the tail that you can’t get into the bucket, you can wipe it down with a sponge. Remember, as for all the parts behind your horse, don’t stand directly behind him. Always stand to one side or another so just in case the horse gets upset or scared and decides to kick, you won’t be in range.
For the mane, just use the hose to wet it. Then simply, shampoo both and rinse! You can also use mane and tail conditioner and then rinse that out also. Just make sure to follow the instructions that are outlined on the bottle.
Step 6 – Drying properly is crucial
Never leave your horse dripping wet, especially if it’s cold or cloudy outside. The water in his coat will prevent him from property maintaining body temperature.
Using the sweat scraper, you can scrape the excess water off your horse. Keep doing this until your horse is just a little bit damp. You can also wipe your horse down with towels if you don’t have access to a sweat scraper.
It will take quite a bit longer if you do this but it’s very important that you make sure to get him as dry as possible.
After the horse is just slightly damp, you want to let him completely dry off. First you should walk him for about ten minutes just to get his circulation going and warm his muscles up. After that, if it’s a sunny warm day, you can turn him out. If it’s cold outside, very windy or cloudy, then put a breathable blanket on him and keep him inside.
Some specialty tips and tricks
If you were just riding your horse, then make sure that he’s completely cooled down before you start washing him. This goes back to the fact that you really want to avoid changing your horse’s temperature suddenly. Keep everything as gradual as possible.
For your very first wash, you might want to avoid using shampoo at all. This is just in case your horse ends up really hating water. If you don’t use shampoo then you won’t have to worry about getting it off.
Also if you have a show horse then you have several things you should probably keep in mind.
First, if you’re washing your horse more than once a month, then keep in mind that his coat will probably be lacking in oils that help keep him warm. He may not as able to cope with different temperature conditions outside so you might want to stall him more often on colder, windier days.
Next, you want to keep in mind that horses often like to roll right after they’re washed. This can be particularly annoying if you’re washing your horse for a show. You can’t very well go into the competition with your horse covered in mud!
Lastly, just remember to be careful when you’re choosing shampoos and conditioners for your horse. Just like for humans, some products are a lot harsher than others. In the long run, your horse’s coat is going to look a lot duller and be less healthy if you’re using a very harsh product.
The main ideas to remember
Above all else, remember to stay safe and keep your horse safe. Always use common sense and try and put yourself in your horse’s position, remembering that your horse is a flight animal and runs when he’s scared.
Also, keep in mind that everything you’re doing needs to be gradual and gentle. Don’t be too sudden with temperature changes, don’t pull or tug on your horse suddenly, and definitely don’t scream or run or jump. All of these things may spook your horse and put both you and him in danger.
Other than that, it’s wet, lather rinse and repeat except for sensitive areas that are cleaned only with water. And then dry everything as much as possible so your horse doesn’t chill.
If you know that your horse is not a fan of baths and it’s your first time, it’s probably a good idea to have someone around.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask people – even if it’s not your first time!
Some horses can be more difficult than others and may need more than one person to bathe them.
If you follow this guide and do it a few times, soon you’ll be so comfortable bathing horses, you’ll be able to do it in your sleep.
If you have any specific question about how to was a horse or questions about your horse in particular, don’t hesitate to ask them below and I’ll be more than happy to help 🙂
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