Secrets of the Suds: Tips to Bathe Your Horse

If a full bath is few and far between for your equine companion, get the most out of his spa day with these bathing tips.

This article is part of our Guide to Grooming Awareness Campaign, brought to you by ShowSheen.

Here’s to long days, warm evenings, and sweaty horses. But, if it’s time for a real spa day, we’re bringing you some tips to help bath time go swimmingly well. Be sure to use the proper shampoo, get out all the soap suds, and let him dry completely. So, grab your scrub brushes, put on your game face, and get ready to make a splash with these simple, yet effective bathing tips.

Tip: Soak his coat thoroughly.

Before you even begin to wet his coat, give him a good curry to remove loose dust, mud, and debris. Then, start at his hooves and work your way up with the water. Don’t subject your horse to a blast of cold water on his back right away. Ease him into the bath by spraying his legs first and moving up. Avoid spraying him directly in the face. Use a wet rag or washcloth to wipe down his face.

Be sure to soak his coat thoroughly and evenly before applying shampoo, to get the most out of your shampoo. Be sure to completely wet under his belly, and both sides of every leg to get the most out of bath time!

Tip: Avoid baby shampoos.

They’re typically less acidic than other shampoos designed for adults (or horses), and so aren’t the best choice for your horse’s skin. A better bet is a shampoo formulated for horses, with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.

Tip: Know When to Bathe.

Although some situations (caked-on mud, for example) call for bathing, too-frequent sudsy baths can strip the natural oils from your horse’s coat, leaving his skin dry and his haircoat dull. Save baths for showtime or other special occasions, opting for frequent applications of elbow grease instead to keep your horse clean. (Regular currying and brushing stimulate the skin while cleaning the coat. A vacuuming follow-up is an extra boost to dirt removal.)

Tip: Pick the Right Shampoo.

So, when bathing your unicorn … er, horse … be sure to use a gentle shampoo formulated to promote hair and skin health. Then follow up with a nice, thick conditioner on the mane and tail, just as you would with your own hair. Tip: Comb the conditioner through the hair with your fingers to help coat every strand and untangle knots. Then leave on for 15 minutes before rinsing.

A 2-in-1 product can save you time (and money)! Image courtesy of ShowSheen.

If you’re in a hurry, a combo product can be a timesaver. But again, make sure the formula is pH-balanced and free of the bad stuff. ShowSheen 2-in-1 Shampoo is a product that cleans thoroughly and conditions with pro-vitamins and silk proteins.

Tip: Don’t Skip a Hair Polish.

Much more than a finishing touch at ringside, a good hair polisher deserves a place in your everyday routine. A good polish not only adds radiant shine but acts as a wonderful mane and tail detangler. Sprayed on daily before a gentle comb-out, it will help prevent unruly “rats’ nests” and those unsightly split ends that develop over time (ShowSheen can even highlight muscle definition.)

But that’s not all. A pre-turnout spritz all over your horse’s body will keep dust at bay, make mud and manure stains easier to remove and even help release burrs and stickers. So, what’s not to love?

Other benefits:

  • Help combat dry, dull coats in pasture-kept horses by using a polish with pro-vitamins and proteins.
  • For static electricity during blanketing season, try spraying polish on your horse’s coat first (it can help prevent rubs, too).

Tip: Use a sweat scraper in the middle of the bath to help get out soap suds.

You might be noticing that even after you’ve thoroughly rinsed your horse after a bath, suds start popping through the hair a few minutes later. It can be especially difficult when your horse has grown his coat as thick and fluffy as possible during the winter months. A build-up of soap under a horse’s coat can lead to dry, irritated, and itchy skin. Try this easy tip to get all of the soap suds out of your horse’s coat while bathing. 

Instead of just using the hose to get the suds off your horse, try using the sweat scraper a few times while you’re rinsing away the suds. This will give you a little extra help with getting all of the suds out of your horse’s coat. 

Robert Petrovic/

Before you turn him back out into his pen, let him dry completely. Watching all your hard work unravel when you turn a wet horse out just to see him roll in mud? Painful. Allowing his legs to dry completely can also help you avoid skin conditions.

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