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To bathe your horse:

1) Choose a horse bathing location that has a non-skid surface. If you coat your horse's hooves with hoof oil, it may help to keep water from softening the hooves while you work.

2) Clean out your horse's hooves before leading him to your wash area to avoid creating mud that will splash onto your horse's legs.

3) Based on your horse's personality and experience with bathing, decide whether to tie your horse or have a helper hold him. If your horse is unfamiliar with baths, suds or hoses, having a skilled helper hold your horse can help you introduce the new experience in a positive manner.

4) Wet your horse thoroughly. To get him accustomed to the water temperature, start wetting at the front hooves and work your way up the front legs to the shoulder. From the shoulder move up the neck and then over the back, to the flank area, and then toward the hind legs, groin and belly. Gently wet under and around the tail, and lastly, soak the tail hair itself while standing to the side of your horse's buttock.

Tip: If you use a hose, keep an eye on it to avoid letting it wrap around one of your horse's legs.

5) Fill a wash bucket with warm water and add the recommended amount of shampoo. Follow the shampoo manufacturer's directions, and if in doubt, using less shampoo is always best.

6) Know your horse in terms of wetting and washing his face. It is best to avoid spraying your horse in the face, as doing so could cause him to panic and subsequently injure himself or you. You also want to avoid getting water in a horse's ears.

7) Use the large body sponge to transfer soapy water to your horse and begin the scrubbing. Again, start at the front legs and shoulder and work your way up the neck and back. Be sure to scrub the backs of your horse's pasterns where grime tends to accumulate, and under the tail. Put a dab of shampoo into your palm to work suds into the mane and tail, throughout the hair and to the roots. Use a mitt, scrubbing cloth or even a curry to gently create suds in an especially dirty area or to work on a manure or urine stain.

Note: Bath time may be a good time to consider cleaning your gelding's sheath (or your mare's udders). Consult your veterinarian for a schedule of when to clean your gelding's sheath and for help in learning the procedure. These cleanings should be done only infrequently so as not to irritate the horse's skin. They should also be conducted by a knowledgeable horseperson who is equipped to handle negative reactions if the horse resists the procedure, and who knows how to perform the procedure in a safe and healthful way for the horse.

8) Avoid allowing the shampoo to dry on your horse's coat- rinse the suds from the first side before moving to the second side if necessary. Remember to use a separate, smaller sponge to clean the area of your horse's genitals, between the hind legs and around the rectum.

Use another small sponge to gently scrub your horse's face. Shampoos that are pH balanced are safe to use near the horse's eyes, but if you're uncertain of your ability to remove every trace of shampoo from your horse's head, use only warm water for cleansing. Soap traces left on a horse's face can cause the delicate hair there to fall out.

9) Rinse your horse thoroughly. You may find it helpful to use your sweat scraper as you rinse to help remove sudsy water until the rinse water runs clear.

10) If you plan to use a conditioner or a hair polish in the mane and tail, apply it after all traces of shampoo are removed, and follow the manufacturer's guidelines.

Tip: Do not spray hair polish in areas where your horse will wear tack, as the polish can make the hair slippery. For the same reason, do not put conditioner or hair polish in your horse's mane if you intend to braid it.

11) Use your sweat scraper to remove any excess water from the fleshiest parts of your horse. Cup each leg between your hands, and starting at the top and working your way down, squeeze gently to push the water out of the hair. Then dry the legs carefully with a towel to avoid setting up conditions for scratches (dermatitis) to form.

If the temperature begins to cool or you feel your horse might be slightly chilled, be sure to place a cooler or Irish knit sheet on him immediately and begin to walk him to help him dry.

12) Thoroughly rinse your bathing tools and allow them to air dry in the sun before returning them to storage. Doing so prevents a buildup of soapy residue and the development of mold or mildew on your equipment.

Do's and Dont's of Bathing Your Horse

  • Do wet your horse's coat thoroughly before you add shampoo.
  • Don't use too much shampoo.
  • Do use separate sponges on the body, the face and the genitals.
  • Don't share sponges between horses to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Don't put soap on your horse's face if you'll have difficulty rinsing it thoroughly.
  • Do be sure to rinse all traces of soap from your horse's coat.
  • Do walk your horse after a bath to help him dry, and use a cooler or anti-sweat if needed.
  • Don't shampoo your horse too frequently as it can be drying to the skin.