How to Bathe a Horse

Bathing a horse is more than just spraying them down and letting them air dry. And if you perform your horse, maintaining a clean and healthy groom schedule is an important part of performing art your best.

If you want a straight forward and effective way to get your horse glistening clean, read on!

Horse Bath Tips

The first thing you have to do is make sure you have the necessary grooming tools to get your horse clean as can be.

Make sure you have a quality hose with a nozzle that allows you to adjust the water pressure. I grab a couple buckets a stool if you are short (Like me!) and then fill those buckets with the fun horse bathing tools

I like to use a rubber bristled scrubbing mitt and multiple sponges. I use a different sponge for each major body area of the horse, and a sponge to dry the legs at the end (water scrapers are too rough for your horse’s legs).

Grab your preferred horse shampoo. Pay attention when using a shampoo for the first time on a particular horse. Many horses have sensitive skin that is irritated by certain shampoos. If you are using a shampoo for the first time always test on a small part of your horse before using on their entire body to ensure they are not allergic.

Now get that water scraper I mentioned earlier. They come in metal, plastic, and wood. I prefer wood as they are a bit gentler on the horse, followed by plastic and metal I tent not to recommend but will work fine if you are careful not to push too hard when using.

Grab a few hand sized towels and you are all set to get started bathing your horse!

(Another note on shampoo selection. I like to use a shampoo specifically designed for equine use as they generally are a conditioning shampoo which helps in preventing the development of dry and itchy skin. Not only is itchy skin uncomfortable for your horse it will also negatively effect their performance.)

Wash a Horse How To

The first thing you need to do when preparing to bathe your horse is to use a body brush and thoroughly brush down your horse. Be sure to remove any excess dirt by brushing across your horse’s body and legs and face.

Once they are brushed down fill your buckets with warm water with some shampoo in each bucket.

Next it is time to prerinse your horse! Set the adjustable nozzle so it sprays similar to a shower head and thoroughly rinse the horses entire body. I start on the legs and then rinse from the rump to toward the head (be sure to spray gently under the tail and between the legs). Make sure to also rinse the belly thoroughly. At this point you should not have sprayed your horse’s head. You can also use water from a bucket with a sponge to thoroughly pre rinse but I find the hose and nozzle does a quicker and more thorough job. Either way you go, be sure to completely rinse them at this point.

How to Properly Lather Your Horse

Now its time to do a good scrubbing, but you need a good lather to get your horse truly clean. Take one of your buckets, add a good amount of shampoo to the bottom. Now take your hose and set the nozzle to a stream and spray fill your bucket (be careful you don’t have the pressure up so high it soaks you too!)

Once you have a water a suds filled bucket take one of your sponges and thoroughly soak it in the bucket. It will be sudsy and ready to go.

Start at the rump of your horse and rub firmly in circular motions. You will continue rubbing in circular motions as you work your way from the rump to the back and sides to the shoulder and the neck.

You will want to keep your sponge wet and sudsy by dipping it back in the bucket of soap and water frequently.

(Remember that horses feel pain when too much pressure is applied so use caution not to press too hard while scrubbing. Watch your horse for signs of distress such as dipping their back, pinning their ears back, stepping away among other) The key is to apply enough pressure to clean the horse without causing any discomfort.

Grab a new sponge and soak in the soapy water and then clean under the horse’s tail. Thoroughly clean and then put that sponge away.

Grab another sponge and dip in the soapy water and gently scrub the horses legs, being sure to clean inside of the legs.

Last take the same sponge and gently scrub the horse’s belly.

You will likely have to rinse and refill your bucket with warm water and shampoo multiple times. Just remember rubbing in dirty water isn’t helping you get your horse clean!

Now your horse’s body is all clean!

Next it’s time to wash the main and tail of your horse. Take a bucket with clean water and shampoo filled bucket and dip your horse’s tail in it. Scrub the tail starting at the top (rump end) and work down the horse’s tail to the tip. Depending on how dirty your horse’s tail is you very well may need to rinse and repeat multiple times. Wash as many times as necessary to get it clean.

When rinsing your horse’s tail take great care to be in a safe position to avoid being kicked if your horse becomes startled during their bath. If your horse can handle using the hose to rinse the tail that works very well, but you can also take a bucket of water and pour it from top to bottom to rinse your horse’s tail.

Always be safe when working at the rear of your horse!

When washing the mane rinse it down with a gentle stream from the hose or from a bucket of water slowly poured over the mane. Start at the poll end of the mane and rinse your way down to the end. Lather up shampoo in your hands (use a lot of shampoo!) and work it throughout the mane. Rinse and repeat as many times as necessary. Usually the mane will not be near as dirty as the horse’s tail.

Now take your rubber mitt and scrub through your horse’s entire body (remember they still have the sudsy water one them). This will get the deep down dirt worked out. Keep rinsing the mitt in a bucket of clean water or with the hose as you go to remove that dirt you work out of your horse’s coat.

How to Rinse Your Horse After the Bath

Next up it is time to rinse off your horse’s body and legs. It is very important to properly rinse your horse. If you leave excess shampoo on your horse’s body it can lead to skin irritation and dry skin and a dull coat.

Take a bucket of clean warm water and a new sponge and dip the sponge in the warm water. Starting at the rump rub the horse down with the wet sponge and work your way up to the shoulders and neck. Rinse off your sponge frequently and refill your bucket with clean water as needed.

Next take the wetted sponge and rinse off the bell and then the legs of your horse. Again, be sure not to get your horse’s head.

Then take your hose and gently spray down your horse in the same order you used the sponge. Last rinse the tail one more time with the hose or a clean bucket of water. Use your fingers to work through the tail as you rinse it otherwise there will be a lot of shampoo left in the middle of the tail.

Washing Your Horse’s Head

For many horse’s, washing their head can be a challenge. Horse’s usually don’t like water sprayed on their face!

This isn’t an article on sacking out a horse but you should have already worked with your horse’s head to a point they are comfortable with it before washing their face.

When washing the face of your horse take a bucket of clean water and a clean sponge that has been wet in the water. Ring it out so it isn’t dripping wet and gently rinse your horse’s face starting at the muzzle.

Be very aware of any signs of distress. Never fight or try and force a horse to let you wash their face. Not only will you lose this fight, it can also set your back training wise.

Be gentle when rinsing the face being careful around the nostrils, eyes, and ears.

Once pre rinsed, take a bucket with warm water and shampoo and wet a clean sponge. Gently rub the horse’s face in the same manner as when rinsing.

Again take care not to get soap in the eyes, nostril, or ears. If your horse’s face is particularly dirty you can then use the mitt dipped in soapy water to gently scrub the face again.

Now you can rinse your horse’s face! Take a clean bucket of warm water and a clean sponge dipped in the bucket and gently rinse the horse’s face in the same order your scrubbed it. Repeat until all shampoo is rinsed off.

How to Condition Your Horse’s Tail and Mane

It is not required to condition your horse’s mane and tail but it can help maintain a longer tail and minimize breakage.

If you want to condition your horse’s mane and tail do so after shampooing and rinsing them.

Once you have rinsed out the shampoo from your horse’s mane or tail, take a generous amount of conditioner (I use a conditioner designed for horses) and work it throughout the hair.

When conditioning the tail, start at the top (near the rump) and work the conditioner all the way down to the tip of the tail.

When conditioning the mane, start at the pole end of the mane and work the conditioner in all the way down the mane.

With conditioner you will likely need to use more conditioner than you anticipate. Make sure to let the conditioner set as long as indicated on the conditioner instructions of your particular conditioner (usually around fifteen minutes) and then rinse just like you did with the shampoo.

And just like that you have yourself one heck of a clean horse!

The key to cleaning your horse is first making sure you have the right tools and that you keep safety in mind. From there, just follow the steps above and you are good to go!