Washing your horse in 7 steps

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The first step to getting any horse clean and tidy is, of course, a bath. It’s best to bath your horse the day before you plan to give him a total makeover, unless you’ve got the whole day to spare. Your horse is going to need a good scrubbing, so it’s best to wash him in a crush or have him in a cross-tie so that he can’t easily wiggle away from you. Tie a hay net or keep some treats close by, in case he starts to get impatient as you bath him. Make very sure you hang the hay net in such a way that it doesn’t get any traces of soap or shampoo in it.

1. Start by giving your horse a thorough rinse and try to get out as much loose dirt as possible. Leave his tail and face for later.

2. It’s time to get stuck in. Squirt some shampoo into your curry comb and start at your horse’s neck, working your way towards his hindquarters. Wash your horse with the curry comb, massaging his coat in a circular motion. Use medium pressure – you don’t want to push so hard that your horse gets uncomfortable and your arm falls off, but you don’t want to scrub so lightly that no dirt comes out either. Take care to use lighter pressure around sensitive areas such as the belly and flank. Use the curry comb for the main areas and a dandy brush for the legs and belly.

3. Once you’ve washed your horse’s body, you can move on to the legs. The dandy brush is best to tackle your horse’s legs, because not only is it softer, but you can easily get into all the grooves and curves of the fetlocks and pasterns. Wet the dandy brush and squirt some shampoo onto the bristles. Wash your horse’s legs in circular motions, and make sure to get all the dirt out of his socks or stockings if he has any. Give his whole body and legs a quick rinse before you do his tail, mane and face.

4. Once you’re done with your horse’s body and legs, it’s time to tackle that tail. The best way to wash your horse’s tail is to fill half a bucket with water, and add some shampoo. Mix the shampoo and water until suds start to form. Make sure your horse knows you are behind him by running your hand along his hindquarter. Stand at the side of his hindquarter facing towards his tail, and lift the bucket up to his tail. Never stand directly behind a horse in case he kicks, no matter how good his track record is! Wash the tail in the bucket, and maybe get a friend or groom to help hold the bucket while you wash his tail. Try to be as gentle as you can so that you don’t pull any hairs out.

5. Next, move on to the mane. Squirt some shampoo along the top of your horse’s neck and massage it into his mane. Start at the roots and massage along the hairs to the tips to get all that dirt out. Don’t forget to do his forelock as well! Comb through the mane to separate any tangled strands, and try to get all the hairs to lie on one side of the neck. Rinse the mane thoroughly.

6. Finally, it’s time to do the face – the part horses hate most! Use a small sponge to wash your horse’s face. Dip the sponge into some water and squeeze 50% of the water out. Add a small squirt of shampoo and massage it into the sponge to make some soapy suds. You don’t want to overdo it with the shampoo, as the skin on the face is more sensitive and your horse will no doubt give you a hard time rinsing it out – so the less shampoo, the better. Unless your horse is used to having his face washed, it’s best to keep a halter on so that you can try to keep his head down. Be very careful not to be forceful when keeping your horse’s head down, because yanking on the halter can cause a sore neck. Use the sponge to gently wash his face and keep talking to him to keep him calm. Most horses hate having their faces washed, so be patient with him. It’s best to use a clean sponge and clean water to get the soap out instead of trying to hose the face, although some horses don’t mind a hose if the pressure is very light.

7. Give your horse a thorough rinse all over his body. Use a sweat scraper to get as much excess water off as you can. Use a comb to brush through the mane again once it’s been rinsed, so that it dries straight and on one side. Walk your horse out of the wash bay or the crush and go hold him while he grazes in the sun until he dries. Don’t turn him out to the paddock, as he will more than likely roll and you’ll have a dirtier horse than when you began!

The full article on turning your horse out from nose to toe appears in the October issue of HQ (127) > Shop now