How to Bathe a Horse

We thought about starting off this article by saying hey, but, as you know, HAY is for horses.

As part of being a responsible horse owner, you have to know how and when to bathe your horse. Not only will this keep them looking (and smelling) their best, but it will also prevent them from developing otherwise totally preventable skin issues.

But bath time should be more than just a functional chore. It’s also an opportunity for you and your horse to bond, and for you to demonstrate your love and care for them. That’s why we wanted to write this short explainer where we break down how often you should bathe your horse, as well as the various methods for bathing your horse. That way you can bathe a horse to the best of your ability!

So, let’s get into it!

How Often Should You Bathe Your Horse

As humans, the topic of how often to bathe can be kind of an interesting question to explore. Some of us bathe twice daily, while others are lucky to see the inside of a shower more than once per week. The reason for such a variance is because humans have different opinions for how often they think it’s necessary to bathe. Well, horses are the same in this regard!

Deciding how often your horse should bathe is entirely dependent on a myriad of factors, including function, personal preference, and industry standards. If your horse is a racing horse, it may be best to give them a bath after each ride. However, jumpers may only need to bathe every month or so. Additionally, if you have a show coming up, you may want to wait until just before the event to bathe your horse so that they’re looking their best.

However, some circumstances can create a need to bathe your horse. If your horse has recently rolled around in mucky grass or mud, or any other unidentified substance, you probably should clean them. Additionally, if you notice that their mane or tail is looking pretty tangly, then bathing is a great, effective way to help them untangle it. Also, the end of spring can necessitate a bath, as their winter coat is likely shedding so their undercoat needs some love. Above all else, you just need to bathe them on a regular basis, whatever that means for you. Otherwise, your horse can be at risk for developing some nasty skin infections and disorders such as rain rot.

If your horse is in that unfortunate position, don’t fret – reach for Banixx for Horses. This clinically proven antifungal and antimicrobial solution provides immediate sting-free and odor-free relief without relying on pesky steroids or antibiotics. Simply massage Banixx into the affected area two to three times per day, making sure to spray out to the edges of the area for good measure. Within just a week of application, you should notice profound improvement in your horse’s condition. With Banixx, relief really can be that simple.

What Supplies Do I Need to Bathe a Horse?

You’ll want to own a few key supplies to ensure that you can capably complete the various bathing methods that we’ll discuss below. These supplies include:

  • A hose with an adjustable nozzle
  • Two buckets
  • A curry comb
  • A couple full body sponges and smaller ones for the face
  • A sweat scraper
  • Multiple dry towels
  • A body brush
  • A mud brush
  • A finishing brush
  • A dandy brush

You may need more supplies than are listed here depending on your horse or your preferences..

What Are the Different Ways to Bathe Your Horse?

There are three main ways you can bathe your horse:

  1. Hot toweling – ideal for cold weather times
  2. Rinsing off – perfect for a lightly soiled horse or when time is limited
  3. A full bath.- makes everyone feel good!!

Hot toweling is a great way to clean your horse in cold weather, as it doesn’t require you to get your horse completely wet. Rinsing off your horse, on the other hand, is a great, easy way to clean your horse on a hot day without needing to rely on any soap or other cleaning products. Finally, a full bath requires both that you initially rinse off your horse and then apply shampoo products to complete the process.

How to Hot Towel Your Horse

Hot toweling is an incredibly easy method of bathing your horse. All you need is a bucket of hot water, a sweat scraper, a dandy brush, a body brush, a mud brush, a finishing brush, a curry comb, and a bunch of dry towels.

To adequately prepare your horse for hot toweling, you’ll need to groom your horse thoroughly. Start by removing any loose hair or dirt with a curry comb. If your horse has a natural winter coat, use a stiff bristled dandy brush to remove dirt by working backwards from the crest of the neck in short, firm strokes. You’ll then want to repeat this step with a body brush to get up any finer dirt particles that a dandy brush couldn’t get. Finally, go over your horse with a soft finishing brush, using short, firm strokes to remove the tiniest layers of dirt. Now, let’s move on to preparing our bucket for hot toweling.

To prepare a bucket for hot toweling, fill a large bucket about two-thirds of the way full with hot water. Then, grab as many towels as you think you may need so you can have them on hand during the process. Now, you’re ready to start hot toweling your horse.

Begin by taking a towel and plunging it into the bucket, making sure to soak it thoroughly in the hot water. Then, wring out as much of the water as possible before placing the towel gently on your horse’s neck to acclimate him to the warm temperature. Scrub vigorously in a small section. Flip the towel over periodically to make sure you’re only using clean sections. Once you’ve finished cleaning this small section, take one of the dry towels and begin removing as much moisture as possible. After you’ve dried off this section, discard your current towel and repeat this process on a different section with a new, clean wet towel. Do this until you have hot toweled and dried your horse’s entire body.  Voila – you’ve hot toweled a horse.

Now, what about when the weather is a bit more forgiving? How do you rinse or bathe a horse?

How to Rinse Off a Horse – or- Give your horse a Mini-bath

When rinsing off a horse, you have two options available to you. You can either use a hose, or a bucket and sponge. We don’t necessarily have a preference for one over the other, a hose is sometimes easier to use. Some horses just don’t enjoy baths with a hose – I have one of those – he is more comfortable with the bucket and sponge routine!

To rinse your horse off with a hose, begin with a slow hose stream (spray nozzle on or off depending on your preference) starting near the bottom of your horse’s legs and gently work your way up.to his body. If you wait until your horse is standing still before moving on to other parts of the body, this will indicate that he is acclimated to the water and temperature.

Once a horse is acclimated, attach a nozzle to the end of your hose or adjust the nozzle in place to allow you to generate a higher water pressure. After attaching or adjusting the nozzle, begin running the hose back and forth from the top of your horse’s neck to his withers until the water runs clean. This tells you that you have removed any dirt, sweat or grime. Then, slowly work your way from front to back and top to bottom on one side before switching to the other. Once you’re finished, use a sweat scraper to remove excess water. If any of the water you’re wicking off is dirty, repeat the rinsing process until it is clean.

In the event you don’t have a hose available, or if your horse is body clipped or has a shorter coat, the other option is to use a bucket and sponge. All you need for this is a bucket of clean, slightly warm water and a sponge. Simply dip your sponge into the clean water and wipe it over your horse’s body, beginning with the neck and working your way down to the hindquarters before finishing with the face and legs. Once you’ve covered their body, you can carefully, slowly swish any remaining water from the bucket over their back and hindquarters to remove any remaining sweat or dirt that you missed. This final step is only recommended if you know the horse well and know that he will be tolerant of this final swish. It’s not a good plan to do this with a young or skittish horse.

How to Give a Horse a Full Bath

While rinsing a horse off is a quick and easy way to both basically clean them and allow their coat to retain natural oils, sometimes you need to give a horse a full bath with soap. To do this properly, you’ll actually need to rinse them off first as described above.

While your horse is still wet, dispense the recommended amount of shampoo (see label directions) into a small bucket (2 gallons) and fill up with warm water. Mix it together well and then submerge a big body sponge into the bucket. Squeeze it gently to wring out most of the water and then gently work the shampoo-laden water mix over your horse’s entire body. For particularly dirty areas or areas where there are manure stains, you may need to add some shampoo directly onto the sponge and work it into your horse’s wet skin. Remember: you must rinse your horse off until the water runs completely clear, as any leftover soap will make their skin itchy. However, if you are using Banixx Medicated Shampoo, there is NO soap in the formula, but rinsing is still important. Once the water runs clear, dab up some of the excess water on your horse’s skin particularly in areas such as the pastern, face and belly. Drying the pasterns will help prevent scratches, drying the face may make your horse more comfortable.  Toweling the belly is advised because a wet, drippy belly will (a) attract flies and (b) may cause your horse to cow-kick to relieve the ticklish sensation of water.

How to Wash a Horse’s Tail and Face

Regardless of which method for bathing your horse you use, you’ll want to wash their tail, too. To do this, begin by thoroughly soaking your horse’s tail in water, making sure to spread apart the hairs to get every hair wet. Then, directly apply shampoo to the wet tail and use your hands to massage it all the way to the skin on the tail-bone (dock).  Smear a small amount of shampoo to the long tail hairs from the dock on down near to the bottom of your horse’s tail.  You will need more if the tail is dirty—you’ll have to be the judge just as you are when you wash your own hair.  After you’ve thoroughly shampooed your horse’s tail, rinse it with cool water until the water runs clear. If the tail was particularly dirty, you may have to repeat the process. Once the tail is clean, allow it to air dry and finally, once dry, brush it out with a tail comb. Now you have a beautiful tail.

You may also want to condition your horse’s tail to keep it healthy-looking and easy to comb through. Luckily, this is pretty easy. All you have to do is make sure the tail is dry, apply the conditioner, and comb it through from root to tail. Then, wait fifteen minutes or so before rinsing it out. On the other hand, if you use Banixx Medicated Shampoo, it has conditioner built into it via premier Marine Collagen, so no need for an added conditioner.

It’s a good idea to clean/bathe your horse’s face – don’t want them going around making first impressions with a dirty face would you? What would their moms think? However, be warned that some horses are incredibly sensitive to the sensation of water on their faces. If this is the case with your horse, you may have to slowly introduce them to that sensation with the hose on an extremely light flow- it may be a good idea to have a buddy on hand to help you with this one.  If you are patient, your horse will get to the point where he tolerates water being applied to his face.  Always be careful around his ears, don’t spray into or onto his ears.

If your horse is already comfortable with having their face washed, start by dipping a sponge into warm, clean water. You might start out with a small sponge for a sensitive horse, working up to a larger sponge. Wring it out, and then gently go over his face, head, and ears. Next, gently apply slightly soapy sponge over the same trail you just made with the initial rinse. Finally, rinse the face again with a soap-free sponge and warm water until all the soap is gone.  Gently towel dry his face.  Most horses seem to relish this- it seems like a sort of bonding.

Safety Considerations for Bathing Your Horse

As with any activity involving a horse, safety must come first. Luckily, there are just a few things you can do as a horse owner to ensure that bath time is a fun, safe experience for everyone.

Look around at the area where you will bathe him.  Is there equipment that may topple on him if he collides with it? Is there barn equipment that does not need to be in the same area? Such as brooms, pitchforks whether plastic or metal? Saddle stand? Tack trunks? Clear the area of any of these items.  Horses have an uncanny knack of getting into trouble if it is at all possible!

Remember to always be mindful of where your bucket and hose are. You don’t want you or your horse to accidentally get caught and tangled up in your hose or bucket, and you certainly don’t want you or your horse to accidentally kick the bucket. Okay, bad joke.

Be aware of where the water and soap are going as you bathe him. This sounds obvious, but you need to remember that horses are incredibly sensitive to certain sensations. They may react poorly if water gets in their ears, or if soap gets in their eyes,

Finally, and this goes without saying, really, never stand behind your horse. Their rear end is incredibly powerful and it’s probably their best means of defense.  If your horse gets spooked during bathing, you DON’T want to be in that location!

As a proud horse owner, we know you want to keep your galloping pal happy and healthy, so we hope you found this article helpful. If you suspect your horse has developed any kind of skin disorder such as rain rot, please keep Banixx for Horses in mind. Alternatively, we have a host of information on how to treat horses on this page: Best Horse Information.