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Guide to Proper Horse Bathing, Equine Grooming and Basic Cleaning

Bathing your horse is a time consuming yet necessary activity that will make for a presentable animal at a show and that will leave the animal that has just made it through a winter looking once more shiny and clean.
The logistics of washing and shampooing a horse do require some pre-planning in order to avoid common mistakes that will cost you time and most likely also try your patience. Begin by picking out a spot that will not turn into a muddy mess as soon as you turn on the water. Similarly, find an adequate post to which to tie the horse and gather the supplies you will need. Consider wearing clothes that can get wet without leaving you soaked to the skin; find some rubber gloves to protect your hands, and get the shampoo.
When it comes to selecting the proper shampoo for your horse, you will need to resist the urge to simply use regular cleaners that are not specially formulated for these animals. If you wash your horse frequently, you will need to select a more gentle shampoo than if you only do so upon occasion. Additionally, there are several different shampoo formulas available, depending on your need. Purchase the kind of shampoo that matches your horses’ needs the best. Shampoos formulated for horses are pH-balanced for the animals’ sensitive skin which is also host to a number of beneficial bacteria which – if damaged or destroyed – will lead to severe skin problems.

Once you have chosen the proper spot to wash your horse and the animal is securely tied to a post, mix the shampoo with lukewarm water in an easily accessible bucket. The amount of water will depend on the concentration of the shampoo – be sure to follow the directions! Beginning with the animal’s feet and working upward, hose down the horse slowly and gently until you finish by wetting its back. After the animal is completely wet, use a sponge to transfer the soapy water to the animal. Work in the shampoo with a grooming mitt and do not be afraid to take your time until you are certain that the dirt, grime, and dead skin cells have been worked out. Hose away dirtied suds and apply soap once more. Ensure that the parts of the horse that have been shampooed do not dry out but instead keep them adequately moist. Keeping in mind that horses detest having their heads washed, be sure to use less shampoo so that you will have to do less rinsing. Cleansing of the nostrils and the inside of the ears should be done with a moist cloth. The tail can be immersed in a bucket of soapy water and then massaged in the same way that you would shampoo the hair on your head. A specially formulated conditioner for the tail and mane will round out the bath.

When you are ready for a final rinse, it is important to begin at the top and work your way down, being sure to wash out all of the shampoo to avoid a dull looking coat and irritated skin. While you are rinsing off the animal, continue to employ the grooming mitt. After the final rinse you will be able to remove excess water with a sweat scraper before you towel dry the animal. Some horse owners find that walking the animal after a bath until the coat has dried will minimize the chances of the horse rolling in dry, dusty hay to get dry.

Read the next horse care article on Clipping / Shaving Your Horse's Hair.
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