How often should I bathe my horse?
I wish I could give you a very direct answer - like “every week”, but it’s more like “when necessary”. So - how can you tell when it’s necessary? I go by a few things when deciding when to use shampoo and when to just plain rinse.
-What is the reason for getting your horse in the washrack? If it’s a post workout visit to waterville to get rid of sweat, you can get away with a rinse. (Tip - invest in a great nozzle with many settings, the FAN setting is a liquid squeegee.) If it’s to remove a stain, try spot cleaning first. If it’s to remove two weeks of stain residues, you can go for the shampoo!
I often shampoo tails and manes without doing the whole body, maybe this would work for you, too. Or you can only do legs if need be.
-Is his coat full of naturally occurring oils? If yes, you may not want to shampoo too much or too often. If your horse is the Sahara desert, I would do my best with a curry, vacuum, and rinse so that the oils can build up over time. Some horses are oilier than others!
You can see that this horse below has great natural oils - a stream of water beads up on him! It’s totally safe and fine to shampoo, just know that you may remove some of these oils in the process.
-What’s your show or clinic schedule like? If you have a show or big clinic next week, I would skip the shampoo this week and wait until just before the show, that way you are getting a big bang for your buck, and he’s had an extra week to get oilier (and probably dirtier) on his own.
-Is there a medical reason to shampoo? If you suspect rain rot, scratches, or other skin issue, a shampoo can be part of the treatment. (Be sure to get help from your Veterinarian in diagnosing skin issues, many of the treatment shampoos are very specific about what they treat and are available only from Vets.) This may also be a case in which you can spot shampoo certain areas of your horse. Sometimes with special shampoos there is a schedule of very frequent treatments.
-What’s your favorite shampoo? This will also determine how often you shampoo. I use a mild shampoo for general cleaning, which can be generally be used more often than a blueing shampoo designed for making white pop, which tend to be more drying.
-How much are you diluting your shampoo? A capful to a five gallon jar, or direct? Heavily diluted shampoos will be milder, and may likely leave more natural oil. Using a shampoo directly may be stronger for your horse. Over time (and with some experimenting…) you will find the right balance for you. For example, I use a dollop of shampoo directly on the mane, and I find that the suds as I rinse are enough to wash his neck and sometimes the front legs.
-How much hot water do you have? If it’s winter, and I’m thinking “shampoo or perish”, I first make sure I have enough hot water to rinse all of the shampoo from my horse! So, I can’t be the third person in the washrack! I want to make sure my horse is comfortable through the whole bath.
I love products for me and my horses - but I try and plan ahead and make good choices about how often I shampoo. Often, my decision to make a day into a “spa day” is based on an overwhelming desire to have a spic and span horse, if only for a few hours before the inevitable roll in the paddock!
How do you decide when to shampoo??