How can I keep my horse clean the night before a show?

This is always a tricky thing to pull off!  You want your horse to be super spiffy for the show, but you know he wants to use some poop as a pillow.  (Makes perfect sense.)  Most of us like to do a deep cleaning shampoo and conditioner before we take off and wow the judges - so how do we manage the night before?


I’ve got some tricks for you.  First, during the bath itself.  Use a curry comb and horse vacuum (if you have one) to get out as much dirt as possible before you shampoo.   Use a mild shampoo designed for horses.  This will allow you to get super clean, but won’t strip the skin and hair totally of those essential oils that create that “bloom” and shine.  Less is more. If you choose to condition your whole horse, his mane, and/or his tail, be sure to rinse every last drop out.  (Here are some tips on washing tails.)  This is going to take some time, be patient and start with only a small amount.  (You may choose to protect his hooves from all that water by using a hoof oil before you bathe, I like the pasty kind.)


Once you are rinsed, you should probably rinse again.  If you see bubbles during the sweat scraping process, go back and rinse more.   Be warned that many products for detangling can create a dirt attracting magnet on the mane and tail, so think about your horse’s living situation before you use one.  Your option would be to use one as you are already at the showgrounds.


I like to do a towel dry/buff/massage after the sweat scraper, followed by a spritz of shine creating spray.  This starts the oils coming back, and sort of creates a shiny shield that can help repel stains.  (Great for chrome legs!).  I also like to dry him totally before I let him loose to roll, and since I know he’s going to roll, I let him do so in a super clean stall and then back to his normal routine.  If it’s not super warm, you can let him roll with a super light sheet on, and then take it off. 


For the evening, when you can’t be there to monitor his attraction to dirt, you can help yourself out a bit.  Do a thorough grooming with a curry comb to get more of his stain repelling oils coming back before you tuck him in.

Also, now is the time to clean his stall again, paying special attention to urine patches and manure piles.  See if you can add some more fresh shavings.  If you can, come back at night check time to pick his stall again.  If the weather allows, use a fly sheet or cotton sheet to keep him clean.   Many newer sheet styles have belly panels also, just in case your guy likes to get his belly all dirty.  


Some folks may want to wrap their legs overnight, and to this I say “only if that’s part of his normal routine”.  As we all know - horses like routine, and the time to try new things (like wrapping) is NOT the night before a show. 


In the morning, start with a deep curry and vacuum session.  Any unfortunate stains should slide right off if you curry, wipe with warm water.  You can use a spot treatment if needed, but if you are grooming your horse from the inside out with a well balanced diet, a damp washrag should do it.  If your horse has clipped legs, as many show horses do, this will make things even easier. (I suggest clipping legs at least a week before a show so that the color change has some time to grow out.)


What are your tips?  


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