Not so much a question, but more a treatise: On horses, baby ducks, sebum, and dishwashing detergent.
There are a lot of things that I will do for my horse to keep him healthy. I take his temperature, I groom him daily, I inspect his legs and hooves all the time. What I won’t ever do is use dishwashing detergent on him.
Yes, I am fully aware that dishwashing detergents are “safe” enough to use on baby ducks and wildlife that has been involved in an oil spill. But let’s analyze this - that’s an emergency situation where the oil must be removed. If you were to use that dishwashing detergent on your horse and he hasn’t been in an oil spill, you are using an ultra powerful detergent designed for your pots and pans on his skin. You will strip away all of his natural oils.
Nothing that suggests calling Poison Control will ever touch a horse that I groom.
So let’s back up a second and talk about natural oils on your horse. They make him shine. His own body produces them. They naturally ward off stains. Sure, you will still get stains, but removing them is as easy as a curry then followed by a damp towel. Maybe some horse friendly dry shampoo. If you let your horse stay as oily as he makes himself, stains are a non issue.
Looking deeper into your horse’s skin, it has layers and layers of cells. The inner layers eventually grow and migrate upwards to form the outer layers of cells. This outer layer, the epidermis, keeps electrolytes, fluids, and nutrients in your horse and keeps infections things like bacteria out of your horse. His skin is the first layer of immune system defense!
A lot of curry combs died as I gained unbelievable upper body strength creating this shine. Why would I strip it all away?
Your horse’s skin also has sweat glands, which help him stay cool. He’s also covered in hair follicles, each of which has it’s own hair and sebaceous gland attached to it. The sebaceous glands secrete sebum - which is the natural oil.
The actual, technical job of sebum is to protect the skin, keeping it moist and soft. Think about super dry skin that can crack when a joint moves - sebum prevents this. Sebum also prevents bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. from entering the hair follicle. The hair follicle goes through all layers of skin, and if the sebum is absent, infectious agents can reach deep into the skin. Sebum also has it’s own anti-microbial properties, enhancing the skin’s immune system functions.
No thank you!
So - why would you put a dishwashing detergent powerful enough to remove crude oil on your horse? It’s going to strip your horse’s hair and skin of everything natural that protects it and creates shine. Your horse will be left with dry skin, unprotected skin, and his hair will be brittle and more apt to stain. Dishwashing detergents are great for an oil spill situation, but for getting ready for shows or stain removal you are risking some damage to your horse’s skin, hair, and immune system. A good shampoo designed for horses is mild enough to leave the sebum and just work on the dirt and dust that your horse accumulates.