Bathe Your Horse Beautiful

Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Allison Price

Laurie Pitts, top barn manager and groom, shares her bathing techniques to bring out the beauty of your horse’s coat.

You might feel compelled to bathe your horse often, even if you aren’t showing. This can be a good thing. Dry sweat can cause skin irritations. Dirty, dirty horses can rub their heads and tails, causing hair loss. Too often washing your horse with harsh products or too often can cause dry skin and hair loss. It’s okay to shampoo your horse daily during the hot, sticky summer months. However, you should limit the frequency to a couple of times per month. If you have a very yellow tail that will require multiple baths/washings to whiten, save bluing and whitening shampoos.

Bathing horses is a great way to enhance the horse’s coat. This can be achieved by using an apple cider shampoo after washing your horse with shampoo. This helps repel insects and cuts soap residue.

Bathe Horse

Prepare your horse for the show by giving him a thorough clean. You can use sponges or scrubby mitts to remove dirt from the skin. Pay particular attention to the dock at the base of your tail and the crest on the neck. Your hands should not get dirty when you braid your braids. Also, the skin between braids should be clean.

Remember to thoroughly rinse your horse’s entire body with the shampoo. Soap residue can not only dull the coat but also cause skin irritations and itching.

What you will need:

2.5-gallon bucket

Hose and twistnozzle (not shown) – I prefer this to a spray handle/trigger.

A scrubby sponge or a sponge with a side-scrubby

Regular body sponge


Sweat Scraper – I prefer a two-handed scraper to the smooth side of an shedding blade.

Apple cider vinegar

Tail-detangler spray

Towel not pictured

* For horses with gray socks/stockings, a bluing/whitening shampoo/bluing rinse such as Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Blueing is available at grocery stores, country shops and tack shops. It can be used for pre-show bathing.

These are the basics of bathing:

1. You can use the hose to wet your horse’s entire body, except his head.

2. Use a generous amount of shampoo to your dog’s mane and tail. Apply it by hand to the skin. Pay special attention to the dock at the tail. Let the shampoo sit for a while before you begin to wash the rest.

3. Add a few drops of shampoo to the bucket. Apply the shampoo to the hair by using your scrubby sponge, mitt or comb. I don’t recommend using a regular sponge to do this because it won’t penetrate the hair. You can continue to do this on the other side of his body, and also on the legs. Next, shampoo the opposite side.
Start at the ears, and work your way up to the rest of the body. (Don’t rinse the horse in any part. Always wash the entire horse.

4. Then, scrub his face with a scrubby and apply the shampoo to all areas that have sweat or dirt. If he is really dirty, rinse the bucket out and re-use it with shampoo and water. Continue with the original bucket of sudsy hot water. Use the suds to massage the forelock, his hair around his eyes and ears (trying not to get shampoo in his eyes), his front and cheeks, and his jaw. Use a damp sponge to wipe his ears. Be careful not to get any water in them. Horses are more concerned about water getting into their ears then their eyes.

5. Use the hose to rinse everything, except the face. Never spray your face with the hose. Horses will quickly become distrustful of you handling their ears and faces. Rinse your hair well. To rinse the shampoo completely, twist the nozzle. Fold the hose over your hand if you are unable to get enough pressure. To ensure that you don’t have any shampoo left, wash the mane and tail hairs with your fingertips.

6. The bucket should be rinsed well and filled with warm, clean water. Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the results.

7. Use the sweat scraper to get rid of the excess water from your horse’s skin, right down to his knees.

8. The regular sponge should be rinsed thoroughly and squeeze out all water. To absorb as much water possible, rub the sponge on the face. Continue this process several times, making sure to squeeze out as much water as possible. Next, squeeze the sponge out until it is almost dry. Then run the sponge down your horse’s legs.

9. Comb his mane and forelock so they lay flat.

10. After that, spray the tail with detangler. Comb it very carefully, starting from the bottom and working your ways up.

Rinse Options

After washing your horse’s shampoo, you can use a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse on it to enhance the shine and repel insects. A diluted bluing rinse is the best way to clean gray horses or make socks and stockings sparkle white. A white bucket is best as it allows you to accurately judge the horse’s color. Too much bluing could literally make him blue. It is possible to combine vinegar with bluing in one rinse.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!