It is summer… and your horse sweats more. While you want your horse to look and feel clean and healthy with a shiny glowing coat, it is tempting to reach for the horse shampoo and conditioner and wash your horse frequently.
But how much is too much and what is most beneficial to the horse? How can you wash your horse safely without stripping the coat of natural oils or risking skin infection?
What are the expert opinions by veterinarians, horse trainers, and professional grooms?
And what is right for your horse, specifically?
Different Opinions on Bathing Horses
There are different opinions on how often you should wash your horse. However, one thing is certain: Bathing your horse too often with shampoo will strip the natural oils, create a dull and brittle coat, and deplete the skin’s natural defenses, leading to fungal and bacterial infections.
Horse and Mule trainer, author, and clinician Meredith Hodges of Lucky Three Ranch advises to bathe once a year in the summer, when the horse or mule is completely shed out. She only uses shampoo and conditioner on the mane and tail. She showers the mule or horse with water at a comfortable temperature, using a stiff brush to remove any bot eggs or stubborn dirt until the water runs clear.
Professional horse grooms – on the other side of the spectrum – may shampoo horses every week, getting ready for a show and wanting to present a spotless horse.
This broad spectrum of opinions can be confusing.
We have scoured articles and publications by experts and veterinarians in the US and Germany and have distilled the expert consensus for you.
How often should you wash your horse? Here is what the experts say:
- Wash your horse – or rather his or her body – once or twice during the summer with a gentle shampoo or equine wash and conditioner. That is sufficient and prevents brittle coats and skin infection brought about by stripping the coat and skin of protective oils (sebum).
- Wash your horse’s mane and tail with mild shampoo and conditioner up to a few times per month during the summer season if needed or if showing.
- Wash with clear luke-warm water at any time! Support the cleaning process with a stiff horse brush.
Feel good about bathing and remember:
- Always rinse thoroughly until the water rinses clear! Shampoo residue can damage your horse’s skin and lead to itching or allergies.
- Choose an equine shampoo that is formulated to gently care for your horse’s coat and skin. We especially like the Espana Silk Shampoo and Conditioner.
- Always strip the water off with a horse squeegee and – if possible – take your horse for a walk afterwards until he dries off.
We found that the majority of horse experts and veterinarians agree that bathing a horse with shampoo once or twice a year in the summer is plenty.
If your horse has a skin condition that requires more frequent shampooing with specialty shampoos, please follow your veterinarian’s directions.
Take the 30-day Challenge!
Are you wondering whether this is enough and how to keep your horse shiny and clean the rest of the time? Take a plunge and ditch the horse shampoo (for the body…) for a while. Continue to shampoo mane and tail and use professional quality grooming brushes to distribute the natural oils and create shine. Read more in our article “How to Groom Your Horse“.
Give this 30 days and re-evaluate: Is your horse clean and shiny? How do you feel about the process? Do you notice any change? Did you enjoy grooming your horse to shine and simply relying on clear water?
Let us know how you are doing and send pictures! We love to hear from you!
As always, Enjoy Your Horse!
Your Team at HorseHaus