Welcome to my 10 steps for stress-free summer washing. As the owner of grey horses for 20 years, I would consider myself very experienced in washing horses. And that’s before I count how many horses I washed while working professionally with them! The key to keeping the whole experience as quick and relaxing as possible is to prepare.
1 – Collect your washing kit
Having a grey horse and working full time means that I have had to stream line my washing kit. I keep it super simple for a summer wash, which is different to a show wash (hopefully one of those will come up soon). I aim to wash Nickel at least every fortnight if we are not competing so the summer wash is cold water simple wash. With Murphy, who was the dirtiest horse known to man, we often washed him twice a week or more.
Below is my basic kit which I keep together so I don’t need to be scratching about looking for missing items –
I use cheap supermarket shampoo, my favourite being Tesco’s Apple and Aloe Vera, mostly because it is cheap and I have yet to find a horse that is allergic to it. I also buy car sponges from where ever is cheapest as they are the best value. Usually B&M or Poundland. In my opinion sponges from the tack shops are just over priced for what you end up doing with them. I have over the years bought very expensive horse washing mitts etc but still I go back to my sponge. For heavy stains/ground in mud I use a Magic Brush. I also have a large bucket with I only ever use for washing horses, this is for hygiene reasons. Again as with the sponges, your best bet is to buy from a place like Homebase or B & Q rather than from a tack shop.
2 – Groom the Horse
This may sound silly but I always groom before I bath, mostly to remove as much mud or dust before I start which makes the job so much easier. Just a quick knock over with a magic brush, then do the mane and tail, before removing all the dust etc with a good dandy brush.
3 – Wet the Horse
It is far easier to get the shampoo into the coat if you prewash with water first, it just seems to let the shampoo ‘stick’ better. Nickel is good boy and lets me hose his head, but you may want to use a sponge to get the head wet. This is an area often missed and their heads are super greasy!
4 – Apply the Shampoo
I prefer to put the shampoo in the bucket and add water to it. I use the sponge to rub the soapy water all over the horse, being careful not to get it in their eyes.
5 – The Mane and Tail
I pay particular attention to the mane and tail as these get really greasy and scurfy if neglected. So, I do tend to use neat shampoos on these areas and really massage it in.
6 – Rinse
It is really important to rinse the whole horse really well. I will sometimes rinse and scrape twice is I am not sure that I have got all the shampoo out. Again, a hose job really, all over paying lots of attention to the mane area as this has neat shampoo on.
7 – Scrape of the Excess Water
Unless the horse is really hot, then when washing I will scrape the water off using a metal sweat scraper on the body and bailer twine on the legs and belly. The bailer twice trick was taught to me in the riding school and it is the best method to get excess water off tricky lumpy areas. Simply have a clean long piece of bailer twice. Take each end in either hand and pull tight. Then pull this over the horse’s coat including on the legs with as hard a pressure as they will take. The water literally falls off. Just give it a go!
8 – Application of treatments
At this point I will spray the tail with show sheen and the mane too if I am not planning on plaiting or pulling before the next wash. My preferred product is Canter Mane and Tail Conditioner, which is long lasting and smells nice. As it’s a summer wash this is also the time, I would apply fly spray if needed. I have always found white greys to be fairly self-repellent to flies. Therefore, I do not tend to use a lot of fly spray. However on dark coloured horses it has been vital.
9 – The Tail
The last thing before I finish the wash that I will do is to brush out the tail completely. As this stage with the show sheen soaked in, the tail will be very easy to brush out. I don’t believe in brushing tails too often as it ruins them. In the winter, I plait them up at all times unless they are competing to keep them cleaner.
10 – Finish
So as it’s summer comfort wash, the next thing to do is turn out your horse and cry as they roll in the dust……..