Why I love a dirty horse!


For years and years, I groomed for some Olympians. The motto about grooming was “Every day is the Olympics”. And it was awesome, but I still love a dirty horse.


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  • The horses in my care were so shiny and dirt-free that you could use them as a plate and eat your lunch off them. The standards were high for turnout and presentation. Even a wayward piece of shavings in the mane could make your rider have a cow.


  • Don’t get me wrong – the horses were allowed to be horses. Every horse was allowed to be turned out to roll, eat grass, and relax.   And for as much as we cleaned stalls and paddocks, gray horses rolling in poop was a thing and we just had to deal. 


  • Of course, if my horses lived at the same barn or trailered in for lessons, they would be just as ready to go to the Olympics, or at least they would appear ready for the Olympics.


gray horse with big mud spots on the cheek

Migs, NOT Olympics-ready.


Horses can be dirty, and maybe they should be!


  • A dirty horse is not always a health hazard.  In fact, there are many benefits to allowing your horse to be dirty. And, it’s a great way to shock and awe your fellow barn mates. Always keep ‘em guessing!



dirty horse after mud rolling while wearing white fly sheet

So lovely. Luckily the strategically placed fly sheet absorbed a lot of this mud.


Why I love a dirty horse


  • They like it. It’s their chosen way to be.


  • Natural bug protection. A coating of dust, mud, dirt creates a natural barrier for bugs. Mud is the most efficient at bug-repelling, but dust and dirt help, too.


  • Horses get dirty by rolling, which is natural chiropractics for your horse.


  • Rolling is also a way for horses to tell each other which sand pile is theirs.


  • A dirty horse can tell you (and your veterinarian) a lot about how he feels in his body. If your horse is only dirty on one side, he may be sore somewhere in his body and unwilling to roll on both sides. Same for the horse that’s reluctant to roll, or the horse that’s reluctant to get up.


  • A dirty horse that has been rolling has done a lot of self-shedding. As spring approaches, you may notice that paddock roll spots are often filled with hair! This saves you some elbow grease.


  • A dirty horse is more satisfying to groom. Harder to groom, perhaps taking much longer, but more satisfying.


  • The level of dirty is often quite funny. And if you can’t laugh at your horse, well then, that’s too bad.


  • The dirt magnitude can be worse in summer when blankets can’t “absorb” some of the dirt. Come late summer, I’m counting the days until I can bust out the blankets!

filthy gray horse in winter

So crusty


Grooming tips for the dirty horse


  • This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you stop slathering on products that strip your horse’s sebum, your filthy horse is much easier to clean.   Sebum, their natural oil, creates shine, is waterproofing, and has anti-microbial properties that ward off bacterial and fungal infections.  


  • More grooming and a proper diet with healthy amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids nurture healthy skin and coat.  When you add in elbow grease, there is no place for stains and mud to linger.  That sebum acts like a stain barrier.  


  • Water is fine to use on dirty horses, but skip the shampoo unless absolutely necessary.  Shampoos, especially whitening and stain-removing sorts,  strip that sebum away.  And don’t even get me started on dish soap – unless your horse is actually in an oil spill, you don’t need it. 

Grooming tools and products can help


  • Keep your grooming tools clean.  Dirty brushes don’t help anything but the dirt. Weekly cleans are a good habit to get into, more if necessary or if you have massive mud to deal with. 


  • Spot clean any horrible stains.  Use a light, no-rinse shampoo after grooming to deodorize and lift any stains.  You will be surprised at how much stain removes after grooming and some warm water, you may not even need a no-rinse spot remover. 


  • Keep your horse’s extra dirty parts clipped if possible.  Lower legs are notorious for skin infections, like equine pastern dermatitis, and can be prevented and easily treated when the hair is clipped.  You don’t have to clip down to the skin, just remove enough bulk to allow air around. 


  • Fly sheets help keep your horse clean, too! In the winter, you can add a light rain sheet or turnout to keep mud away. 

Add oil buffing to your routine


  • Oil buffing is a way to add conditioning and shine to your horse.  Some horses don’t have a lot of sebum, but that’s ok; you can add it.  Grooming oils are absorbed by the hair, making it softer, shinier, and more stain resistant. 


  • You can oil buff any time of year, and in the winter is especially helpful before and after clipping. 


  • Oil buffing can be done with rags, a brush, a cactus cloth, a bucket of hot water, and in any temperature.  There are many ways to do it, all of which are outlined here in this oil buffing guide




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Need to stock up to do some of these horse grooming tips for all seasons?  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support! You can also visit my Amazon storefront here:  PEG storefront.


Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious flax formula.

Shapley's Easy-Out No Rinse Shampoo 32 fl.oz

Spot removing, deodorizing, dust busting, shine adding spray.

02/20/2024 12:33 am GMT
Shapley's Hi Shine Shampoo, 1-Gallon

Other sizes, too! Adds shine with the most gentle formula.

02/20/2024 09:52 pm GMT
SHAPLEY'S Medi-Care Med Shampoo W/Tea Tree & Lemon Grass, 32 oz

The best shampoo for shine and soothing.

02/20/2024 06:13 pm GMT
Shapley's No.1 Light Oil
$19.99 ($0.62 / Fl Oz)

For shine, conditioning, detangling, and stain protection.

02/20/2024 11:02 pm GMT
Rubber Latex Waterproof Dishwashing Gloves, 2 Pair Medium Long Cuff
$9.99 ($5.00 / Count)

It's fashion and function

02/20/2024 10:17 pm GMT
Shapley’s 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo - Whitening Formula

For all colors - to add shine and help lift stains.

02/20/2024 01:57 am GMT
Shapley's Equitone 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, GOLD

Brighten duns, palominos, and golden colors.

02/20/2024 02:28 am GMT
SHAPLEY'S 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, RED

For chestnuts and some bays

02/20/2024 02:07 am GMT
Shapley's 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, BLACK

For dark bays, black points, and black horses

02/20/2024 01:52 am GMT
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4 Pairs Exfoliating Gloves
$8.95 ($2.24 / Count)
02/20/2024 08:13 am GMT
Shires Cactus Cloth
$16.19 ($16.19 / Count)
02/20/2024 03:18 pm GMT
Farnam Slick 'N Easy Horse Grooming Block

Good for grooming, shedding, and bot egg removal

02/21/2024 01:47 am GMT
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Thank you!