Grooming Your Horse in Winter
Grooming Tips and Bathing Alternatives
As the crisp winter air sets in, grooming a thicker winter coat can make brushing challenging. Your routine remains much the same, but you’ll need to adapt to longer, thicker coats and the absence of traditional baths. Fear not, here are some practical tips to ensure grooming your horse in winter leaves your horse clean, healthy, and comfortable.
Make the Most of That Last Bath
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast and seize the opportunity for one final bath before winter truly sets in. This bath is not just about cleanliness; it’s a chance to pamper your horse’s skin and coat. Choosing the right shampoo can make all the difference as you transition into cold times.
- Consider shampoos infused with lemongrass and tea tree oil, which provide soothing relief for itchy horses or those with allergies. Tea tree oil also doubles as a natural bug repellent to ward off those pesky late-summer insects.
- For a lustrous finish, opt for a gentle, shine-boosting shampoo suitable for all skin types. These shampoos contain ingredients that keep the coat slick and shiny and can help with clipping if you go that way.
- After bathing, treat your horse to a rinse or hot-towel with grooming oil. A little oil goes a long way in conditioning the coat and enhancing shine, while also working wonders for those unruly manes and tails.
- To use grooming oils as a post-bath rinse, mix several capfuls with a gallon of warm water, sponge it onto your horse, sweat scrape, and allow your horse to dry without feeling sticky.
- To condition the mane and tail, massage a quarter-sized dollop of oil into them, using a bit more for exceptionally thick tails. Your horse will emerge from this last bath gleaming and ready for the colder days ahead.
Maintain a Dust-Free Coat
- As winter approaches, your curry comb will work until they beg for mercy. Consider switching to a curry comb with longer teeth or don grooming gloves to make the task more efficient and keep your hands warm.
- Modify your dandy and hard brushes as well; opt for brushes with longer, slightly stiffer bristles to get through the dense winter coat. Your trusty finishing brush will continue to work its magic, smoothing the surface of your horse’s hair and evenly distributing those helpful natural oils.
- You may find that static rules in winter as the air gets drier. Pick up any last dust bits with a damp cloth or spritz your horse with grooming spray before a few more brushes.
Keep your brushes clean!
Dealing with Post-Ride Sweat
- One of the challenges of winter grooming is managing a sweaty winter coat after a ride. Cooling your horse down effectively becomes crucial. After your ride, take the time for a more extended cool-out period to prevent your horse from becoming chilled. Coolers can block wind, absorb moisture, and keep your horse comfortably warm as they start to dry.
- Be wary of saddle sores and skin issues caused by sweat, friction, and long hair. Look for hair loss patches and sores around the girth area or ears. Lower legs can also get bacterial or fungal skin infections due to moisture, hair, and microbes. You may also see something like this in the saddle area.
Preventing Stains in Winter
- Light-colored horses are particularly prone to showing stains, so switch your grooming routine to be more preventative.
- Daily grooming with extra attention to currying and brushing helps distribute natural oils, preventing stains from setting in. Hot toweling your horse with grooming oil is another effective way to add conditioning and stain protection.
- To use grooming oils in winter on a long coat, apply small amounts to a dandy brush and massage them into the coat. Alternatively, use a clean cloth with a few dollops of oil to rub onto your horse’s coat.
- Adding sheets and blankets also provides a barrier against stains. Waterproof blankets are handy to keep out rain and prevent grass, manure, and urine stains from seeping through.
- Remember to step up your stall and paddock cleaning efforts, as light-colored horses can turn yellow when resting in dirty shavings. Frequent manure removal and avoiding leaving urine patches under shavings can help maintain your horse’s pristine appearance.
- Clean your horse’s brushes! They tend to get dirtier in the winter, so you may need to clean them more often. Weekly? Perhaps!
- How’s your horse’s nutrition in the winter? Reduced pasture access means your horse is not receiving those skin-healthy Omega 3’s – like flax or chia. It’s SO EASY to add those in.
Hopefully you will never see this IRL
- If you do discover a stain, address it promptly. Use your curry comb or grooming gloves to break up dry stains, then spritz the discolored area with a few pumps of no-rinse shampoo. Let it set for five minutes, then gently buff out the stain with a clean, damp cloth. Be cautious not to use excessive product or water, as it can lead to unwanted foam.
Alternatives to Winter Bathing
- Try a hot toweling treatment to deep clean your horse’s coat instead of a bath. You’ll need a bucket of hot water, a bucket of cold water, some no-rinse shampoo, and several cloths or sponges.
- Mix a few gallons of hot water with a few capfuls of no-rinse shampoo and toss in some cloths or sponges. Cloths tend to have more texture and can get into longer hair.
- Grab a hot cloth and wring it out until it’s barely damp. Curry comb your horse with the rag, and work “against the grain” for maximum stain lifting. Your horse should stay almost dry throughout the process. Use a cooler to cover and dry any areas that are too wet.
- When your cloth is cool and dirty, toss it into the fresh water for a rinse and then back into the hot. Continue the process until your horse is clean, and don’t forget, you can also use grooming oil in addition to spot-cleaner for added shine and conditioning.
Using an insta-hot kettle makes hot toweling easy
Clipping for Comfort
- For many horses, body or trace clipping becomes necessary in the fall and winter. If managing sweat, thick coats, or discomfort during exercise becomes challenging, consider clipping your horse.
- Before clipping, your horse should be spotless. If traditional bathing isn’t an option, grooming and hot toweling provide an excellent alternative for preparing the coat for clippers.
Now we count the days until spring
Click these links to shop for everything you need for grooming your horse in winter. 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.
HandsOn Grooming Gloves – also, use code PEG for some free shipping!
Wahl Professional Animal Bravura Lithium Clipper – this includes the 5 in 1 blade that goes from a #9 to a #40. Perfect for designs!