Oil Buffing Your Horse – Add Shine and Conditioning


Want to add a little shine and conditioning to your horse AND skip your workout for the day? Please welcome oil buffing to your horse grooming routine! 


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What is oil buffing?


  • Oil buffing is sometimes called hot-clothing your horse, depending on how you apply your grooming oil.


  • It starts with your favorite grooming oil, a brush or some washcloths, and a lot of elbow grease. You end up with a shiny coat that has some extra hair conditioning.


  • Sheen products that you spray on will add shine but lack in the conditioning department. Dry and brittle hair is the magic recipe for dirt, manure, and urine stains to establish permanent residence in your horse’s coat. Conditioned and sleek hair has an added layer of protection against stains.


  • A horse’s natural oils, called sebum, also provide stain protection. Oil buffing enhances this.


very shiny bay horse on the grass


What types of oil can you use?


  • When I first started oil buffing horses, I didn’t have a name for it, but I used this technique to prep my horse for clipping. The No. 1 Light Oil is my favorite to use. You could also use baby oil or another mineral oil-based grooming oil.


  • M-T-G is NOT the oil to use. While it has mineral and cade oil, it treats skin issues.


  • Are there any other horse care lines that have a grooming oil? I don’t think so! As with any product you put on your horse, do a patch test of a tiny amount. Please a dollop of the product on your horse’s upper leg to check for a reaction.

Techniques for oil buffing your horse


  • You have lots of options to help your horse shine! In every single case, start with a clean horse!


Create a dilution in water for a post-bathing rinse.


  • After shampooing and sweat-scraping your horse, rinse him with a grooming oil dilution.


  • Using a bucket, fill it with about 2-3 gallons of water or so, maybe less if you like. Warm water is best to keep your horse comfortable.


  • Add a few glugs of your grooming oil. Less is more!


  • Dunk a horse bathing sponge or washcloth into the mix, and rinse your horse off.


horse grooming oil in bucket with water

This is more than one glug when you just pour it right in. Try a little at first and make adjustments!


General oil buffing before a clip


  • Adding a grooming oil to your horse before you clip is functional, not aesthetic. The sole purpose is to condition your horse’s coat and help your clippers zip through the hair.


  • Because you will be clipping almost everything off, it’s best to rub onto your horse with a dry cloth. Do not worry about using too much; you will clip most of it away.


  • Of course, you don’t want your horse to be drippy or sticky, but you don’t have to spend tons of time buffing the oil. The application can be slightly uneven!


  • Then clip as usual.


Oil buffing after a clip


  • Most horses have a dull coat and diminished color after a body clip. Bring back a bit of depth to the color and add shine with a proper oil buffing session.


  • On a clean and dry horse, rub in some grooming oil. You can apply it with a rag, washcloth, grooming brush, cactus cloth, grooming mitt, or even a sponge.


  • It’s best to put a few dime-sized dollops on your rag, brush, or mitt and then rub in. Grooming oils are thicker and won’t spray as a mist; they spray more like a super-soaker water toy.


  • Spend some time applying the oil evenly. Your horse should glow, not drip.


applying horse grooming oil with a sheepskin mitt


Winter oil buffing 


  • Here’s where you can help out a dull winter coat. It’s the same process as post-clip buffing. BUT – a long winter coat means you might need a stiffer brush or firmer sponge to work the oil into your horse’s coat.


  • Most coats will not be as shiny in the winter as they are in the summer. You may get some shine, but not as much as with a clipped coat or a summer coat. In winter, focusing on conditioning and stain-repelling is more important.


Oil buffing your horse in winter with a rinse.


  • You have the option of doing a hot oil treatment in the winter, too. This hybrid method combines a post-shampoo rinse and hot toweling your horse. You may hear this being called “hot clothing” or “hot oiling.”


  • Start with about 2 gallons of piping hot water in a bucket, and add a few glugs of oil. Drop some washcloths into the bucket to soak.


  • Grab a cloth, and wring it out until it begs for mercy. It should be warm, barely damp, and steamy. Use this to curry comb your horse’s winter coat.


  • The hair can be long, clipped, or growing out after a clip. Working against the direction of the hair growth is also helpful. Cover completed areas with a cooler.


  • Your horse should not get wet from this!


How much oil do you use?


  • Less is more.


  • Generally speaking – I use about 3-4 glugs of grooming oil for one treatment. It’s not a lot! At the minimum, it’s probably a few tablespoons, maybe more for longer coats, larger horses, or for a deeper shine.


  • The work comes as you spread it all over your horse’s body. Hence, the buffing.


  • All horses will be different here, so I suggest starting with a tiny amount in one section of your horse. Perhaps one side of the neck. Try it out, and see how it looks. If you want more shine, go over that area again until you get the desired results. Then duplicate that over the rest of your horse’s body.


  • Your horse should not be sticky, oily, drippy, or a dust magnet.


  • If you accidentally apply too much, you can do your best to wipe some away. In warm weather, you can shampoo it off right away. In colder weather, use a no-rinse shampoo to wipe out some of the excess goodness.


shiny clipped horse with grooming oil

A simple rag or washcloth will do!


When do you oil buff your horse?


  • Whenever you want to!


  • Warm weather oil buffing is much easier to accomplish after a shampoo. You might find yourself doing this frequently in the summer.


  • In colder weather, it’s nice to oil buff after a deep grooming session. It does take much more time in winter, but you can always spread it out.


  • Repeat as necessary!


Does oil buffing work on winter coats? Summer coats?


  • You can oil buff on any length of coat! Clipped, unclipped, summer coat, winter coat.


  • If you like to apply this grooming method with a brush, use a stiffer brush for longer hair. After clipping and with summer coats, you can use a softer brush.


What about applying grooming oils to manes and tails?


  • Absolutely! Think of it as argon oil or serum for your own hair. Don’t overdo it!


  • I will put one quarter-sized dollop into my hands and rub them together, then run my fingers through the tail. You can do the same for the mane.


  • I do not suggest doing this in the mane or tail if you need to braid for a show.



shiny horse after clipping in a grass paddock


Does this grooming technique interfere with a horse’s winter coat being waterproof?


  • Waterproofing on a horse’s winter coat comes from his natural oils, the skin’s sebum. Adding a grooming oil boosts this!


Tools you need to oil buff your horse.


  • Your grooming oil of choice


  • Your application method – bucket and sponge, rag, brush, cactus cloth, dry sponge… you pick!


  • Some time. It’s not a fast process to buff your horse by hand. But the extra oomph and conditioning make it worth it!




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

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

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Shapley's Hi Shine Shampoo, 1-Gallon

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

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SHAPLEY'S Medi-Care Med Shampoo W/Tea Tree & Lemon Grass, 32 oz

The best shampoo for shine and soothing.

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Shapley's No.1 Light Oil
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For shine, conditioning, detangling, and stain protection.

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Shapley's No.2 Heavy Oil

For deep conditioning and detangling - coat, mane, and tail.

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Rubber Latex Waterproof Dishwashing Gloves, 2 Pair Medium Long Cuff
$9.99 ($5.00 / Count)

It's fashion and function

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Shapley’s 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo - Whitening Formula

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

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Thank you!