what to do if your horse is skunked


Horse is stinky from a skunk? No problem.



  • What a lovely scenario. All sarcasm intended. If you were “lucky” enough to be there when it happened, your best course of action is to wipe away as much of the skunk oil as you possibly can before working in an odor-removing “shampoo”.


  • Resist the urge to add water, this can make things worse. Again – don’t add water!


  • If you arrive at a skunk mess later, the oil has had more time to settle and spread and might take a bit longer to remove. Just freaking fantastic.


Always call your veterinarian for advice on dealing with any skunk oil that has gotten into your horse’s nose, eyes, or any other sensitive area.


  • Skunks can also transmit Rabies, so your Vet may need to give a Rabies vaccination booster and check your horse for any wounds. This is definitely not something you want to dismiss as an impossibility. Horses die from Rabies every single year and it’s a horrible way to die. Once the signs of Rabies appear in your horse, it’s too late to do anything. OK, enough with the neurological unpleasantness while we are talking about olfactory unpleasantness.



baking soda to use as a cleaner

You probably already have these ingredients.


Reach instead for some common ingredients to create a skunk smell-busting shampoo.


  • If possible, you will want to wear gloves when cleaning your horse that has just been skunked. I can think of no better reason to wear gloves. Ever.


  • Skip the tomato juice nonsense. It doesn’t work and then you have a pink-tinted horse that smells like skunky tomato soup.


  • If you spend any time searching for these recipes online, you will find that there are lots of combinations and permutations, most include hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap. The tried and true recipe is 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide (or vinegar if you don’t have any hydrogen peroxide) with 1/4 cup of baking soda. Add about a teaspoon of dish soap.


  • You’ll probably need to work in stages, making a batch at a time to cover all of the skunk-smelling parts of your horse. Hydrogen peroxide will degrade quickly, so make a batch at a time and apply it to your horse.


  • Skip getting your horse wet and go straight to applying your solution directly to your horse. You can rub against the direction of hair growth and add more for a longer coat or mane/tail.


  • Let your horse chill in this recipe for several minutes before rinsing.


  • I have no idea how this recipe works, as I have conveniently repressed all of my undergrad chemistry knowledge. I do know that the hydrogen peroxide will likely bleach out your horse a little bit. You might be spending some time with a color-enhancing shampoo (for HORSES) to restore the bleached-out parts. If a color change is NBD, carry on and know that your horse’s hair cycle is continually shedding and growing so any bleached parts will eventually even out.


  • The dish soap in the recipe may also strip his skin and hair of his natural oils, so grooming oils and tons of elbow grease are your friends after you are done.

very cute and stinky skunk

So what about the scenario where you and your tack ALSO get skunked?


  • Besides being the stuff of nightmares, you will have to deal with the smell on you and also your tack.


  • For leather tack, it can be salvaged! The first thing to do is to contact your saddle manufacturer and find out their suggestions for dealing with the aroma de skunk. If that’s not possible, go for the baking soda method but spot test first! Create a paste of baking soda and water, cover your tack, let it dry out, then brush away. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary. This paste should be fairly thick, perhaps the consistency of toothpaste.


How about avoiding this scenario with skunks altogether?


  • Well, skunks are smart and go where there is food – like your feed room. You will need to secure the chickens and coop, and perhaps keep the chickens far from the barn. Skunks will definitely eat eggs and young chicks, they tend to avoid the adult chickens but they are still fair game.



  • Skunks are also active at night, so change your horse’s nighttime routine if you need to avoid skunks. If you see a skunk during the day – this is a HUGE RED FLAG that something is wrong and the skunk is sick. Your local animal control can help you with any skunk-specific questions if you see one on your property and especially if you see one during the day.




Go shopping with these links to help your horse have his color restored after a skunk attack. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. There is no extra charge to you, and I really appreciate it. Thank you!


Shapley’s ET-R 32 oz DS 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, Red for chestnuts, sorrels, and blood bays.


Shapley’s ET-B 32 OZ DS 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, Black for blacks, bays, and other dark colors.


Equitone 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, Gold for bringing up golden and light colors.


Shapley’s EquiTone – Whitening 32 oz. for whites, grays, and chrome patches.


Thank you!