Wash your horse’s mane and tail in the winter


Ah – the dreaded greasy, muddy, sticky, and stinky winter mane and tail. With no warm weather to bathe, you have a few options of how to deal with this particular grooming predicament. You can also use the time-tested, yet highly ineffective and ultimately disappointing method of denial. I don’t recommend this particular method. 


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You have a few options for cleaning the mane and tail when you can’t bathe your horse:


  • Use a hot toweling technique for the mane and tail. Basically, get a steamy hot cloth and then wipe the mane in tiny sections. The steamy moisture will do its best to clean the mane, without drenching it. Add some spot remover to the hot water mix for an added oomph



  • Vigorous brushing with a little stain remover in the brush (I like Easy Out) or lightly spritzed in the tail. You might find your brush gets gross nice and fast, so you will need to wash the brush or employ the denial method.



Keeping your horse’s tail slick with products can help repel stains and mud.


  • I am usually more diligent about using products in the winter than in the summer. I’m more likely to use a sheen spray on manes and tails in the winter, to help ward off stains. I’m also more likely to work on preventative measures so that I’m not hot toweling every other day.


Some tips for making a clean mane and tail stay clean a bit longer in the winter:


  • Take advantage of the last warm days for a deep cleaning bath and condition. Add some grooming oil to deep condition the hair. Cross your fingers.


  • Think about a tail bag. Definitely experiment with one during warm months to see if this keeps the tail cleaner and out of any urine, or if it becomes a urine sponge. The urine thing really applies more to mares and perhaps the ultra-talented gelding.



loose braid to avoid urine

Get the shorter tail hairs out of the way with a loose braid up top.


  • If a tail bag is a no-go, perhaps a loose braid on the tail. For mares that get the top inside of the tail stained, do a loose French braid at the top of the tail. For dirt, braid whatever you need to keep things a bit cleaner.


  • If your horse goes out into mucky and wintery paddocks and likes to roll, you can use a mud knot on the tail before he starts to grind things in. These are temporary, and you can even wrap them for extra protection. Step-by-step and video for a mud knot is here, if you are so inclined.


  • Consider using slinky hoods for the mane. You don’t want them to get wet, but they can easily go under a blanket or just stand alone.


two horses in winter blankets looking over a fence

Cover the butt.


  • If you do blanket, you can find neck pieces on some blanket styles that can cover the mane and help keep things clean. Look for long tail-covering panels in the back for tail-top coverage, too.


  • You might be able to get away with washing the bottom part of the tail in winter. Dunk in a bucket of suds, and carefully rinse out. Towel to dry a bit.


  • Spend the extra time to be sure your horse’s bedding is picked frequently and the urine is scraped away frequently. Lots of fresh bedding on top for a clean sleeping spot.


shampoo your horse's tail in a bucket

Dunk and careful rinsing.



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SHAPLEY'S 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, RED

For chestnuts and some bays

05/08/2024 01:33 am GMT
Shapley's 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, BLACK
$23.49 $17.65

For dark bays, black points, and black horses

05/08/2024 01:08 am GMT
Magic Sheen Spray 1Qt
$23.00 ($23.00 / Count)
03/13/2024 02:08 am GMT
Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious cold milled flax formula. It's delicious and it will turn your horse's coat into a mirror.



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