You can bathe your horse using clear water from a hose alone or wash him with a sponge from a bucket of soapy water, followed by rinsing with another bucket of water or the hose. Using soap will remove the natural oils from your horse’s coat, so either use a mild soap especially for frequent bathing (such as Ortho, used at the race track), or just rinse your horse daily and only bathe with soap once a week or less. When your horse is muddy or shedding, bathing is faster than manual grooming with better results.
Teaching your horse to accept being rinsed with a hose
Most horses learn to enjoy being rinsed with a hose. To teach your horse to accept this, start with the water turned down low. Holding a lead rope attached to your horse’s halter, point the water at your horse’s left front foot. Keep the water spraying on the horse even if he moves away or circles you. If the horse moves too far away or you become tangled in the hose, stop momentarily, move the horse closer to the water source and start again. When he will accept water running on this foot, gradually move up the horse’s leg and then onto his body, working your way from his neck, sides, back, and rump. Rinse under his belly.
When washing between his back legs, be prepared for him to duck his hindquarters if you get water in a sensitive place. Leave his head for last, being careful not to use too much pressure or spray water into his nostrils.
I like to run the water on his chest last as a signal that the bath is over and he can quit worrying about getting water on his face. Use a soft towel to wipe inside his nostrils and ears.
If your horse is hot, start by thoroughly wetting all four feet before moving to his body to drive the heat out of his legs rather than into them. Once your horse is accustomed to being bathed and he ties well, you can tie him up, place him in cross-ties or use a wash rack when you are bathing him, but don’t do this until he calmly accepts being sprayed.
Bathing using buckets
To bathe your horse from a bucket, prepare a bucket of warm soapy water and at least one bucket of clear water for rinsing (or use a hose).
If your horse is hot from activity, wet his legs first. You may want to wet the horse all over first, especially if your horse still has a heavy coat. Starting just behind his ears, move the sponge down his neck in a circular motion, working the soapy water into his coat. Continue across one side, over his back, under his belly and down each leg. Then bathe the other side. Either use a separate sponge or bathe his face before you bath under the tail, between the legs and between a mare’s udders.
Rinse off the soapy sponge before you put it into the rinse water bucket or use a separate sponge. Rinse in the same order you washed, being sure not to miss any spots. This may require more than one bucket of rinse water until you get accustomed to this method of bathing.
Finish by using a clean towel to wipe his face, then inside his nostrils and ears. Comb the mane in the direction you want it to lie while it is still wet. If the mane doesn’t lie the way you want it to you can put a “mane tamer” on it to hold it in place until it dries or put hair gel on it. If it is cold or you are going to keep the horse up until he dries, use a sweat scraper to remove excess water from his coat. If you are going to turn the horse out right away where he will roll while wet, leaving the excess water on his coat will help keep dirt from sticking to him. If the weather allows, letting your horse dry in the shade rather than the sun will help the coat lie flatter.
Cleaning sheaths and udders
Be sure to clean your gelding’s and stallion’s sheaths and the area between the udders on your mares. If they haven’t been cleaned before, you will probably need someone to assist you. If your horse is especially difficult about these areas, ask an experienced horse friend or have your veterinarian assist you the first time. Use a mild castile soap or a product specifically designed for this purpose such as Excalibur.