Any way to get a horse super clean without bathing?

I missed the last window of warm weather that we will have until spring and my yearling is d i r t y. I groom and groom and can’t seem to make a dent in the dirt in his coat and he just ends up looking worse as I’ve brought everything to the surface! Are there any good products or techniques to help us survive the winter? Thanks!!!

Try a vacuum if your horse will tolerate it. Otherwise I use some coat spray and then brush, helps a little with the dust that is ever present on my horses.


No vacuum available and my yearling definitely wouldn’t tolerate it. Will look for coat spray. Thanks!

Good old fashioned strapping followed by hot clothing! I use the Shapley’s light (no 1) light oil and a microfibre towel by preference.


Hot damp towels- put them in hot water and then wring them out.


Thank you! This I can definitely do. :slight_smile:

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A show groom years ago gave me the tip of pouring some vetrolin liniment in a bucket of warm water and toweling them off using it. Works really well.


Thanks! Even if they aren’t clipped?

If he’ll tolerate in the future and you have access to electric, a $40 shop vac, but flip the hose so it’s blowing, not sucking. curry curry curry, get all that dirt to the surface, then blow it away.


Yep. Just wring out the towel as much as you can. Also, keep a cooler (wool is best) on the horse on the areas you aren’t working on at the moment.


I’ve used a shop vac on my horse a few times. After I peeled him off the ceiling when I turned it on, he tolerated it pretty well. Yes, hot toweling is a good way to get that deep down dirt off. We used to do that at Potomac Horse Center when I was a student there. We called it “steaming.”


What specifically is dirty about him? A ton of dust/hair under his coat that won’t go away no matter how much you curry?

If so, the hot-toweling is definitely the best method.

Tiger-Tongues are a life-saver for winter grooming. I agree that a deep currying will just make the horse seem dirtier, winter hair has a way of making any horse look less presentable.

One thing I found makes a horse spitting clean and glossy, and I found this out by accident, is putting them in a fly sheet overnight. Something about the mesh seems to rub off dust and dirt and bring oils to the surface. I don’t even bother bathing for most shows now (caveat: my horse is a bay who lives out 24/7) – I just put him in a full fly sheet the night before and he’s clean as can be in the morning. Even if they roll in mud, it still does a good job keeping them clean and breaking up encrusted mud in their fur.


Yes ton of dust/dirt! I’m definitely going to try the hot toweling method for sure!

One of my trainer swore by this product for her filthy retired horses who lived out all winter:

I don’t know how sensitive such a young horse’s skin is for an equigroomer (I haven’t groomed a yearling)?

Hot-towelling is excellent, great for the coat and something I’ve done daily when working for BNT eventer and at Keeneland sales.

At my current barn, where I don’t have hot water, I turn to OCD 10-time brushing. Curry horse as usual, brush off mud chunks with a stiff brush until the coat is “clean” but dusty. (this is when I would hot-towel if I had hot water). Then take a medium/soft brush, start at the upper neck, and working in 18-24" sections, brush vigorously. Go over the same section 8 to 10 times, with pressure and speed, to pick up dirt and distribute oils. (Use curry to clean brush between strokes). The first four or five strokes will still have a dusty horse. After 10 strokes, the horse will be pretty clean and shiny in that one section. Then move one brush-width down the horse. Brush 10x again. It will take effort, and your arms will probably get tired. Brush the knees, ankles, hocks… ten times. You’ll go from dusty brown points to shiny black points on a bay.


is there a video of hot toweling? I had never heard of it until mentioned here many years ago.

I’d like to see exactly how to do this as well.

Hot toweling is pretty simple. Small bucket (8qt, or small supplement bucket) of hot water (as hot as you can stand, but only because it will cool fast!). Use your favorite additive: a small squirt of dish soap (Ivory) for cleaning; a bit of mineral oil for dry coat/anti-static; Healthy Hair Care moisturizer if that’s your thing; a dollop of Quic Silver for grays; Vetrolin is a favorite at the track; any one of those will do. (Or nothing at all. No rules here.) Don’t add much: a couple tablespoons is fine, you aren’t trying to wash dishes or leave residue, just cut through a bit of grime or polish the coat.

Use any old wash rag, white usually best for the satisfaction of seeing the dirt come off. Dunk your rag in the hot water bucket, wring it out AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Your goal is to “steam clean,” not soak the horse. If the hair gets soggy and wavy, you didn’t wring out your rag enough. Use the steamy rag to “curry” the horse from head to tail (they love their faces done!). Scrub deeply down to the skin; imagine you are steam-cleaning the skin, not the hair. Re-dunk your rag and rinse the dirt out as needed, usually between each section of face/neck, shoulder, barrel, hip, legs. One bucket of hot water usually lasts for one side of the horse; dump and refill for the other side. Or sooner, if the horse is really grungy and the water gets gross.

When the whole horse is done, go back over him with a soft brush to lay the hair. You can use your leftover barely-damp rag to wipe the brush every few strokes and clean the dust from it.


That is a great narrative. I was picturing towels just placed on the body, not curry action

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@EventerAJ this is great, thank you so much!