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How often do you bathe your retired horses?

I know there are many variables to consider and a safe answer is “whenever they need it.” And I know that on occasion certain medical problems will require medicinal baths.

I specifically need ideas on managing retirees who live out 24/7/365 with access to shelter in a moderate climate. Age 20 and up, no longer ridden, and clinically healthy. Just horses being horses.

Oh, and they get a careful look-over while they are eating every morning.

As needed, which isn’t very often at all, maybe a couple of times a year, usually around the middle of Spring shed, and later Summer when it’s just GROSS with heat and humidity and their coats can get icky if it hasn’t rained pretty good in a while. Other than that, it’s a hosing off to help with sweat/heat.

I curry them way more than I actually bathe them, assuming a “bath” implies shampoo of some sort


If they don’t need it, then never? Come to think of it I’ve owned my 5-year-old for two years and have never given him a full bath with shampoo (showers when sweaty, yes). I wash his tail once a week and socks too as needed or before a show. I think I bathed my 27-year-old retiree for skin scuzz in 2021 or 2022. The eventer gets shampooed once or twice a year before clipping. Everyone has shiny, healthy coats. Maybe I’m an outlier but I think shampooing is mostly for humans to feel like we’re doing something and most horses really don’t need it…


You assume correctly. I was wondering about real baths with shampoo. They do get hosed off if grossly sweaty in the summer.


I bathe my retired horse 2x a year. The most important one is a good shampoo scrub as late as possible before winter. They just build up crud over winter.


Baths only happen if skin funk emerges - lots of hosing off in the summer though!

I don’t think I’ve bathed my horse in years, actually. BO definitely gave him one or two, but not because he needed it or anything. It just makes us humans feel better :wink:

I’ll bathe show horses for that purpose, or any horse before a clip. That’s it!


I’m another “never unless they need it” vote. Hosed off in sweaty summer weather? Absolutely, often daily during those hot & humid weeks. Actually bathed with shampoo? I truly can’t remember when I last did that (years, probably.)


Healthy horses on a good field don’t need to be bathed. If they roll in mud it’s because they need and want to be muddy. You do want to keep tabs on their mane and tail not getting wadded up into one big tangle.

A horse in work can benefit from being hosed off when sweaty in the summer. A horse being kept in a filthy stall or paddock full of poop and urine might benefit from getting that washed off, but in a big field they never sleep in their poop. Also sheath cleaning and lady parts on mares.

I use soap as little as possible because I think the natural oils on the hair helps shed water.

Obviously there are medical issues like diarrhea tails or skin scurf where you are going to need to clean things up. But basically horses do not need to be bathed, I think their coats do better without it.


Here, horses tend to get salt baked into their coats during the warm season (despite fairly regular hosing). Baked in salt resists currying and plain water surprisingly well. Baked in salt is itchy. A bit of shampoo works well to remove it.

All that to say, I bathed my retiree almost weekly during the season. Not full body, mostly just neck, chest and shoulders. Riding horse has the same routine. I do complete spa days 3-4 x per year.



Complete bath about twice a year. Sometimes manes and tails more often. Hosing if/when it’s hot. Brushed daily.

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Horses don’t need shampoo. You‘re good!


Also another vote for “never unless needed.”

My mares in blankets with tail cords sometimes get some urine splashing on their tails and legs that warrants a good spring cleaning. But I generally don’t wash anyone with shampoo unless there is a reason: preparing for a show, getting ready to clip, etc.


Never? I never bathed my horses unless we were preparing to go to a show so it has been decades.

I do sponge or rinse off currently (if needed) but brushing and them being out in a good rain does the trick.

Unless there was a medical need don’t bother.


I would sponge off my guys as needed when they were still working for a living. I got them all when they were older, and they didn’t really exert themselves much. And I live in a very dry climate.

Once they were retired, I only bathed them when they got skunked. L’Oreal kids’ shampoo worked well on skunked horse and dogs.



Same. A super fine coated horse may be okay but even a standard summer coat won’t feel totally clean after an aggressive hosing here. Just two pumps on a tiger tongue cuts through the salt and leaves the coat feeling truly clean.

I look at the retirees in a field that don’t get this level of care and even after a torrential rainstorm they don’t look totally clean and their coats feel tacky and stiff.


When my last mare was in her final year, I used to give her frequent baths even without soap or shampoo. But she also loved being groomed and she had DSLD, so her skin was a mess; her skin was actually stretching out and flaking off. I was later told by a DSLD specialist, that this happens, so I think the water felt good to her. In her final week, she was getting bed sores, so I would sometimes cold hose to help her feel better.


The old guy, died just before his 30 th, had that Cushings undercoat so at least twice a year with shampoo. Otherwise it just wouldn’t clip down, the scurf was SO thick. Very much depends on if they are in work, getting good grooming as well.


Yup. Doesn’t take much soap but it takes some. I prefer to dilute the shampoo in a bucket and sponge it on, but I’ll totally squirt some in my palm and just smear it around to cut the salt.

I think it makes a big difference in their comfort levels.


I’m not sure it’s a problem to the horse to be permanently dirty. Dust and mud can protect against insects. But also a healthy horse can live out with no grooming for years and still be shiny under the dust. Stiff and tacky hair could be a sign of coat skin or metabolic issues rather than “hygiene.”


I usually bathe my guy fairly regularly (weekly) in the late spring, mostly because soap helps loosen up all that dead unshedded hair that I’m too lazy to curry, after that it’s usually just rinsing and frequently the rinsing is just spraying off the bits I can reach when he comes over next to the wash rack (happens to be next to the dry lot, so he chooses to get sprayed off on the really gross days).

The only thing I have to do year round is clean and detangle (cream rinse+show sheen) his tail periodically since he’s prone to the corded look, which is a precursor to Bat Tail.