As the days become shorter and the cold weather sets in, horse people are already recognizing the signs. The season of hand warmers, blankets and mud are upon us!
Caring for our horses in the winter has a different set of challenges unlike other months. You’ve got freezing temperatures with snow and ice. You have to face extra challenges like keeping water tanks from freezing over, maintaining horse’s weight, and the most dreaded of them all, dealing with all the mud.
I mean honestly, it’s incredible how much mud can form from the tiniest amount of snow!
With the horse’s also preparing for the winter by growing long, thick coats, it poses yet another challenge for horse owners; keeping horses clean in the winter months.
If you own a gray horse, I’m handing you a virtual tissue to wipe your tears. It’s okay my friend, we will get through this together.
For those of us with full-time pasture puffs all the way to performance horses, the colder weather presents some unique challenges. Some horses grow minimal hair which requires lots of care and blanketing. Then there are horses who are clearly the descendants of yaks and grow the thickest coats.
Even if you’re not riding your horse over the winter months, grooming in the winter is still very important for your horse’s health. Have you ever gone to pull your horse’s blanket off and realized the blanket was hiding significant weight loss? Or you ran your hands through their long coats and found a cut on their skin? What about the time you picked up a hoof and noticed a serious condition of thrush? The importance of winter grooming is not just about looks, it’s about keeping horses healthy.
At Equine Outfitters LLC, we recognize the struggles of winter horse ownership. We want to help you prepare for the upcoming season by giving you our comprehensive guide to winter grooming tips. We are also throwing in some pro tips along the way, so make sure to keep reading so you can keep your horse gleaming this winter!
What Grooming Tools do I Need for Winter Grooming?
Let your grooming products work for you so you can work less this winter. With such a wide variety of tools on the market, we want to break down how basic tools work and why they’re helpful for winter grooming.
Curry combs are a staple in most owner’s grooming totes. With a little bit of elbow grease you can use a curry comb like this gel curry as the first line of winter defense. When you’re needing to loosen dried mud fast, curry combs are a perfect tool. In a combination of forwards/backward and circular motions, you can use the curry’s short teeth to loosen hair and dirt.
Pro tip! If you do a little every day, it will help cut down on the winter grime.
In small circular motions, you can use the curry to loosen dirt and feel if there are any new bumps or scrapes on the skin. Some horses are more sensitive on their body, so pay attention to the amount of pressure you’re using. While some horses love a deep curry, others prefer a lighter touch.
If you have a horse that enjoys deeper pressure, curry combs are also a great tool for massage and for warming up your horse’s muscles. Moving in circular motions, you’ll want to start at the horse’s poll and move down the topline. They normally love the poll, the base of the neck, right behind the withers, and behind where the saddle sits. If you go slowly and watch your horse, they’ll tell you when you are scratching a good spot!
These are one of our favorite tools because of how effective they are at loosening dirt, but also for their massage benefits.
Another set of tools you’re going to need is an assortment of brushes. Our personal favorites include stiff brushes, a medium body brush, and a soft face brush. After currying you’re going to notice a lot of dirt and dander that’s been brought to the surface. While it looks like a daunting task to clean, if you’ve got the stiff and medium brush, you’ll be able to handle it just fine.
Since the fibers aren’t very flexible, stiff brushes like this are perfect for whisking away any residual dried mud on the horse’s coat. Going with the direction of the horse’s coat, you’ll want to use short flicking motions to remove the surface dirt. I like to do three short flicks followed by a longer brushing motion to remove the residual dirt. Do take caution on sensitive areas of the body like legs, the flank and your horse’s face. This brush can irritate those areas so if you’re going to use it in those places, use light pressure.
We follow the stiff brush with a medium body brush to remove the rest of the winter dander. Medium brushes are wonderful for more delicate areas of the body where the stiff brush would have irritated. In the same motions as the stiff brush, this is a great tool to get your horse back in tip-top shape.
We then use our final finishing dandy brush to remove that final layer of dirt. I like to go over the horse in long sweeping motions. This will leave you with a shiny, clean horse.
Pro tip! If there is still a stubborn layer of dust that just won’t leave, you can use a finishing coat conditioning spray. Lightly mist the horse with the spray and let it work its magic! In no time the appearance of dirt will vanish and you’ll have a sparkling horse again.
Baby Wipes & Towels
While these are optional items, they are super helpful. Baby wipes and towels can make your winter grooming so much easier. With not being able to bathe, utilizing these tools can get your horse from a mud monster to show ready in no time.
The baby wipes are great for touching up the nostrils, cleaning around the eye, and for small touch ups. With the cleaning properties in baby wipes, it’s good for sensitive areas that need a little more attention.
Next are towels for a next level clean. For the times that currying just doesn’t cut it, you can use a technique called hot clothing to bring that sparkle back to your horse’s coat. Hot clothing can be used on clipped or wooly horses. It’s very simple, quick and effective.
To hot cloth all you’ll need is a towel or sponge, a bucket, hot water, waterless shampoo, and a coat conditioner. In the bucket you’ll add some water (fill roughly half full), a couple capfuls of waterless shampoo and coat conditioner.
This isn’t scientific so if you want to go crazy, you have my permission.
Then you’ll mix together and dip your towel in the solution. The goal of hot clothing is to have enough moisture to get them clean, but not wet enough for the horse to catch a chill. So with your wrung out towel, you’ll start in circular motions on your horse. You’ll start noticing very quickly how clean your horse is getting! Every new section you’ll want to re-dip your towel back into the solution. You’ll keep going until your horse is clean from nose to tail. Then wahla! You’ve got a sparkling clean horse that’s ready for the show ring.
How to Keep a Horse Clean in the Winter
Now that you have all of the tools to get your horses clean, what about keeping them clean? Well, if you’ve had horses for any period of time, you know that this is an uphill battle. But, to help you on this journey, we’ve put together a couple of industry pro tips for keeping your horses cleaner during the winter.
Using Blanketing & Coolers
The first pro tip is blanketing your horse. We recognize the hassle that blanketing can be, especially when the temperatures jump from low to high in one day. Even with the downsides, blanketing is a great way to keep the hair dirt free and sleek.
Second pro tip is to use a cooler after each ride. With their long winter coats, horses tend to sweat more during exercise. If you use a cooler after workouts, it’ll help the horse dry quicker and for their coat to stay nicer.
Trimming for a Tidier Horse
The third pro tip is to trim furry spots that collect dirt. Hair around the pasterns and fetlocks tend to collect mud and get quite dirty. If you can carefully trim those long hairs, it’ll help keep that spot and the surrounding areas cleaner.
Spot Clean for the Win!
Gray horse owners, this fourth pro tip is for you! Owning a gray in the middle of winter is no small feat. Any dirt is exacerbated and so difficult to clean. If you’re needing help with stains, green waterless shampoo is your friend! Just spray, wipe, and poof! All the stains are gone. You are welcome.
Coat Conditioners for Everlasting Shine
Our fifth and final pro tip is to use coat conditioning sprays with silicone additives. The silicon coats the hair shaft and prevents dirt from sticking to it. Read that last sentence again.
This has been my biggest help with keeping dirt from sticking to my horses. This tip can even be used year round. All you have to do is spray, walk away, and look at your beautiful clean horse. And for an extra bonus, it also helps prevent static build up. It’s a win, win, win!
While winter grooming is no small feat, there are simple achievable ways to get your horses clean while keeping your sanity. If you ever need further guidance, please feel free to reach out to us at Equine Outfitters, LLC.