It’s possible to groom horses to have a slick and stunning coat even during winter- despite what you might think as you look at that shaggy vagabond in your pasture! Of course, some people will say it’s impossible because of all the mud and dirt, but in this article I’ll walk you through the process of my winter horse grooming method that leaves coats glowing and manes flowing.
In this article, you’ll learn how to:
- Groom to remove mud and repel it, keep your horse’s tail healthy through winter, and spot clean muddy patches and stains.
- Save you time by creating a daily routine that keeps your horse looking great
Keeping a Horse Clean in Winter
One of the biggest challenges of winter is keeping your horse’s coat clean and shiny. As winter arrives, so does the dirt and mud, and we all know how much horses love to roll in the mud.
Our three top tips to keep your horse clean in winter include:
- Blanketing your horse in winter: Blanketing your horse in winter will help keep your horse warm and healthy. Blanketing will also reduce the amount of hair your horse grows. Less hair on your horse helps with shedding and will keep your horse looking nicer through the winter months. You can read more on the best ways to manage shedding here. Blanketing a horse will also keep the mud off their coat. Even if your horse rolls in the mud, most of that grime will be on the rug itself, not your horse. You can read more on when you need to start putting a blanket on your horse here.
- Using show sheen or liniment: Brushing your horses removes a large amount of dirt, but grime is still hiding within their coat. A great way to remove the hidden grime is to wipe the coat down with Show Sheen or Liniment. The best way to use these products is to spray either Show Sheen or Liniment onto a towel and then wipe down the horse with the towel. You can safely use the towel from head to toe.
- One thing to note about these products is that they do contain silicon. Prolonged use of silicon can make hair brittle. 1 So to keep your horse’s coat in optimal health, use this method sparingly and use the hot oil horse tail grooming trick instead, for deep conditioning.
- Use a horse vacuum: Until recently, I didn’t know that horse vacuums existed! But I wish I had discovered this product decades ago. You can purchase vacuums designed specifically for horses. The horses do not seem to mind the vacuums, and they are excellent for those days when a bath is just too cold.
While you can wash the mud away with a bath, a bath is not ideal unless you have a heated barn or can guarantee that you can dry your horse 100%. If your horse is not 100% dry after a bath, you’ll need to use a cooler. Without it, your horse could become hypothermic and have an emergency vet call!
Keep Your Hair Problems at Bay by Clipping Your Horse’s Coat
During winter, horses grow an extra thick coat to help keep them warm. You can minimize your horse’s coat thickness by rugging your horse at the right time, but if you do not want to rug your horse, clipping is also a viable option for keeping your horses coat under control.
Reasons to clip a horse’s coat in winter:
🐴💦 Winter Training
If your horse is going to be completing a full training regime during the winter months, a thick winter coat may be too hot for the horse. When assessing whether your horse is getting too hot during a workout, a good general rule of thumb is that your horse’s sweat should dry within 20% of their workout time. For example, if you work your horse for an hour, your horse’s coat should dry naturally within 12 minutes. However, if they are still wet with sweat after that time, their coat is too thick, and you need to trim your horse’s coat to keep your horse safe during a workout.
Spring shedding is a horrible time for almost all equestrians. Everything gets covered in horse hair. That includes your clothes, car, house, and of course, you. All of this hair can cause havoc for hay fever and asthma. By clipping your horse, you can reduce these issues. You can read our best tips on tools to manage spring shedding here.
🐎💅🏻 Just for looks!
Some people clip their horse’s coat during winter to keep the coat sleek and shining. A short, shiny coat during winter is desirable when a horse will be competing throughout winter and requires a show-ready coat.
Maintain Your Horse’s Tail
An overlooked aspect of winter grooming is ensuring your horse’s tail is looked after. During winter, mud and grime get caught in your horse’s tail and freeze there. This is damaging to your horse’s tail. To prevent this, gently detangle the tail, and then you can either wrap your horse’s tail using vet wrap or braid it and tie it into a ‘bun.’ The tail can be left in the braided bun for about one week at a time. You can find our best tips for detangling a horse’s tail and mane here.
Spot Clean Those Stains
Occasionally, you may brush your horse and see a small stain on their otherwise clean coat. Instead of bathing your horse’s entire body, you can do a spot clean.
To clean a small spot on your light-colored horse’s coat, try this:
- 🧴 Mix 1 tbsp of whitening shampoo with one part water and one part rubbing alcohol
- 💦 Put the mixture into a spray bottle
- 🟫 Spray the mixture onto the stain
- 🧽 Use sponge or a towel to rub the area until it is clean
Even though you are using a whitening shampoo, you can use this solution on any color horse, not just grey and white. For spot cleaning larger areas, try my horse bath birdbath method.
A daily routine is a must when you own a horse, especially through winter. If you have a list of grooming essentials to complete every day, your horse’s coat will have very little chance of getting dirty, and their coat will be kept in pristine health.
By grooming your horse daily in the winter, you will;
- Keep their coat shiny and healthy
- Notice any developing issues that may otherwise go unnoticed
- Spend quality bonding time with your horse
- Save time on washing and general cleaning (if you let dirt and grime build up, not only is it bad for your horse’s health, it will take a long time to clean)
Don’t forget to keep your grooming brushes clean. We recommend monthly brush cleaning to keep your brushes in pristine condition and prevent any harmful bacteria from transferring from the brushes to the horse’s coat.
Final Thoughts on Winter Grooming
Winter grooming is daunting, but with the proper knowledge and organization, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Mix and match grooming methods to find one that suits you and your horse. If you prefer to rug your horse or keep their coat clipped, that’s ok. If you would rather let their natural coat grow and spend some extra time on grooming, that’s also ok! It doesn’t matter what anybody else’s winter grooming routine is, as long as you keep your horse happy and in good condition, you’re doing just fine!
Research sources used for this article:
- Jurkić, L. M., Cepanec, I., Pavelić, S. K., & Pavelić, K. (2013). Biological and therapeutic effects of ortho-silicic acid and some ortho-silicic acid-releasing compounds: New perspectives for therapy. Nutrition & metabolism, 10(1), 1-12. [↩]