Grooming Horse Care Seasonal Horse Care

How to Bathe Your Horse in Cold Weather

Grooming in a barn
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

Is the weather too cold to bathe your horse? A bucket bath can work wonders when cold-weather cleanup is required. This method, which uses a bucket of hot water and towels, cleans your horse without getting him too wet. You can clean your whole horse this way or just focus on the especially dirty parts.

Bucket Bath Supplies

◆ 2 large buckets
◆ Plenty of towels!
◆ Cooler
◆ Grooming gloves or rubber dishwashing gloves
◆ Waterless shampoo or a spot remover product (for horses)
◆ Hot water source: use an electric kettle if your barn doesn’t have hot water available.

Bathing supplies
Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

Step by Step

1. Curry and brush your horse to remove as much dirt and dust from his coat as possible.

2. Fill a bucket with hot water. For extra cleaning and deodorizing power, add a little spot remover or waterless shampoo. Fill a second bucket to rinse your dirty towels as you work.

3. Dunk your towel in the wash bucket and wring it out as much as possible. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Although the water is hot, by the time you wring out the towel, it will be cooled off enough to use safely on your horse.

Wringing a towel
Dip your towel into very hot water and wring thoroughly. Quickly work back and forth against the hair to lift dirt out. Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

4. Working in small sections, towel your horse vigorously, going back and forth against the hair to lift the dirt. For stubborn stains, add a spritz of spot remover.

Using spot remover, which can be helpful when bathing your horse in winter
For light or white horses, use an equine spot-remover spray to scrub out stubborn stains. Photo by Elizabeth Moyer

Rinse your towel as it gets dirty and replace it with a fresh one as needed.

5. Your horse should just be barely damp throughout this process, not soaking wet. Follow with a dry towel in the same manner to remove any excess moisture from the coat. Leaving the hair fluffed up will help it dry faster. If it’s cold or breezy out, cover your horse with a cooler made of wicking material to help him dry and to keep him from getting chilled.

6. Finish with a spritz of coat polish spray to add a touch of shine and help repel dust and mud.

This article about how to bathe your horse in cold weather appeared in the November 2021 Mini Digital issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Elizabeth Moyer

Elizabeth Moyer works in marketing and development for the United States Pony Clubs, Inc. She served as a longtime editor of Horse Illustrated and Young Rider. She is also the author of two Horse Illustrated Simple Solutions books on grooming and horse safety (BowTie Press). Moyer is a lifelong equestrian and horse lover. Prior to becoming part of the equine industry, she worked in advertising and is a graduate of the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She lives in the beautiful bluegrass horse country of Kentucky with a pack of adopted Dachshunds.


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