The days are getting shorter and the weather’s getting cooler. You know what that means: your horse’s coat is also getting fuzzier. Annndd a little harder to take care of. So, in the spirit of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, I’m sharing a few tips I’ve picked up along the way from some of the amazing grooms and barn managers who have taken care of my horses.
1. Leave your horse’s blanket on when he’s turned out
When you turn your horse out to graze and stretch his legs in a pasture, it’s pretty much a given that he’s going to roll around on his back. Rolling in the dirt plus a thicker coat does not equal a horse that’s very easy to get cleaned up. So, leave your horse’s blanket or liner on while he’s on his own out and out of his stall to keep him cleaner (and make your life easier!).
2. Keep your horse clipped while it’s still warm during the day
…but make sure to blanket him at night as the temperature starts to drop. A shorter coat is easier to keep clean, but it obviously isn’t going to keep your horse warm in the fall and winter months. If you need a coat or thick sweater to keep you warm on these crisp fall nights, then your horse likely needs a blanket or a thin liner to keep him warm while the moon’s out, too. The packed hay in his stall will help keep his space insulated and warmer than outside the barn, but use your best judgment to decide if your horse needs some extra warmth while he sleeps.
3. Make an easy DIY spray to keep his white marks extra clean
If you’ve got a horse with white markings – or just an all-white horse – dirt is a lot more apparent on his coat than on a darker horse’s, as you have likely observed. And when your horse’s coat grows thicker on top of it already being white, you’ve got your work cut out for you to keep him clean and bright-white. Make the job easier by filling an empty spray bottle with rubbing alcohol with a small squirt of Quicksilver shampoo (which you can find here). Spray the mixture onto your horse’s lighter regions, then use a rag or scrub brush on the area to loosen and pull out all of the dirt and grime.
4. Avoid baths
During cold evenings, when you’re trying to cool down a horse that you haven’t yet clipped, you don’t usually want to bathe the horse or else he could become too cold, and then the horse could face potential health risks. Instead, use a damp rag to swipe the topmost layer of sweat and grime off of his coat. Then, use a curry comb and/or shedding blades to dig deeper into his thickened coat and remove the lower layers of built-up sweat and dirt (as well as any extra fuzz).
5. Stay stocked with the basics
Always stay on top of resupplying your coat conditioners and sheen sprays, which will be some of your best tools in keeping your horse’s coat clean year-round. Be sure to keep them handy especially during show time.
6. Clean consistently
Faced with a thicker coat, you might be tempted to turn your cheek and let your horse go ungroomed most days. But doing this will inevitably make your cleaning job harder when you need to spiff up your horse for a show. Don’t let dried sweat or mud build up in your horse’s coat, especially as more layers grow in for the colder seasons; the grime will be much harder to remove later. When cleaning your horse, also make sure to focus the bulk of your efforts on your horse’s back and just behind his forelegs, where more dried sweat and grime accumulate from being trapped beneath your saddle, saddle pad, and girth.