So you’ve practiced and practiced and you finally feel ready to attempt your first horse show. As my mother has always maintained and drilled into our heads, being properly turned out is essential. If it comes down to the judge having to make a choice between two equally talented horse and rider combinations, she’ll pick the best turned out one every time.
So, how do you become the best turned out pair at the show? You start out with a good clip job (more about this in a future article), then you move onto a thorough scrubbing in the wash stall. Hopefully your barn has a wash stall equipped with hot and cold running water where you can safely cross-tie your horse.
Before bringing your horse into the wash stall, set the temperature comfortably warm – not to hot and not too cold. Check the temperature of the water frequently so that it does not become unbearably cold or dangerously hot for your horse.
Once you have your horse safely cross-tied in the wash stall, begin to wet him with a gentle spray from your hose. Always start at his front feet so that he is introduced to the water gradually. As he becomes more comfortable with the water, slowly move the spray up to his chest, up his neck, across his back, under his belly, down his back legs and lastly his tail. Make sure that you get the mane and tail thoroughly soaked.
Once your horse is good and wet, put the hose aside and begin to lather him up. If you are using a concentrated soap such as Corona Concentrated Shampoo or Vetrolin Bath Shampoo, you will want to dilute a small amount of shampoo into a bucket of warm water and then use a sponge to liberally apply it to your horse. At this point, use a curry comb or your fingers to really scrub your horse. This helps to loosen the dirt so that it can be more easily rinsed away. He will also feel like he is getting a nice massage from you.
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If your horse’s mane and tail are really dirty you may have to apply shampoo full strength and give the mane and tail a thorough scrubbing. Make sure that you really scrub all along your horse’s dock (the bony part of the tail) and use a warm slightly soapy sponge to wash under the dock. Be thorough here, you don’t want to leave your horse any reason to rub his tail. You may find you have to wash and rinse the tail 2 or 3 times to get it really clean. If you have a horse with a white or flaxen tail, try Farnam’s Wonder Blu Shampoo with Aloe Vera or Vetrolin White N Brite Shampoo. Both of these products work great to help remove the yellowy stains that light color tails seem to acquire.
And don’t forget your horse’s legs. Many horses have a fungal condition on their legs that you need to scrub off gently. If your horse has white legs, they will need a little extra attention. Use the blu shampoo here too. Be careful when you are scrubbing the legs. Occasionally horses will kick out and you don’t want to be kicked in the head or chest.
Last but not least, your horse’s face requires special attention. If your horse is one of those who really enjoys his bath, he may not mind you spraying and soaping his face but many horses have a serious aversion to this. If you decide to soap his face, make sure he is okay with his head being sprayed before you apply the soap and then make sure it is a soap that will not sting his eyes. I know some people who use Johnson’s baby shampoo for this purpose but many horse shampoos also say that they won’t sting the eyes when used as directed. If you don’t feel comfortable spraying your horse’s face, try removing any excess dirt with a soft brush and then using a damp sponge to finish off, rinsing the sponge as many times as necessary.
Once you have completely rinsed all the soap from your horse, use a sweat scraper to remove excess water. Do not use the sweat scraper over any bony prominences. Just use your hands or a clean towel to wipe off excess water from the spine, legs and face. After removing excess water, brush the mane and tail. If you are going to be braiding for your show (more about this in a future article), do not apply any product that may make it too slippery to braid. A damp mane and tail are always easier to braid than a dry mane and tail so you may want to do that now.
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Once grooming is completed, hand-walk your horse until he is dry to prevent him from rolling in the one patch of dirt in his otherwise grassy field. Once dry, put a clean blanket on him and return him to his stall or paddock. If, like me, you have a white horse, keep a bottle of Cowboy Magic Green Spot Remover on hand at all times. If your horse should happen to lie down in a pile of manure during the night and you don’t have time to give him another bath before heading to the show, use the green spot remover. This miracle product instantly removes urine and manure stains.
Now that your horse is nice and clean, you’ve completed a big part of the work of preparing for your show. You are almost ready to go out there and WIN, or at least do your best and have a great time!