This is often a tricky question to answer, because it’s not one size fits all. Horses have different grooming routines, different living environments, different access to mud…. But there are a few things to look for that will help you determine if you are over bathing your horse.
Ideally, your horse is super shiny from a naturally oily coat. This is the result of genetics, a good diet, lots of daily grooming with elbow grease, and perhaps a few hair coat products as well. The oil on your horse, called sebum, creates shine, helps with his immune system by coating the skin, and repels stains. A dry and brittle coat is a stain magnet!
The shampoo you use and how you use it can affect the amount of natural oils your horse has. Harsh shampoos left on for too long strip the hair. Mild shampoos can leave a bit of natural oil on your horse’s skin. If it’s a harsh shampoo, like the stain removal styles, you should go longer between shampoos so the oils can build up.
Consider the reason for bathing your horse. Did he just have a sweaty workout? Then a rinse with the hose or sponge off is fine. Is he head to toe in manure stains and you have a show in two days? Then bust out the shampoo! Does he have one or two smaller stains that can be treated with a cloth and some stain remover? Then that’s your plan.
Also think about his schedule. Is he showing frequently? In which case you likely want to use a milder shampoo more frequently, with extra curry glove sessions in between to bring out the oils. Does he stay at home? Then perhaps only shampoo when it’s really necessary.
What about the horse that looks great except for his mane and tail? Or his legs? It’s ok to do a spot bath in the wash rack when you need to. No use in wasting shampoo or stripping those natural oils if you don’t absolutely have to.
In between baths, keep up the daily grooming routine. A good curry session before a ride makes sure there’s no dirt trapped under the saddle or bridle. This also lets your hands do some checking to be sure his body feels good. After a ride, use your curry gloves again to remove dried sweat, massage your horse’s muscles, and work on distributing those natural oils.
How often do you bathe your horse?