My horses LOVE to roll in mud, and it is especially muddy in their winter paddock (thanks Ohio). So every morning they go out relatively clean, and every night they come back in various shades of mud. Sometimes if I’m really lucky (insert eyeroll) there’s a little bit of precipitation and that mud really burrows into their winter coats.
While the majority of their body stays mostly clean thanks to their turnout sheets, I have some really messy legs and necks to deal with. Keeping them clean isn’t just for looks, it’s also for their health. Mud is just a mixture of water and earth (soil, organic matter, etc). That means that the slop out in the paddock is a thriving breeding ground for all sorts of nasty bacteria. That bacteria can find its way into your horses hooves (thrush), onto your horse’s skin (Rain Rot and Scratches) and even infect any open wounds. Doing daily body checks and regular grooming is the only way to help prevent possible skin problems, and even then, it might not be enough. Treating the problem before it gets out of hand can save both time and money.
My Grooming Process
Step 1 – Mane & Tail
I always start with the mane and tail using my trusty Cowboy Magic Detangler and gloss it over generously. I like using brushes for this rather than combs – like the Oster or the Mane and Tail Brush. These allow me to glide into the hair without pulling strands out, and really makes quick work of cutting through the tangles and dirt. The Detangler also conditions the hair while repelling dirt and dust.
Step 2 – Cutting Through All that Dried Mud
Next step is getting all of the big chunks of mud off with a simple Rubber Curry. It’s gentle and conforms to their body so I can really work into the mud spots, without fear of digging too roughly. After the big chunks are gone, I go back in with my Wahl Stiff Body Brush and work more of the dirt out. Next up is probably my favorite barn tool invention – the Epona Tiger’s Tongue! This little sponge might look deceivingly small, but once out of the package, it turns into a fabulous multi-use tool. I prefer to use it dry, and it helps pick up the last little chunks of dirt and dust. It’s gentle and functional enough to use it all over – head, neck, body and legs!
Step 3 – Out with the Stains, In with the Shine
After the bulk of mud and dirt it gone, I go in with a waterless shampoo. My go-to is Cowboy Magic’s Green Spot Remover, but I also love the new Argan Oil Waterless Shampoo as well as Showsheen Stain Remover. I spray generously in particularly dirty looking or stained areas, then let it sit. While it sits, I clean out hooves with my favorite hoof pick – the Combo with a Brush! Talk about a deal; for only $1.75, this sturdy little pick scrapes out the dirt then can go in and brush out the sole. After the hooves are picked, I go back to the dirty spots I sprayed earlier, and wipe away with a rag. Just like that, the staining and dirt it gone, leaving a soft, bright grey underneath.
Step 4 – Final Touches
Now that the majority of the of the body is cleaned, I go back in for coat conditioning and a quick brushing from a soft brush. My all-time favorite coat conditioner is the EQyss Avacado Mist – not only does it smell amazing, the second it’s sprayed on the coat, you can feel it work into hair. Conditioning the coat after cleaning help moisturize and reduce hair damage – and it also helps if your horse sometimes gets “zapped” by blanket static. An honorable mention in my grooming locker is also the Tenda Sheen – I usually keep this handy for a quick shine and it smells refreshing. When using a post-groom conditioner or shine, I spray onto the coat, then spray onto a cloth. I use the cloth on the face so I can easily shine up gently. I always take care around the eyes, but also wipe down the jaw, ears and muzzle.
Step 5 – Treatment and Prevention
If at any point along those steps I find a wound, scrape, signs of thrush or a skin condition, I have a locker full of treatment and prevention options! My most essential item during the mud season is Kopertox – I use it for both prevention and treatment of thrush. It is a little more than other brands, but it definitely does the job – and quickly! It can be a little intimidating to use, it stains very easily (let’s not even talk about the smell) but there are ways to make it easier. I actually pour my Kopertox into a spray bottle which helps me get the entire sole and pinpoint certain areas with relative ease.
If I notice any wounds, I will first clean them up (usually with either just water if it’s a scrape or a diluted iodine solution if it’s a little bit deeper). I like having two different types of wound treatment on hand – something in a cream form, like the Banixx Wound Care, and something in a spray form like Vetericyn Plus. I like using the Banixx for easy to reach and small scrape wounds. It helps soothe and heal the skin while protecting it. The Vetericyn is perfect for hard to reach areas and bigger wounds. A simple spray and protected!
Last, but not least, my favorite skin condition product to use is the Coat Defense. It comes in two forms – Paste and Powder. The paste is perfect for clearing up fungal and bacterial problem areas. I use it on my gelding’s hind legs as both a prevention (in the mud season) and a treatment (in the Spring when they get a little bit of dew scald from the grass). The paste continually dries out, and since bacteria thrives on moisture – it keeps working well after applying.
The powder form works fabulous as a grooming tool and treatment for larger areas. It’s very easy to shake on, then with your fingers or a curry, work the powder into the coat. The results are immediate! A clean, fresh coat, and no dirt! The powder works great for my horses in the summer months when they sweat in the heat and humidity, a little bit of powder on the forehead – problem solved! It’s also a great way to help treat rain rot and other fungal/bacterial skin conditions in the muddy season.
Having the right tools, supplies and awareness can help make the gloomy season easier to bare. Simple body checks and grooming habits will make sure your horse is comfortable while enduring the rain, wind and mud – and though it may seem never-ending, bright sunny skies are just on the horizon!
Written by Marketing Associate, Cassie Huprich