horse grooming tips for winter

Winter Horse Grooming Tips for Health and Happiness

Every winter our horses grow big fluffy coats that have to be managed carefully in order to maintain their health and happiness. These big coats can trap sweat, dirt, and bacteria close to the skin– causing itchy and painful skin conditions like rain rot and scratches. Even if we decide to clip our horses, we still need to be mindful of the extra strain placed on our horses’ coats from cold temperatures and wet days. Regular horse grooming prevents skin conditions from forming and keeps our equine friends happy all winter long. 

Winter Skin Concerns

Have you noticed that your horse seems to be extra itchy or develop crusty lesions every winter? There are several factors that make winter the season for uncomfortable and unsightly skin conditions. Paddocks tend to become muddier than usual, while snow and rain soak your horse’s hair and skin. All of this excess moisture creates the perfect breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. 

Your horse’s winter hair coat traps mud, dirt, and bacteria close to their skin which leads to the development of fungal conditions like rain rot or scratches.  Symptoms of rain rot include crusty lesions, matted hair, and raw, sensitive sores. Scratches normally develops on your horse’s lower legs, specifically near the pasterns.  Signs of scratches include heat, swelling, and hair loss.

coat defense for horse grooming



It’s important to have the right products on hand to treat these skin conditions. We recommend  Coat Defense Trouble Spot Drying Paste. This USEF and FEI-compliant paste is non-toxic and made in the USA. It works quickly to heal a variety of skin conditions, including rain rot, scratches, insect bites, sunburns, and more.

The Importance of Daily Grooming

Many equestrians believe that grooming their horses before and after they ride is more than enough. The truth is that grooming on a daily basis is crucial. Horse grooming can help to prevent and treat common wintertime skin conditions, like those mentioned above. Grooming increases blood circulation, which enhances the body’s natural defenses against infection. 

Horse grooming also removes dirt and bacteria from next to your horse’s skin. This is especially important over the winter months as the heavier hair coat traps dirt and sweat. Currying and brushing removes all of this trapped dirt and sweat and prevents the growth of bad bacteria. 

Horse grooming also allows you to look over your horse carefully for blanket rubs and any cuts and scrapes. Any damage to the skin creates the perfect opening for bacteria and infection to move in. So, it’s important to get on top of any minor cuts as soon as possible. Many equestrians don’t ride as often over the winter due to frigid temperatures, bad weather, and frozen footing. For many, this means horses are groomed less often as well. Daily grooming ensures that not a single cut or scrape is allowed to fester for very long. 

Clipped vs. Unclipped Horse Grooming

For the lucky equestrians who have access to an indoor arena over the winter, they’re able to ride their horse all winter long. In order to prevent their horse from overheating during exercise, many of these riders clip their horse’s coat. While this has many benefits, it does change several aspects of horse grooming. 

Clipped horses are often easier to groom and stay cleaner because the coat is not thick enough to trap dirt. However, without the protection of a thick hair coat, clipped horses are predisposed to blanket rubs and sunburn, as well as the cold. Make sure that you’re still grooming your horse regularly even though they may appear clean so you can check them for these conditions. 

A clipped horse may also be more sensitive to grooming tools, like the curry comb and stiff brush, because there is less of a barrier between your equipment and their skin. Consider switching your tools to a soft brush and rubber curry with smaller nubs instead of a hard brush and aggressive curry comb. 

When It’s Too Cold to Bathe

One of the biggest drawbacks to horse grooming over the winter is that it’s too cold to bathe your horse. A very lucky few equestrians have access to heated barns and warm water so they can continue to bathe over the winter. The rest of us have to be a little more creative when it comes to deep cleaning our horses without water. 

Hot toweling is a great way to remove all that dirt from beneath your horse’s hair coat without soaking them with cold water. To start, thoroughly groom  your horse to remove as much dirt and dust as possible. Then, fill a bucket with hot water that is still a tolerable temperature for both your hands and your horse’s skin. 

proglow for horse grooming

Add a conditioning or shining product to the hot water and mix it thoroughly. Remember, you won’t be able to wash it off so only add a small amount. We think the  Eqclusive Pro Glow would be the perfect additive to moisturize and add shine to your horse’s coat. 

Soak microfiber cloths or hand towels in the water. Take one and wring it out thoroughly. You want the towel to be steaming and damp, but not wet. Work the towel through your horse’s hair coat, similar to a curry comb. The goal is to steam the hair coat, not get it wet. When you’re all done, cover the horse with a cooler to speed up the drying process.  

If you don’t have access to hot water, you can also use a “bath-in-a-bottle” product, like  Lincoln Total Groom. This spray removes dirt, stains & grease, including grass stains, without the need for water. Just spray it on, wipe, and go. 

Take Care of That Tail

Every winter our horses’ tails must withstand mud, snow, and frigid temperatures. Unfortunately, all of this exposure to the elements can lead to hair breakage and matted, heavy tails. To solve this, many equestrians use tail bags to keep their horses’ tails clean and protected. 

mane and tail horse grooming

If you use a tail bag over the winter, be sure to change it on a weekly basis. This gives you an opportunity to recondition the tail and prevent hair breakage at the top of the bag. If you decide to use water to wash and recondition your horse’s tail over the winter, make sure you use warm water, ideally in a heated barn, and have a way to quickly dry the wet tail– like a blow dryer. 

We recommend using a product like  Lincoln Piaffe Mane and Tail Conditioner. This waterless spray contains Pro Vitamin B5 to actually strengthen the hair, smooth the hair cuticle, and increase elasticity to prevent breakage.  

Stain-Removing Spot Treatments

If you have a winter show or clinic coming up, spot treatments can help your horse look their best even when you can’t bathe. As any gray horse owner will tell you, stains can be nearly impossible to remove over the winter. Sometimes a good bath with a whitening shampoo feels like your only option. But, there are winter-safe, stain-removing methods you can use. 

Consider bathing just your horse’s legs or white spots. Again, this is not recommended if your horse has a lot of white or you don’t have access to a heated barn with warm water. But it can be a great way to clean small white socks or stockings without having to soak your entire horse on a cold day. 

stain removing spray for horse grooming

You can also use stain-removing, spray-on products like this  StainMaster Spray. This spray is designed to remove dirt and manure stains and doesn’t require water. Even better, it’s portable so you can easily bring it to your next show or clinic. 

When a stain can’t be removed, sometimes your only option left is to cover it up.  Cover Magic by Supreme Products comes in black, brown, or white to match a wide variety of horse colors. All you have to do is choose the correct color, spray from a distance of about ten inches from the stain or scar you want to cover and then use a soft brush to disperse the excess liquid. You’re left with a stain free horse. Your Go-To Tack Store for Horse Grooming Products

Whether you’re grooming your horse to prevent skin conditions or just to give their coat added shine, has all of the products you need to keep your horse healthy and happy this winter season. From curry combs and soft brushes to the most cutting edge waterless bathing products, we have a varied selection of brands and products to meet your every need. 

Shop our Horse Care Collection here.

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