Horses don’t stop needing a bath just because it’s cold outside. They still find ways to get dirty, sweaty, and even smelly in the winter! But we get it - when it’s cold outside, there’s more to worry about than in the warmer months. You can’t just wash, scrape the water off, and let them dry in the pasture; you need to ensure the water is at the right temperature and ensure they are dry, warm, and comfortable afterward. Luckily, we have the guide to keep your horse happy, healthy, and clean all winter.

How do you give a horse a bath in the winter?

There are a few more steps to bathing your horse in the winter versus warmer months; the most important is to use warm water and ensure your horse is completely dry before sending them to the pasture. In general, the steps are:

  • Gather your bathing supplies and tools
  • Find a bathing spot with good drainage and water accessibility
  • Wash only the important areas if possible
  • Use a sweat scraper to get rid of excess moisture
  • Towel dry your horse
  • Finish with a cooler to dry
  • Make sure your horse is completely dry before letting them outside

Horse Cooler

Choose the best bathing products

No matter the task, having the right tools within reach makes any job much easier. For bathing your horse in the winter, have on hand warm water, either with a portable hot water heater, a bucket, or (if you are lucky) warm water from the tap. You will also need shampoo, old towels, a sweat scraper, and a cooler. As a bonus, have a treat for your sweet horse as a reward after the bath! Choosing the best bathing products will ensure your horse stays clean and moisturized. Using a great shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer will keep your horse clean and their skin hydrated during those dry winter months. Never use dishwashing soap during the winter; it will dry out your horse’s skin and could lead to skin diseases.

Shop our Top 10 Horse Shampoo Picks

Another great tool for cleaning your horse is a horse vacuum. Perfect for bathing (or for a quick cleaning sans water and soap), a horse vacuum manually lifts dirt, dust, and debris from your horse’s body. If you want to try this great product, be sure to get a vacuum that is especially meant for horses; don’t try a DIY version with your own vacuum! Also, get your horse used to the horse vacuum first by trying it a little at a time before going all in.

Spot clean your horse

One perk of bathing in the winter is that you don’t always have to bathe nose to tail; if your horse needs a bath and you’re not showing, you can spot clean. For example, if you just need to bathe an area for a medical reason, you just wash that area. For horses that need a complete bath, wash one half of your horse and then the other, get the horse rinsed, most of the water scraped off, and towel dried on that section before moving on to the next.

Plan to use a cooler

After scraping excess water off and towel drying your horse, use a cooler to complete the drying process. A great tip is putting a few dry towels on your horse’s back before the cooler to speed up drying. Why a cooler and not a blanket? Coolers are meant to wick away moisture, while a blanket is meant to keep your horse warm and will lock that moisture in. Coolers come in various colors, styles, and materials, including fleece and wool. Some even come with attached neck covers so your horse can quickly dry from poll to tail. Make sure to use a clean cooler; a used one is just going to spoil your hard work!

Use warm water

This is, quite frankly, the MOST IMPORTANT STEP to winter bathing. The right water temperature is crucial to keeping your horse from getting chilled. In addition to getting your horse cold, using cold water can cause the following problems:

  • Reduced effectiveness of cleaning
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Increased stress and tension
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Reduced blood flow
  • Drying problem
To keep your horse from experiencing these issues, always use warm water. While a recommended temperature varies, it’s best to test the water yourself to see if it’s too hot. What’s too hot for you is too hot for your horse. If you aren’t one of the fortunate horse owners with hot water ready at the tap, the perfect solution is a portable hot water heater. These amazing systems provide hot water in seconds anywhere you wash your horse, eliminating the need to stress about your hot water cooling too fast in a bucket.


How do you get hot water in your barn (without plumbing)?

Not everyone can afford to have hot water in their barn. Plumbers can charge anywhere from $80 to $300 per square foot for plumbing, not to mention the costs to repair any wall or floor damage caused by the installation. This is not a project you can go cheaply in: you need good quality pipes that won’t freeze in the winter and don’t corrode quickly. Not to mention the costs of repair should the water get acidic and destroy pipes, leak, or burst. Plus, unless you put plumbing in with the barn build, there’s the added inconvenience of not being able to use your barn until the work is done.

So what to do if you don’t want the hassle of plumbing? There are three common ways to get hot water to the bath without plumbing: from the house, from a bucket, and using a hot water heater. While the first two are common, they come with some serious drawbacks and eat into your time and energy. At Schneiders, we highly recommend using a portable hot water system. Easy to start, easy to move to where you need it, and hot water in seconds. Plus, these systems don’t break the bank. Need we say more?

Hot water from the house

Obviously, this one only works if you have a long enough hose and close proximity to your barn from the house. Simply attach one end of the hose to a faucet with a hot water tap (laundry room, bathroom, kitchen, etc.), thread the hose to the area you are washing your horse, and turn it on. You could prep the faucet by getting the hot water flowing before you attach the hose or watch the hose water until it's the temperature you desire. While common, this method can take a long time for hot water to get where you need it.

Hot water from a bucket

As easy as it sounds. Simply fill a bucket full of hot water and take it to the wash area. Fill the bucket with water hotter than what you want to wash with; this way, the water will be the perfect temperature when you’re ready to wash. The cons of this approach are the time it takes to bring the bucket to your horse, the water getting cold too fast, and spillage.

Affordable Barn Hot Water Heater: Insta-Hot® Portable Equine Washing System

One of the most affordable and convenient ways to always have hot water in your barn, without investing in costly plumbing projects or lug buckets, is by investing in a portable hot water heater. At Schneiders, we recommend the Insta-Hot® Portable Horse Washing System. The Insta-Hot® is a portable water heater that operates off any standard 20 lb. propane tank for up to 18 hours of use! It allows you to give warm baths anywhere, anytime, and in a matter of seconds. It’s an inexpensive, easy, and portable solution for safer, stress-free warm-water horse bathing.

With the Insta-Hot, your cold water can get 40-96°F warmer per gallon, depending on which unit you choose. There are three options, the Insta-Hot® Original, Insta-Hot® 2, and Insta-Hot® Pro. They all make having access to hot water easier than you think, so you can get your bathing job done at an affordable price.

Why bathe a horse with warm water

Bathing with warm water sounds like a no-brainer; we love a warm bath, so why wouldn’t your horse? But there are more benefits than you might think. Some of the many benefits of bathing your horse with warm water include:

  • Improved coat
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Increased comfort
  • Relaxation
  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved circulation
  • Better grooming
Warm water carries the most benefit versus cold, plus the added benefit of keeping your horse happy.

Bathing your horse in the winter doesn’t have to be stressful or a chore. The biggest change from warmer months to winter is the need for warm water and ensuring your horse is completely dry before letting them back into the pastures. But with the right tools and tips from this guide, your horse will be clean and happy. Plus, with your horse clean and ready to finish their day in the barn or pasture, it’s the perfect time to head to the house for your own warm winter bath!