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Horse Shampoo: Which Is The Best Mane And Tail Shampoo?

By Jeffrey Rolo

As horse owners, it is only natural that we want to purchase quality products that will enhance our horse's lives. Perhaps this is why selecting the perfect horse shampoo stresses so many horse enthusiasts out: since it's applied fairly often, they don't want to make the wrong choice!

Let's get the bad news over with first: there is no "perfect" horse shampoo, so I cannot possibly tell you which would work best for you or your horses. That being said, I can offer some thoughts and advice regarding horse shampoo, and let you know how I make my selections (yep, I don't stick with just one).

One of the reasons that it is difficult to select which horse shampoo will work best for your horse prior to testing is that every horse's skin makeup and tolerance is different. Horses generally have somewhat sensitive skin to begin with, but some are extra sensitive to substances like horse liniments or shampoos. If your horse is more sensitive, you may need to experiment a bit to find out which shampoo's ingredients are most cooperative with your particular horse.

The best way to ensure your horse isn't allergic or sensitive to a specific brand of horse shampoo is to first test a small region before using it on your entire horse. Wash that region as you normally would, then let a day go by and check the area closely again. If the skin shows no reaction, you can assume it will be safe to use on his entire body.

If your horse's skin is sensitive, look for a shampoo infused with aloe since aloe-based products are generally the gentlest. In a pinch you could also consider a therapeutic horse shampoo, even if your horse doesn't have any pressing medical need. Antifungal and antibacterial shampoos are designed to be gentle, so they shouldn't bother your horse as much as traditional shampoos might.

Knowing how to bathe your horse properly is also important, because even an otherwise great horse shampoo can irritate your horse's skin if you do it improperly. Another article covers how to bathe a horse, so I won't repeat that advice here, but I will emphasize that it's critical you thoroughly rinse off any shampoo before it begins to try to avoid skin irritation. I shampoo/rinse my horses in quarters to ensure shampoo doesn't have a chance to dry (though if you work fast, you can do an entire side at once).

Beyond the sensitivity issue, there are a wide variety of specialized horse shampoos that are designed to enhance particular coat colors. For example, some horse shampoos will boost your horse's white coat by incorporating a bluing agent. No, it won't turn your horse blue… in the sunlight the blue gets neutralized and makes the white pop out more. Other colored shampoos include black (good for dark chestnuts and blacks), red (good for chestnuts and sorrels), and gold (good for palominos and buckskins). If you're looking for your horse's coat to get a bit of a color boost after his bath, look into a colored shampoo that is designed to compliment your horse's color.

Finally, many horse shampoos include reflective ingredients that are absorbed into the hair during the bathing process. Since these ingredients reflect light, they lend your horse a more lustrous, shiny coat.

Unless you are part of the show circuit, chances are you won't need to worry about getting too fancy with colored or reflective shampoos. Selecting a horse shampoo that agrees with his skin and strikes your fancy both visually and aromatically is the only criteria you likely need to worry about.

Just in case the idea of experimenting blindly doesn't appeal to you, I'll share some of the horse shampoos that have provided good results for me and other horsemen.

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