The Economics of Grooming

Ruthann, Lucky Braids

Bathing horses can be a gross waste of resources. It can require inordinate amounts of water, promote stains, soften hooves, and cause irritation. Here are the eco-friendly truths that yield easier care, healthier coats and lower costs.

Consider these elements:

• Acidity. Shampoo properly pH balanced for horses, which is different than humans’ or dishes’, rinses fast and leaves no film. Otherwise, pH can cause pores to clog, attract dust and promote poor hoof condition. Standing in water is not a good idea. So, look for shampoo pH balanced for horses to save LOTS of water and time, promote shine and healthy hooves.

• Sodium Chloride. Most shampoos use sodium chloride (salt!) for lather. This strips natural protective oils, to parch skin and hair, leaving coats vulnerable to irritation, skin disease and tail breakage. Have you ever been bitten by a bug after a day in the sun? Itching it hurts! Dry skin is easily irritated. It’s also thirsty, grabbing onto everything to get horses dirty. Shampoo without sodium chloride makes coats easier to maintain.

• Fungus. Most medicated shampoos dry the skin. While killing an irritant, they leave skin susceptible, feeding the cycle. Nature’s best antiseptic is tea tree oil. Unlike other antiseptics, it kills the fungus, too. But, there are many grades of tea tree. Be careful to use shampoo that specifies “medical-grade” tea tree oil. It’s gentle.

• Scratches. The best solution to scratches is in your daily routine. Rule #1: Only put bone-dry legs into a stall. Damp skin is soft. Bedding makes microabrasions fungus enters. Hence, crud, which can cause lameness and a systemic infection. So bathe heels gently. Dry thoroughly with a clean towel. Fans don’t exfoliate and stimulate natural protective oils. Towel well.

• Stains. Conventional whitening shampoos make horses dirty. Grooms’ hands hurt, so it can’t be healthy. Stripped hair is porous and gets dirty fast. A shampoo that is proper according to the above elements and saturated with aloe vera can moisturize and nourish hair and skin to promote easy care and greys that glisten. For spot washing, an equine enzyme won’t leave the yellow shadow nor strip the coat.

• Tails. Detanglers are usually toxic. Plus, they suffocate hair, making it brittle to break. Truth is, there is an alternative that is healthier, easier and more economical. A shampoo saturated with aloe vera has a lot of natural texture. If you use it and comb the tail wet (always holding and starting at the bottom). Tails come out naturally big, fluffy and easy to maintain. The texture of the aloe is volumizing. Hair wants to separate rather than fall into ringlets. So daily maintenance is quick. Itching is reduced. So, choose lots of aloe over toxic, expensive and detrimental detanglers.

If the tail gets dust dirt or discharge and you don’t want to wash the tail, spray an equine enzyme and just wipe off impurities. It simply separates the bond between the live and dead protein; the hair and anything else. So, an enzyme is a sound quick fix. Remember to hold and comb tails wet.

• Manes. The desirability of braiding dirty manes is a myth. Dirt dries braiders’ hands and the crest, making horses itchy. Plus, you should show clean. Some shampoos make manes slippery by stripping oil and petroleumbased ingredients. If you use a healthy shampoo saturated with aloe, it can be easier to braid well, reduce itching and breakage as well as earn the judge’s respect.

• Size matters. Concentrated gallons are cheaper by far. Plastic is expensive and wastes resources. So, buying by the your pocket and the earth. Choose a concentrate instead of paying for water that has been shipped around. With a highly concentrated shampoo, you can fill a half bucket with water and use just a “glub” or “glub, glub” of shampoo. Four ounces can suffice.

Shampooing is wrought with myth. Make good choices and you’ll not only save time and money, problems will be averted for your horse and the planet. So, think big picture. The price does not tell the whole story or even hint at the true costs. Choose well and it’s a win-win.

For more tips for these and other issues, visit The Grooming Resource at

The lack of effective and healthy grooming products inspired Ruthann Smith, world-class groom and braider, to develop the economical and ecofriendly Lucky Braids™ solutions: All- In-One Shampoo, Whitener/ Dry Wash enzymatic spray, Handy Salve and Braiding DVD/Tool prized by top horsemen.

© 2004-2012 Horse Tack Review

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