Used correctly, these products can even remove stubborn stains and dirt from deep in the coat.
Waterless horse shampoos, sometimes called “dry shampoos” because they don’t require a rinse, are handy at shows and in the winter when giving your horse a bath is difficult. We like to be able to squirt our horse’s socks clean without worrying he’ll catch a chill, and we don’t want to do a lot of scrubbing.
We expect waterless horse products to lift the stain out of the hair, much the way we expect a stain-lifter to get the job done on our clothes in the washer. We want to spray, remove the stain, dry and move on. That’s the upside of these products. The downside is that this “shampoo” is staying on our horse’s coats.
So, while we expect it to be aggressive in removing dirt, preferably right down to the skin—and several of the products in our field trial did just that—we want it to be gentle to the horse’s coat and skin, much like a coat polish.
We insist that the ingredients are safe. We’re still going to do the 24-hour spot test before trying a product, but overall we expect that products are non-toxic and safe. We aren’t going to worry if it’s natural ingredients or not, as long as the product is non-irritating, which each of these products were.
Most of the products resulted in a shinier coat when we finished, although we did start to wonder what an optical brightener was (it’s a chemical that absorbs and then reflects light).
Ingredients. We’re always disappointed when manufacturers don’t disclose all the ingredients in their products right on the label. We absolutely understand about proprietary formulas. The companies have a right to protect their recipe, especially if it’s a good one. But we also need to know if we can use a product on a sensitive horse or not, even if we do a spot test. Every manufacturer we spoke with told us that consumers should call them if they are concerned about ingredients, and they would do their best to help them.
That’s a big step in the right direction, but we applaud Cowboy Magic for listing every ingredient right on the label. Absorbine has Miracle Groom’s MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on its website.
We’re also pleased that Fiebing’s, Veterolin and Miracle Coat state on the front label that they contain tea-tree oil, which is well-known for its cleansing and antimicrobial properties. We’re long-time fans of tea-tree oil, but many horses are sensitive to it, so including this in a visible area works to both the manufacturer’s and the consumer’s benefits. (If your horse is sensitive to tea-tree oil, consider Lucky Braids Whitener or Cowboy Magic Greenspot Remover.)
It’s helpful to us if a product can be used on other animals. If we’re spraying stuff around the barn, we don’t want to accidentally harm the barn cat if he trots by. Plus, we can buy bigger quantities and save money if it’s multi-purpose.
Even in this website-crazy age, we believe all products should list the manufacturer’s phone number right on the bottle. That way, if you have a question or problem, you can get immediate help. Every bottle listed a website, but four did not also include a phone number. Not everyone has Internet access, and it’s certainly not likely to be handy in the barn.
Conditioning. Since these products are designed to be left on the coat, we expect minimal residue and we do expect a conditioning effect or, at the very least, the coat shouldn’t become dry or brittle. Many of the products initially dried stiff (Lucky Braids Whitener dried white), but once the coat was brushed out, it felt normal. Still, our testers felt the best overall conditioning effects were noted with Lucky Braids Whitener, Green Clean and Easy Out.
Because the most likely place we’re going to grab these products at a show, shine and dust repellency may be important. If so, we found Greenspot Remover, Vetrolin Green Spot Out, Lucky Braids Whitener and Easy Out produced very shiny coats.
Field Trials. Everyone knows you’re supposed to read label instructions, but more often than not, this step is skipped. For those who are “skippers,” note well that the first words on nearly every product were: Shake well. The ingredients in waterless shampoos can separate, and if you don’t shake the bottle, your trigger will pull up whatever’s sitting in the bottom of the bottle.
After that, it was basically, “Spray, rub, dry and brush. Repeat if necessary.” Most of our testers reported they used more product than the instructions indicated were necessary, but they didn’t mind as long as they got the desired results.
We received a lot of feedback on scents, but we decided not to count them in the decision-making process because it’s such an individual thing. No one objected to any of the fragrances, and testers’ favorite scents were all over the board.
We also heard from a couple of intuitive testers who said they didn’t see the sense of giving your horse a full bath with these products. The fact is, you’re spraying your horse wet, sometimes fairly heavily, so why not give the horse a quick bath and wrap him up in a couple of coolers, if it’s cold?
That’s a good point, again, reminding us that these are designed as quick-fixes. One of the spots a quick fix is always handy is with static electricity, especially the kind that builds up during blanketing season. If you battle the “blanket zap” problem, you’re going to want Smart Choice or Miracle Groom to your grooming box.
Shelf Life. We used a 32-ounce size container, if available, to do our price-per-ounce comparisons. However, there is considerable savings if you can use a larger container. For instance, Quick Clean Waterless Shampoo goes from 34¢/oz. in the quart size to 16¢/oz. in the gallon size. Lucky Braids drops to 61¢/oz. in the gallon size.
Grapefruit Coat Refresh has up to a three-year shelf life; Smart Choice and Veterolin last about two years, while Easy Out is guaranteed to last at least six months.
Miracle Groom and Cowboy Magic have a minimum five-year shelf life. Cowboy Magic said it works even if it freezes then thaws or is subjected to heat extremes.
For information on our specific recommendations and full chart information, please log in and go to August 2010 or search for “waterless shampoos.”