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One of the most frustrating parts of being (or living with!) someone who rides horses for fun or as part of professional work on a farm, stockyard, or race track is dealing with the unique odor that makes clothing stink after horseback riding.
In this article, we’ll be talking about a few effective ways to manage clothes that smell like horses and how to remove the smell permanently with one wash. Although horseback riding often results in stained clothing, in this article we’ll just be talking about removing odors. For hints on getting white and light-colored breaches clean and removing horse-related stains, check out this article.
Horse farms have a particular odor. Whether it’s the body odor of horses themselves, the pungent odor of manure, or the ammonia that off-gases from horse stalls, this combination of odors seems to have a supernatural ability to cling to fabrics. Fitting horseback riding in with a busy schedule that includes work, school, or social engagements means riders need to learn how to minimize smells that linger on clothing as they move from farm to home, school, or public spaces.
This article will be split into two portions: tips for managing and minimizing horse odors in clothing, and part two: tips for effectively washing the smell of horses, maneuver, and farm from fabric.
How to minimize horse odors in clothing
Short of exclusively riding and handling horses outdoors, there’s very little you can do to prevent horse smells from permeating the fabrics of your clothing. There are, however, some tips to manage the smell.
1. Pay attention to textiles.
Pro riders know: wool fabrics air out quickly and naturally resist odor while polyester fleece (yes, like that Patagonia pullover you love) and many other modern tech fabrics seem to lock it in, resisting removal even after washing.
2. Segregate until you can wash.
Many riders make the mistake of tossing their riding clothes in a hamper, backseat of a car, or a locker after riding however this only serves to concentrate odors and pass them to other textiles – making an entire laundry room, car, or locker reek of horses.
While many equestrians genuinely enjoy the smell of horses, the odors that tend to cling to fabrics – like ammonia – are less pleasant and may not be appreciated by our loved ones. A good strategy for controlling odors so they don’t spread to other clothing or textiles is through segregating or isolating horseback riding clothing until it can be washed.
For some riders, a waterproof stuff sack – like that used by campers and travelers to carry soiled clothing – is a good option for storing soiled horse clothing until you have time to wash it. Containing riding clothing in this way is particularly effective for those who need to head straight from the barn to work or school.
3. Wash your boots.
One of the worst culprits for horse smells is boots. While many of us are inclined to kick off the dirt and head out on our way, if we’ve been on a horse farm and especially if we’ve cleaned stalls or walked in manure soiled areas, odors can cling to boots fiercely.
Take a few minutes to hose off your boots before leaving the barn. Keeping a boot brush in your horse’s wash stall may be an easy way to make sure boots are scrubbed clean before you leave the farm.
4. Air clothing out
One of the most effective ways to remove odors from fabrics prior to washing is one of the simplest: just hang your breeches, pants, jeans, or anything else you wear for horseback riding in a place where there’s good airflow. This might be a mudroom, garage, or even a hook on a covered porch.
Many riders with family or partners that are very sensitive to horse odors choose to change clothing in a garage or covered porch as soon as they return home. Clothing with horse odors can be hung in this area- outside the home- in order to fully prevent the lingering smell of horses from entering the home.
This method of removing horse odors works best on clothing made from natural fibers like cotton jeans and wool sweaters. A good airing out may even reduce the need to wash these items as often, which can reduce wear and tear and make chores a bit easier.
5. Wear layers.
The ability to strip off stinky layers before leaving the barn, or entering your home can be a good way to manage horse odors on clothing. If you, for example, wear an undershirt, a top, and a jacket, then you can remove the top layer before you leave the barn – leaving it in a locker in your tack room – then remove your top in your garage before entering your home. By the time you enter your home in an undershirt, any smells lingering from the barn should be minimal.
6. Wash your hands
Water can be in short supply – or very cold – in some horse barns so while many riders take great pains to reduce odors via managing their clothing, keep in mind that your hands have been in closer contact with horses than any other part of your body. As soon as possible, wash your hands.
Riding in gloves may also be an effective way to control odors and even a strategy for dealing with allergies to horses.
Removing horse odors from clothing during washing
Thankfully, when proper washing protocols are used, horse and farm smells are easy to remove from most textiles. Hot water, agitation, and a bit of detergent will remove the majority of horse, maneuver, and ammonia smells.
If you find that your rancher-husband’s or riding-lesson-taking-daughter’s clothing still has a bit of a faint horse odor even after washing, here are a few washing tips to try:
- Use hydrogen peroxide. Although it can whiten fabrics (which is actually perfect for washing horse show riding breeches.) hydrogen peroxide is particularly effective at breaking down the ammonia odor that is transferred into fabrics when someone spends time around decomposing horse manure like in a barn or stockyard. A half cup of hydrogen peroxide added to the bleach compartment of your washing machine can help remove odors from horseback riding clothing.
- Downey Unstoppables work great to mask odors. Although this product won’t remove odors, it can leave a pleasant scent that lingers on fabrics and covers up any subtle smells.
- Storing horse clothing in a cedar chest or cedar lined clothingt after washing can be an effective way to naturally reduce any lingering horse owners while also protecting natural fibers like will from mobs, which don’t like cedar. Cedar satchets can also be used in a standard dresser drawer.
With a Masters Degree in Psychology and two decades of experience as a horseback rider, breeder, and tack store owner, Tatum has developed a unique approach to coaching adult riders that integrates the physical and emotional aspects of developing as a confident rider.