Horse Problems: Bathing

Bathing can be a hassle if your horse has learned how to object.

Can he be hosed off in the grass on a loose lead? Is it the cross ties, the area, or the hose that seems to send him off?

If your horse will not stand still or tolerate cross-tying, he must go back to some basic training exercises before you add water to the mix. see: Patience and Tying Exercises

He cannot learn to bathe if he can’t stand still in the wash area. If he is able to tie quietly, start introducing him to the washing station. Ours happens to have both ends open. It is simply two strong poles with a nice washing surface between them. Wherever you choose to wash, he should become familiar with the area and the surface first. Walk into the rack and stop. Let him feel his surroundings. Ask him to walk through it a few times. First walk through going forward and then enter from the other end. Walk in and back out like loading in a trailer. Walk in and stand. After a few minutes of this, he should stand quietly while you stand in front of him.

Water can be added after he ties well. Treat water as a De-Sensitizing Lesson. Start this exercise with the horse on a lead in a nice fairly open area such as a small grass enclosure. If you have a water hose that is coiled, you will have less trouble keeping the hose out of your way if you end up twisting and turning.

Start with a hose on gentle stream (no hissing sprayer) on the shoulders (as in the picture). Keep the stream in one place until he stands still. Then stop the water. Let him rest for a minute. He will probably move away in a circle around you as you turn with him to keep the hose on his shoulders. If he is just too agitated to control, and he drags you to where the hose can’t be handled while you handle him, tie him up using a Blocker tie ring so that he has some small amount of latitude when you introduce the water hose. If that won’t hold him, he needs to go back to the Patience Pole.

Assuming that he is quieting to the water on his shoulders, slowly move the stream down the legs until he objects again. Wait until he stops stamping or moving and remove the water again. Move the stream up to his withers, then back over his rump. Each time he stands still, remove the water. As you move up his neck, he will probably start to throw his head around to avoid the stream on his face. Don’t try to wash his face at this time.

When the horse tolerates whole-body bathing with the hose streaming, you can add the sprayer. It makes a noise, so start the process over from the beginning when you introduce it.

The perfect time to play this bathing game is when your horse has had a particularly good workout and is hot and sweaty. Almost all of my horses not only learn quickly to tolerate bathing on a hot day, but they learn to enjoy drinking out of the hose as a treat during the process.

He has not been put into the cross ties yet, but you have continued to familiarize him with the bathing rack. Now you can tie him into the bathing station with cross ties. Move away from him for longer and longer sessions so that he learns to stand still and quiet in the cross ties.

When he is comfortable staying tied there, go through all of the steps again as if he had never had a bath.

Now we will add the face (with gently streaming water not the sprayer.)

Here is the trick. Start with the water at his poll. He will toss and throw his head. When he makes the slightest move to lower his head (an accidental but fortuitous move) remove the water. The object, of course, is to teach him that lowering his head when you wash it is the correct move. As you progress, ask him to lower it and remain clam before you remove the stream. This is hard to do at first. He may be fighting and throwing his head up and down faster than you can react, but keep at it until you catch the head lowered for an instant. Remember that the Release of Pressure is the key. When he is calm, remove the water.

Horse training and equestrian activities in general can be dangerous. While we try to present relevant and valuable content, under no circumstances does or its members or contributors take any responsibility for the well-being of any horse or person using a method outlined here.

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