Bath time!

Bathing your horse is important. It can help desensitise a sceptical horse, making handling a lot easier. Kim Dyson shares a step-by-step routine to make bathing a positive experience.

A beautifully washed horse gets its mane plaited.

To bath or wash your horse, you’ll need a large, open area with a non-slip surface such as sand, grass or good-old fashioned dirt. A 15m round pen is best. And it’s best if the day is warm to ensure the experience is positive.

You will need:

  • A long hosepipe with an attachment that lets you adjust water pressure.
  • A horse shampoo for the body and a baby shampoo for the head to prevent soap burning the eyes. You’ll also need a horse conditioner, as animal skins have a specific pH balance.
  • A rubber grooming mitt and a water brush for the hooves.
  • A well-fitted halter and a soft cotton lead rope.

Getting started
Once you’ve put on the head collar and settled your horse, show it the water. Remain calm. Your horse must trust you. Hold the lead rope in one hand and the hose in the other. Stand slightly to one side of your horse, with the hose behind you so the horse won’t get tangled in the hose if it jumps forward. Hold the hose away from your horse so that the water doesn’t touch it. When you’re sure your horse is relaxed, start to move the hose closer.

With patience your horse will learn to stand still while you wash. Start with the hooves. Let the water flow slowly, then gently go up the leg. If your horse seems nervous, go back down. Make reassuring noises. This is a faith-building exercise. Your horse needs to know that it can trust you. Every time you put water on a new area and your horse responds positively, by standing still and accepting the water, go back down to the hoof. This will then be a safety zone. Your horse will learn that you’re setting it up for success.

Now wet the shoulder. For the horse to move away from you is a natural response, so just gently apply pressure to the halter and shift your horse into place again. Reduce the water pressure and wet the face. If it still moves away from you, gently pull it closer. Repeat this until all body parts are wet. Now you’re ready to shampoo. Use the mitt to give a gentle scrub/massage over the entire body.

To rinse, start at the rump and move forward to the head. Once all soap is washed off, you can increase the water pressure slightly. Repeat with the conditioner. Even a working horse deserves a bath now and then. This will let it know that you appreciate its hard work and that you’re prepared to take part in a grooming ritual most horses share.

Contact Kim Dyson on 082 888 6511.