Getting used to water - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 07-03-2011, 01:34 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chino Valley, AZ
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Getting used to water

Hey all. I'm just looking for some tips on getting Aires used to having a bath and getting rinsed down. Right now he acts like the water is going to eat him alive when you first approach him, but after a few seconds of it on his chest, he's totally okay...until you move toward his back end. Then it's apparently going to eat him again. Weird thing is, the other day I was able to rinse his face off and he didn't react hardly at all. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. I gave him a "bath" the other day because I needed to scrub the gross off the inside of his legs where he dripped after his gelding last week. It ended up being a 15 minute ordeal just to get that done. He won't lead onto the wash rack (big scary!), so someone has to hold him, and we can't wash him at the hitching rails in front of the barn because it'll turn where everyone else grooms/saddles/etc their horses into a muddy mess.

Anyway, and suggestions on how to get him okay with bathing? I got my old arab/saddlebred gelding okay with being bathed (he HATED it at first), but he wasn't afraid of water to begin with, he just didn't like being bathed. This is a whole different monster.

Also, on a different, but slightly related spray. It's apparently going to eat him too. Any tips on getting him used to that?

Note: He has never been abused, to my knowledge. He has just been sitting in his stall for the past 18 months. He has had little to no human contact outside the odd person stopping by for a pat in the last 4-6 months because he wouldn't let the guy who does turnouts at the stable halter him anymore. So, this is basically like beginning with a brand new foal who doesn't know anything (except he is halter broke and has outstanding ground manners because I've been working with him constantly)...only he weighs 1200lbs and stands at 15.2hh.
Do not tell me I can't...because I will show you that I can.
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-03-2011, 08:45 AM
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Horses are prey animals. It is common (when first learning to stand for a bath) for them to get antzy when "rain from the water hose" starts hitting them in places they feel vulnerable.

Some horses take longer than others to get used to showers and it will just take a lot of patience and using a showerhead nozzle on "soft spray" for awhile.

Some horses have tickle spots and it's a knee-jerk reaction when the water hose hits them in those spots. Typically the flank area, under the belly, between the hind legs.

Some horses have injuries and they can't stand to have the water hit them hard where those injuries are. I have one like that.

I am all for buying a cheap showerhead nozzle at WalMart and getting him used to a soft spray first.

Also, I never-ever tie my horses for a bath. Never have and I don't have a wash rack. I bring them out into the grass and drop the rope so they have the freedom to swing their head to get flies or take a step forward or backward if need be. I have two senior arthritic horses and they need to be able to shift their weight and move.

So my horses not only had to learn how to get a bath early on, they also had to learn that "head UP!" means just that. "--stand in the middle of that candy patch for your bath and keep your head up; you're a long way from starvation" - lol

These days, I send my 23 yo out the barn door with just a halter that isn't even latched. He goes to the spot where he wants to get bathed and he waits for me to get my stuff and get started.

But that all takes work, time, plenty of patience and give/take relationship with the horse. Even though all my horses have been taught to stand in cross-ties, it was only for discipline.

I would not want my head in a set of cross ties and I won't put my horses in them to do anything. They have all learned, over time, to just stand still, even if I am underneath them trimming their hooves - they don't get tied for that either - they stand with just a halter for the whole event.

Regarding fly spray. Certain fly sprays can burn the horse, even though there may not be any physical evidence.

You could try putting water in an empty (and clean) spray bottle and get the horse used to the spray effect with water.

Once that is done, and the horse wants to move away when you use the fly spray, it may be the fly spray and I would try a different brand.

It isn't the main ingredients in the fly spray bottle that cause the problems; it's those "other ingredients" and the amounts of each.

I have one horse that always tolerated Bronco until this year and he welted up the first time I used it. He now gets sprayed with Zonk all the time.

My Arab will move sideways away from me if the fly spray is stinging him. He also gets sprayed with Zonk.

I could probably spray the other two with diesel fuel and it wouldn't bother them - lol

Good luck, be patient - maybe more patience than normal, depending on this horse as compared to your other horse
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-03-2011, 12:25 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chino Valley, AZ
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I'd never use cross ties...ever. I've heard way too many horror stories about them being used with horses not accustomed to them and it causing severe injury.

I'm not opposed to not tying him (makes it easier on me), but using the wash rack is somewhat of a necessity unless I want mud all over my horse. The wash rack is the only non-dirt area on the entire property, aside from the concrete flooring in the barn and one tiny patch of grass that is directly under a locust tree (with nice three inch thorns all over it).

He absolutely HATES the spray nozzle, though. We tried it on Friday when we gave him a bath and he was worse for that than he was for just the regular hose. It's not necessarily the water he doesn't like because he's fine once it touches's the spitting and other sounds the hose makes.

As for the fly spray...I would be willing to think it was the fly spray itself that was the problem if he wasn't absolutely fine with me fly spraying his right side (which is normally his more flinchy, "OMG! I'm gonna die" side). He just stands there like "Whatever." As soon as I move to his left, though, that's when the rodeo begins.

I've always known there are differences between horses, but it still amazes me to see the differences between Aires and Dakota (my old gelding). Some things that Dakota was terrified of and absolutely would not tolerate, Aires is just like "Whatever", even though he may not have been exposed to them (like the trail course in the arena...Dakota wouldn't have set foot within 100 yards of that thing!). Other things that Dakota was "Whatever" about, Aires is positive they're going to kill him, or at the very least eat him.
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-03-2011, 12:58 PM
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ahh...the dreaded nozzle!

our two weren't fond of it either.

Our OTTB loves water (ponds, his tank, etc) he just didn't like it hissing at him....i.e. nozzle. Our Belgian is not impressed with water at all....and particularly hated the nozzle.

The only way to really get over that is to do it all the time...desensitize the horse to what was once new and scary becomes old and boring.

We cheated a bit with our two by using treats as a diversion. We chopped an apple into bits and fed pieces of it to them periodically during their baths....they learned to associate hissing baths with good things...i.e. treats. Epona stands perfectly for showers now, but she doesn't like it...and still needs her treats as a reward for doing so....

Beau however has come to love showers, and will come over while we are filling the tanks to stand under it....the hissing nozzle is now his friend...

See video:

So the only answer to showers/fly spray is just desensitization.....make it old and boring by doing it over and over. And if you aren't an anti treat person....use them as a diversion and a reward.....a positive association.

As for cross ties, we use them all the time, and both our horses are very relaxed in them....even during vaccinations. We've never had a problem with them, and neither do our horses.

Last edited by Beauseant; 07-03-2011 at 01:06 PM.
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-03-2011, 01:10 PM
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I always laugh at how he turns his butt to the hose halfway through the video...
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-03-2011, 03:40 PM
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i had this problem with my baby with both fly spray and the hose.... still not cracked the hose but getting MUCH better....

for a week i tied him to the rails near the hose with a haynet and groomed him there then showed him the hose pipe and rubbed that over his body so he knew the hosepipe itself is fine... (that never worried him atall) then i just trcked water out of the hose and let him play with it... splashing his face around in it....

After a week of him playing with the trickling water i lightly sprayed water into the air and gradually moved it over to him to let it fall on him like rain and he did fidgit to start with but eventually got used to it and continued eating his hay net... once he was already wet he would then allow me to run the hose over his body as it wasnt as much of a shock to him....

He still fidgits but he isnt actually scared of it anymore and aftera few minutes he relaxes and accepts it...
Also you could try sponging him down? get him used to the water and the drips....

With regards to fly spray i done a similar thing first of all just groomed him with the bottle then added water and spayed it near him.... then sprayed it above him to let it fall on he doesnt mind it atall...

goodluck with him :)
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post #7 of 8 Old 07-03-2011, 04:55 PM
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My black gelding would bolt with even a fine mist from a sprayer aimed at a front hoof. If you have a small paddock or round pen start with a sprayer with water. Halter isn't allowed. Approach straight on so he sees you with both eyes. Show him the bottle. If he noses it, good. Stay where you are in front of him and spray his front hoof. If he takes off that's ok. When he quits moving approach to the front again and again show him the bottle. Don't spray until he noses it. If he looks like he's thinking of moving away take a step back as that takes the pressure off him. Many horses, if handled this way will eventually stand for spraying. Because you are allowing him to leave the horse after a few departs will often stay.
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-05-2011, 06:43 PM
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At the barn where I ride, one of the lesson horses really hates the fly spray, so we spray it on a rag (getting it pretty soaked) and then wipe her all over with it. I don't know her history or whether or not people tried the desensitization everyone here is recommending, but it seems to be a good method for her.
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