Horse afraid of water? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 07-23-2010, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
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Horse afraid of water?

My horse, Decker, is a three year old and is completely afraid of nothing, but whenever we attempt to bathe him, he freaks out.......any suggestions?
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post #2 of 21 Old 07-23-2010, 05:35 PM
Green Broke
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Try just spraying his leg, so that he understands its not that bad.
and once he gets used to that just spray him (not in the face, with warm water) undtil he realizes its not going to eat him, lol.

If there are no horses in heaven... im not going.
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post #3 of 21 Old 07-23-2010, 05:45 PM
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Horses do not bathe themselves. Humans have decided that they need to be bathed, and so introduced bathing to horses.

So, since it's not something a horse will do naturally, they have to be trained to accept it, just the way they're trained to accept a rider.

Also remember that spraying a horse on the face is akin to blinding and deafening them, because their eyes and ears are their first line of defense against predators. It's natural for them to fight you taking away their sight and hearing.

With all that in mind, as ridergirl stated, start with their feet and legs and work your way up to their body. Use a hose with very little pressure at first, so they can get used to the idea.

If you just turn a hose on and start spraying them with a high pressure nozzle, of course they're going to freak out. They have no clue what you're doing.
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post #4 of 21 Old 07-24-2010, 12:00 AM
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I wouldn't start with the hose. Some horses see the hose as something very scary. Because it often resembles a snake on the ground and sprays loud hard water on them. They don't understand that. I would start out with someone holding him at his head and using a bucket of water and sponge. And work the sponge on his body. That might help a bit more being not as threatening. And if he moves around let him but be sure to keep that wet sponge on him then when he stops moving around or fussing then remove the sponge. That will be his reward for being good. If he stands quietly he gets what he wants. That is what I did for my horse I had before who was TERRIFIED of the water. It worked really well. By the end of his first bath he was pretty well settled.
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post #5 of 21 Old 07-24-2010, 12:11 AM
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I will often give my young horses their first bath right after a very long workout on a hot day when they are tired, sweaty, and itchy. I don't tie them so that if they feel like they have to get away, they can without getting hurt, then I start with no nozzle on and very low pressure. I start by just letting the water hit the ground beside them and then move it onto one of their front feet. If they move, just keep them in a circle around you and keep the water aimed at their feet (make sure that neither you or the horse gets tangled in the hose or lead) until they stop moving. Then take the water away and give them a scratch. Then start over and slowly move up their body as they accept it. It won't take them but just a few days of that to figure out that a nice cool bath after a hot workout feels darn good and they stand perfectly still.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog:
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post #6 of 21 Old 07-24-2010, 12:34 AM
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I agree with Smrobs on this one...tying a frightened horse, can actually enhance his fear, because when a horse is afraid, he wants to move his feet. So having him on a lead rope, in an enclosed area like a round pen, or small paddock, so you can just move with him, while keeping the water running, and allowing him to move around you, and figure out the water's not going away, nor does it hurt, is usually the most effective route. There are other trainers who will simply snub them up good to a solid post, and just set back a good distance, and just spray the ground around, and eventually the horse, until he figures it out for himself that it's not going away, and eventually stands there.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #7 of 21 Old 07-24-2010, 12:40 AM
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Oh, and I forgot to mention that I will also slowly work up the pressure of the water and then start using my thumb over the end of the hose to create a spray before ever putting a nozzle on the hose.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog:
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post #8 of 21 Old 07-24-2010, 05:30 PM
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i have been working with this same problem for quite some time with a mustang i take care of. she is not fearful of anything really. BUT, when you bring her anywhere with running water or near a hose she does her "scared dance". I've been taking her down to the creek every time i take her out, and she is slowly getting better and better with it. but let me tell you, it has been a task. i've tried many different methods, and none of the ones i've heard have have worked at all thus far.

the only thing that seems to be making progress is walking down the creek with her, and rubbing water onto her with my hands. i'll get a scoop of it in my hand, pour it onto her (which she still isn't really sure about), then pet her with my wet hands. after we go down to the creek i always present the hose to her, just to check it out and remind her that it isn't a monster. i got her completely soaked in water yesterday without a fight, which i was quite happy about :P

it's been a really slow process, but being agressive with her does no good at all. i've had to be very patient with her, and she is VERY slowly making progress (we started this task about a month or two ago).

any suggestions on what else to do with her?
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post #9 of 21 Old 07-24-2010, 06:35 PM
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My horse isn't afraid of water, but he's afraid of the washrack (since it's a giant monster that keeps him cool when it's 115 outside lol). What I've started doing is taking him right by the washrack and hosing him off there. He doesn't have to enter the washrack, and is learning that every time he's near it, he gets to be cooled off and he gets to graze a little (the washrack is in the pasture). Now he's starting to show and interest in entering the washrack. Maybe you can try taking him to the wash area, hold him, give him treats and pet him, and have somebody else spray water but not towards or at him. Then, he can associate water with good things. Slowly start spraying him with water, too, while giving him treats and petting him. Also make sure you never start pulling hard on the rope, when I do that while leading my horse to the washrack, he starts getting tense and freaking out. I then realize that I'm pulling on him, calm down and walk next to him and he's fine.
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post #10 of 21 Old 07-24-2010, 09:26 PM
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I have a hose nozzle that has 7 or 8 different settings that helps out greatly with the process of getting horses used to water. The favorite setting for this task is the "mist" setting. It is not scary at all and gently mists the horses with a very fine spray. When starting horses this is the setting we use on their legs and working up onto their bodies and necks. When they seem to be getting accustomed to the mist after a week or so then we start with the mist and move over to the "shower" setting and if they get nervous we go back down but usually it works like a charm. Good Luck!
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