Bathing/Water Issues

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Bathing/Water Issues

This is a discussion on Bathing/Water Issues within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category

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    08-03-2009, 05:40 PM
Angry Bathing/Water Issues

So my new horse I realized after trying to sponge her down after a sweaty trailer ride is completely terrified of water. Not only is she afraid of wash stalls, but fly sprays and anything wet that touches her. I've been overly careful to be sensitive of this problem by showing her hoses and spraying bottles away from her so she can get used to the sound/smell but nothing works and as soon as she hears or sees it she goes into melt down. She has recently developed cuts that need to be cleaned but when I do clean then gently with a sponge and betadine I fear she will rip out cross ties or rear up. It's incredibly frustrating and needs to be stopped! Any thoughts?
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    08-03-2009, 05:42 PM
**Hmm by trailers I meant wash stalls. Brain malfunction!
    08-03-2009, 08:17 PM
I would start by tackling the spray bottle first, the bottle is less cumbersome than a hose to start with.

Rub her all over with the bottle (or hose). If she gets upset here, don't go any further until you can rub her anywhere with the bottle. When the bottle is no big deal, she's relaxed and not caring, spray the air around her. It's helpful to fill a spare bottle with plain water for this step, you'll be spritzing a lot . If she moves, move with her and keep spraying. Don't stop until she stops her feet and shows at least one sign of relaxation (licking lips, chewing, dropping head, blinking...), the stop spraying and praise her, rubbing her with the bottle. When you can spray the air around her and she stays relaxed, move on to her lower legs, following with the same technique as you did when spraying the air. As she gets more confident, move up her body, again using the approach/retreat technique. If you start with the spray bottle, you may find that the hose comes easier.

It's best to do this exercise in a roundpen or other controlled environment, especially if your horse is tempted to really bolt away. Hold the lead rope with the hand closest to the halter, and stand at a 45 degree angle to her shoulder, following in this position if she moves. Here you're safe from being run over, kicked, or struck at. Body language is pretty important here; you stand calmly, eyes basically down, "neutral," if that makes sense.

I hope this is somewhat helpful, and the best of luck to you!
    08-03-2009, 08:21 PM
That is certainly a frustrating issue, when you can't complete a simple task such as hosing down or putting on some fly spray.

If you're afraid of her breaking the cross ties, perhaps get someone to hold her while you hose her. Start your hose on very low water pressure, and start at her hooves and work your way up to her knees. Even if she starts to jump around a bit, don't take the water off her leg, otherwise that is teaching her that by prancing around she can get rid of the water, which isn't the response you want.

Keep the hose on low pressure until you can do it all over her body. It'll take a lot of time and patience. Once she'll let you do her hoof, move up to her cannon. It's like desensitizing. I hope this helps.
    08-03-2009, 08:34 PM
Keep spraying her until she stops moving. Even if she rears up, make sure you arent close enough to get hurt, but you are close enough to spray. My boy was DEATHLY afrad of hoses and sprayers. Everytime he saw one hed try to take off. I took him into the arena and lead him around while spraying the flyspray in front of him. After he calmly walked while I sprayed the flyspray, I started to spray his body. He flipped out. He reared and started running. I kept spraying until finally he stopped. As soon as the horse stops, stop spraying. That's their reward. The hose took WAY longer to fix then the spray bottle did, but he's great about both now. ;)
    08-03-2009, 08:47 PM
Green Broke
Yeah, I find sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. We all want our horses to handle things calmly, but it's difficult when it's something that requires so much consistancy.

I think you'd have better luck with the hose. Spray bottles tend to really spook horses since they don't have any real warning before they get hit with the liquid. It's also not a consistant "feeling", so I find it's harder to get them used to it.

We gave our 2 year olds their first baths this summer. They both threw full sized tantrums. They were bolting, kicking, snorting, rearing, you name it. I just kept a firm grip on my leadrope, with people close by in case I needed help, and kept at it. I just started low on the front legs and kept the water (little more then a trickle) going until she finally stood, and then praised her highly.

By the end, I was literally able to ground tie my 2 year old as I scrubbed her tail with the hose spraying her. You'd have never believed it if you saw the freakfest she put on when we started, but I find most horses get accustomed to it REALLY fast.

Just make SURE you're able to use this method. It can be very dangerous, and you have to know exactly how to read your horse and know where s/he is about to jump or bolt to so you can re-position yourself to always be at the shoulder. I wouldn't advise this method for anyone even remotely inexperienced.

A much easier way could be getting a professional, or someone stronger to hold your horse and YOU hold the hose or spray bottle. You also have to be brimming with confidence to pull it off, or your horse isn't going to learn much if they're able to yank you around and see you being afraid of THEM and think you're also afraid of the water.

Best of luck, let us know how it goes.
    08-04-2009, 04:26 PM
I agree it can be a two person job the first few times. We went through this a few months ago with a 2 year old rescue. Hubby held him and I went to town with the hose. It took over an hour, but since he's had 3 more baths with just me, each time it's easier.

Cross ties would NOT be the place to start this. She could flip over and do some major damage. If you don't feel confident enough to hold the lead rope and the hose at the same time you could high tie her if you don't have anyone to help, make sure it's a quick release knot.

You need to pick a day when you have as much times as it's going to take. Praise for the slightest improvement and no scolding for the bad.
    08-04-2009, 05:11 PM
I agree with G & K.

I would add to use the approach and retreat method. Do NOT keep going (as was suggested) if the mare if having a melt down. You can do irrepairable damage to her trust.

Personally, I would work her until she is warm and then start with a damp sponge and proceed from there.

Most certainly, certainly a two person job.
    08-04-2009, 09:59 PM
Green Broke
Originally Posted by mls    
I agree with G & K.

I would add to use the approach and retreat method. Do NOT keep going (as was suggested) if the mare if having a melt down. You can do irrepairable damage to her trust.

Personally, I would work her until she is warm and then start with a damp sponge and proceed from there.

Most certainly, certainly a two person job.
Sorry mls, you're absolutely right. I suck at explaining things sometimes, I'm so used to just "doing them" I find it hard to think back sometimes. I didn't just keep spraying my 2 year old the whole time, when she bolted or got to a point where my handling wasn't precise, I'd stop, pet her up and re-group with her. Definitely, definitely, listen to what your horse is telling you.
    08-05-2009, 01:17 AM
I use Macebre's method in which I make sure I'm in a safe area with the horse, and start at the legs with a hose. When the horse is comfortable with that, I begin to move up the body, always retreating to a 'comfort zone' when he starts to get agitated, or completely retreating if he freaks out in a way that he could injure himself or me.

I NEVER tie a horse when introducing him to 'scarey' things like water, clippers, etc.

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