Washrack Woes - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 06-02-2020, 08:06 PM Thread Starter
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Washrack Woes

My horse will enter the wash area hesitantly at first, then he rushes. Once he is in the wash area he gets very nervous and can't stand calmly.

To break it down...
He will put one or two front feet in, which takes him about 10 minutes, sniffing and looking around. I don't want to force him in, I need him to walk in on his own, so he gets the time he needs to do it. Initially when we started on this it took around 40 minutes for this step.

Then he enters the wash area fully, very quickly. He knows that I want him in the wash rack so he finally goes in, but it's rushed and not careful. He will dance around a bit, nervously, bumping into things and generally panicked with anxiety. Then after about a minute of anxiety he will try to rush out of the wash rack.

I need him to enter calmly, not rushed, and stand calmly in the wash space. It's fine if it takes time for now. We have hot and cold water so the temperature should not be uncomfortable other than the moisture. I wonder if he's had an experience in the past that's made this bad for him.

Some trends I've noticed:
-He always seems concerned that it's a wet area. He will walk in puddles on his own when he's loose and we play in puddles after the rain, but when it's wet dirt, mats, or concrete he gets antsy.
-This happens with all types of environments, hitching post, cross tie or single tie post, open areas, closed off areas. As soon as he sees and smells it's a wet area he gets worried. Even if no one's used the wash rack for days and it's dry he seems to know.

I have been asking him to enter and exit calmly first, before I expect him to stand in there calmly.
Any ideas to help the process come along?
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post #2 of 11 Old 06-02-2020, 08:14 PM
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If theirs cross ties in there, start grooming so your horse hes conformable.

and so he wants to go in.

Out with the boys.....
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post #3 of 11 Old 06-02-2020, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Thundering Hooves View Post
If theirs cross ties in there, start grooming so your horse hes conformable.

and so he wants to go in.
That's would I do, too. Make it a comfortable place.

Groom. Stand with him and recite the a,b,c's. Call a friend and talk on your phone. Untack him there after several rides.

Definitely act nonchalant about the whole thing. Even when he dances around.

Last edited by boots; 06-02-2020 at 09:08 PM.
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post #4 of 11 Old 06-03-2020, 12:54 PM
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^^some good advice and something else I might do is feed him his grain in there if you are able to do that.
It sounds similar to a horse nervous about getting into a trailer and I have fed my horse their grain every day in the trailer and they soon came to want to get in as they thought it was a great place to be.
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post #5 of 11 Old 06-03-2020, 01:36 PM
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I think grooming him in there and feeding him some grain/treats is the way I would do it too. But what I wanted to caution you on is not to immediately "unload" him from the wash rack if you can help it, because otherwise he not only learns to go in, but that he is supposed to come right back out after a few seconds. I inadvertently did that with my first horse when we practiced trailer loading. I would load him and take him right back out and then he thought he was SUPPOSED to go right back out and panicked when I actually tied him in there. Newbie mistake on my part, and the horse was fine, but I accidentally taught him that. And that's what came to mind when you said after about a minute he wants to rush back out.

I know there are a lot of people not into giving treats or grain, but in this case, I think it would definitely work to your advantage. If he is super nervous, he might even have trouble taking a treat or grain at first, but I'm sure he will soon realize it's a good thing. My mare was terrified of fly spray when I got her and I got her to accept it using treats. She is 90% better, I can even spray her loose, but I still have to take my time and approach her in the right way or she reverts to being scared. In other words, they may always have the bad memories, but they can learn to trust you. Best of luck!

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post #6 of 11 Old 06-03-2020, 02:54 PM
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I would break this down much further. If your horse is afraid of walking on wet ground, I'd deal with that first. Could you not wet down a large area, and lead or lunge (at walk) this horse over that area, for quite some time. You could walk onto it, pause, and feed a treat, then walk off, rinse and repeat.

Eventually, the idea is that the horse would not worry about wet ground. Step one.

Step two, use a hose outdoors (if possible) to hose the horse, on a long lead line, and ALLOW the horse to keep moving, if he thinks he needs to. Start with bringing the water closer and then reatreating before he flees. work on getting it closer and closer. When he starts to try to walk away from it, you just keep the hose on his feet , neither increasing nor decreasing the water on her. You will have to have him circleing around you, and you will have to turn also, stepping over the hose as you go. It can be tricky.

When he stops circling, remove the water from his feet.

I'd work a lot on that. If the water is really cold, and the weather is not hot, then I'd not do this excercize too far up the leg. But, if the temp is not an issue, do it all the way up to his shoulders and back.

Step 3 is him being comfortable inside the confined space of the washrack. Others have talked on that. I guess you'd consider it about like training a horse to load in a trailer. Does this horse load well into a trailer/float?
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post #7 of 11 Old 06-03-2020, 05:44 PM
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1. Is the wash area cement without mats? If so, I Donít blame him for being antsy. I wonít put a horse on wet cement, even if it was swirled during installation:)

1.1. If there arenít any mats, you might invest in some grid mats. Tractor Supply sells some that are not expensive and very easy to handle.

1.2. You might try gently backing him in ó and not tying him. If youíre in a boarding situation, you have to play by their rules, but I would still try to slowly back him in, and have a long enough lead to where you can hang onto it with one hand while hosing him down with the other.

This is probably a training & trust issue that will take a lot of patience and time to resolve:)

2. Horses do NOT have depth perception. Even a dark spot of pavement can spook the calmest horse. Some horses get over it, others do not.
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A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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post #8 of 11 Old 06-03-2020, 06:27 PM
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I might add to my previous post something I should have said then. In the beginning I wouldn't even think of hosing him down, just get him comfortable with being in there first.
then as Tinyliny said try the hose outside very carefully until he is good with that.
Time and patience will do wonders.
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post #9 of 11 Old 06-04-2020, 01:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice.

He doesn't cross tie. He likes to look around a lot and they are too limiting for him so he gets antsy and dances around, pulls back, jumps forward, it's just not a good combo for him. I've been working on having him stand with just one of the ties on and he's getting better with it. He does tie well to a post or rail where he can look around and move a little bit, so mainly I just stick with that.

He goes in the trailer pretty well. He takes his time initially but he loads in after that and stands politely and waits.

I will continue to try feeding snacks in the wash area to see if I can sway his opinion of it.

I wish it were possible to safely keep him in the wash rack so he doesn't learn to zoom out, but it's just not safe. He gets so wound up and when he gets nervous to the point it's dangerous. I usually let him exit pretty quickly after he enters, but I don't let him zoom out. This is why I would prefer for him to enter quietly, rather than rush in as well. Then I could break it down to entering quietly, standing quietly, and exiting quietly.

I'm going to see if I can wet down some areas and have him walk over them to become more accustom to that first. I should be able to do that with him and get him more confident in traveling over wet areas.

We are boarding, so I don't think I will be able to take the hose out and use it with the water coming out. We have a small hose on a swinging boom arm. I could get a hose that's not connected to anything and use that as a prop to get him used to the hose element.

The wash rack is dirt base with mats on top. It's not too slippery when wet.

My plan will be to get him to stand calmly enough that I can hose him with one hand and hold him with the other. Eventually I;d hope that can lead to him just standing without me having to hold him so much. He stands untied out in the field, stall, and cross ties space for me to groom him, just need that in the wash area!

Right now I am not hosing him, just getting him to stand there. Once he can do that then I'd run the hose without him getting wet so he can see the water go past him.

Yesterday it was pretty hot and he seemed a little off. He didn't want to argue at all and he walked in the wash rack after about 30 seconds and didn't seem too nervous about it. I'll take it, but I don't know if I expect that attitude about it to continue. I also had a saddle on him so maybe he felt secure that he wasn't going to get wet with the tack on?

At any rate, I should be able to do a little bit of the wet ground practice, then give him a break for an hour, then do a little bit of going in the wash rack for grooming or snacks at the end.
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post #10 of 11 Old 06-04-2020, 06:51 PM
Green Broke
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Could you get a pail of warm water and just sponge him off outside? That way if he is good with it you will get him washed down a bit and also get used to the water running off him.
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