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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I'm having trouble getting Sam into the wash rack. I made the mistake of bathing him outside all summer and never putting him in the wash stall, and now it's a problem.

I tried Thursday, first alone and then with the help of others, to get him in by asking for single steps toward it and giving big praise for every step, but he'd only get as far as the edge before doing a huge frantic backup. We tried for half an hour, and except for one attempt at bullying him in (I tried a big Back Up Now when he tried to dart away once, but it didn't work, so I went back to the coaxing.)

Eventually I figured it would make things worse if I quit without getting him in, so I got a bit of grain and eventually got him to go in. I didn't turn on the water, just pet him for a few minutes, moved his body a little bit (yielding hindquarters, backing a step) and then put him away. Today I tried to put him in again thinking I'd spend a few days grooming him in there without bathing to get him used to it. He refused again but went in with less hesitation than last time when I got the treats.

I think he is legitimately frightened of the wet floor mats because though he did go in for the food, he was clearly still nervous about where his feet were.

Obviously bribery is not ideal, and I don't think I should try to bathe him until he's comfortable going in there willingly, so how can I do it?

Should I keep bribing for a few days and making him stand while I groom in hopes he'll get used to it and I won't have to anymore? Or should I stop the bribery now?

One thing I won't do is scare him into it/hit him. One of the grooms offered to "do it the hard way," but that is not somewhere I'm willing to go. All other suggestions would be much appreciated!!
 

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My mare used to be a pain in my butt on this. She would rear and back up so I used a chainshank under her chin. She behaved without me even having to use it. She never refused again.

I don't see bribery as bad, really.

You could try making him work when he refuses to go in. Make him pivot. Just get him moving, if you have the space. Eventually he'll realize that not going in equal work, and who on earth would want to do that? Hahah
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I wouldn't "bribe".
What I would do would be to have grain/treats in a pocket/somewhere 'covert', and go for a "you took on step in the scary direction, now here's a treat!"-type approach.
I'd give him a treat after every "hard won" step forward, and maybe have a bucket of grain/treats already in place at the wash rack for when he gets there - the "jackpot".
You don't want him to be doing it for treats [aka "bribery"] but rewarding him for an action [via the use of "magically appearing treats" - why they're hidden] is ok.
You aren't saying "Here Sammy, come near the rack..I have TREATS!" [or, bribery]. You're saying "Hey Sammy, I've heard the wash rack is pretty cool..and LOOK! I told you! A treat just appeared in my hand for how hard you're trying!"

I would just start with a step at a time for now. Stop while you're ahead. Make him WANT to be in the wash rack. I would ask him for one step beyond where he's comfortable the next time you see him, give him a treat for that step and make a HUGE fuss over him [if he likes fusses! haha], then stop and do something else. Either after you've done something else, or the next time you see him [whichever time he seems to be more willing - if you had a bad time with "something else"...don't ask again with the wash rack! haha], ask him for one step past where he's comfy, give him a treat, ask him for another step, treat, and, depending on how into it he is, stop there or keep going.

The key is stopping before his fear overrides everything else. So if he's willingly bopping along into the wash area, go with it. But, if you're really having to work to get 2 steps, love those two steps once you get them. The next time, you'll ask for the number of steps that're 'easy' for him [be it one or ten] plus one. And so on. Keep it short and sweet.
Don't push for onnnnne more step because you "know he can" [that's ALWAYS where I have the hardest time - I want that one more step since the others came so easily..and it always falls apart].

I've found that usually it only take three-ish short sessions before the animal [this works on everything! haha] is loving the activity and is questioning why they were even scared. :lol: Basically, even though this sounds like it could take forever, I can pretty much promise that it really won't take forever and a day.

Good luck! :)
 

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I am currently having the same problem with my horse. Our wash stall is musty, dark and it echos really bad. It's always kinda wet in there.

What is working so far is that Cin is used to getting some grain in a bucket after every ride. So now what I do is I put the bucket in the wash rack. First I started with it just in the door. When he was comfortable with that I started putting it a foot farther. He would always balk when I moved the buckset further in but once I had 1 or 2 days of him walking right to it I would move it again. I've been doing this for almost a month and now he is going halfway in. It's a slow process but seems to be getting him more comfortable. I never turn on the water, tie him etc. Nothing to make him uncomfortable. I just want him to understand that good things can happen in there.
 

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Go with what your idea was: Treat the wash rack like a normal area to be tied, not somewhere that is only meant to be washed in. If you can get him to go in, put him there and groom and tack him in there without washing. The wash rack then loses its scariness. One of my mares hates baths so I have to do this once in a while when she decides wash racks suck. However, I will add that when she does walk freely into the wash area and then she DOES get a bath, the look of anger and betrayal is pretty obvious.
 

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Now obviously being in a barn with concrete floors, you are limited on what you can do while still making the wash rack seem like a pretty cool place to be.

Before I explain, this is about the ONLY instance i'll let a horse pull me anywhere.

Go to a spot in the barn that's he's comfortable in and have him move his hindquarters around quite a bit. At the start you should have your back to the rest of the barn and be facing the wash rack. The goal is to get him to think and find a resting spot. Since you'll be moving him around his focus will be on you and less on being worried about the wash area.

I actually want you to nag your horse. Not in the typical only using a tiny bit of pressure way but in a not letting up way. Make being away from the wash area pretty uncomfortable for him. As you go around, you'll notice he will start to untrack his front end and do a bit of a circle and try and drift away. In this instance it's a good thing. When you've drifted closer to the wash rack, let him rest while he faces it. Give him a cookie if you'd like. Using the negative reinforcement that being away from the wash rack isn't very good and the positive that it's a pretty cool place to bear near it.

The reason you're disengaging instead of just asking for those forward steps is because you eliminate that 'no' of him running backwards while doing some work that's safe n the barn.

If he so much as moves his head and starts paying attention to something else, move that butt around some more and see if you can get a bit closer then give him another rest.

The easy thing about this is that you are letting him chose to get in the wash rack, it is all his idea so there isn't going to be a fight.

With correct timing on your part it should only take, at the most a couple short sessions to get him to chose to go in the wash rack.

When he does get in, again give him a nice big rest and a couple cookies if you'd like.

It doesn't sound like he's scared of baths, just that area, so don't worry about not being able to bathe him. Once you've taught him that the wash rack is alright you shouldn't have trouble bathing him.
 

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Did you train him to load in a trailer? Going into an unfamiliar, confined space like a wash rack is very similar.
 

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If I get "stuck" on an area of training with my guy, I have found that having him watch another calmer horse successfully encounter the same object seems to turn on a light bulb in his head. His whole body will relax and he will usually move right towards it with no trepidation at all - just an idea for you.
 

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If I get "stuck" on an area of training with my guy, I have found that having him watch another calmer horse successfully encounter the same object seems to turn on a light bulb in his head. His whole body will relax and he will usually move right towards it with no trepidation at all - just an idea for you.
I wish this would work for me. Sadly NO horse in my stable goes willingly into OUR wash rack. not one in the whole stable of 30 ha ha.
 

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Mine gets a little persnickety at times about he wash rack but he most often just plants his huge feet and looks at me with the "you're kidding right?" expression. I stand facing forward at his shoulder holding the lead line a little closer to his head and use the tail to just gently tap behind me to get him moving. He isn't an obnoxious sort and gives in easily enough but I use this same method whenever he plants his feet and won't go forward. A dressage or lunge whip will also work; a regular crop would be too short. Once in the rack THEN I would reward..I wouldn't and won't tempt them with the treat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
We have success!! Thanks so much, everyone!

I took a mix of all your advice. Today I hid carrot pieces in the wash rack before I rode him. We had an easy riding session that earned him lots of praise. Afterward I led him to the wash rack and he balked, so I backed him up and did some foot-moving and tried again. When he put his front feet in, I gave him a treat and another when I had him in and turned around. Technically not ideal since he could smell the treat in my pocket, but at least I didn't have to hold it in front of him to draw him in. Then I untacked him and gave him a piece of carrot every time he was standing quietly. I bathed him (I had to...I couldn't stand the litter-box smell anymore!) and he was fine. He doesn't mind bathing, just that wash stall, so it was pretty smooth. I gave carrots once in a while when he was still. He got antsy at the end, and since I could tell he wasn't scared anymore but annoyed, I told him to stand in a firm voice and "helped" him run into a hard pointy finger when he tried to squish me. He calmed down again and got more treats and pets, and we exited. Hurray!!

Here's my freshly bathed darling! Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll stay relatively clean for a day or two.

 
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