The key to this training process is pressure and release. The pressure is the water spray and the release (remove the water) is what we want – our horse standing still to be bathed. Another key returning the water spray to the horse’s “comfort zones” as we branch out to uncomfortable areas; this is also a form of pressure and release.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Halter and lead rope
- Long hose (so you can move with your horse)
- Spray nozzle (optional)
- Open area on an enclosed property
- Do not tie your horse!
- Expel all air and hot water out of the hose
- Check temperature of water
Start by spraying water on your horse’s front legs. If your horse begins to move, follow your horse (do not hold him) and keep the water spray on the legs until he stops moving, then remove the spray immediately (either move the hose away or release the spray nozzle). The quicker your timing is on this (meaning the faster you remove the water from the legs), the faster your horse will learn. Once your horse has relaxed (a lowered head, licking and chewing) you can turn the spray back on the front legs. Follow your horse as he moves and remove the spray once he stands still.
COMFORT ZONE AND UNCOMFORTABLE AREAS
Once your horse is comfortable with water on the front legs, start to branch out to other body parts. Begin with the chest area, then the withers, then out to the ribs and further back to the hips and back legs. The key is to expand the comfort zone slowly. If your horse moves away from the water, keep the water on the uncomfortable area until they stand still; then immediately release the spray altogether or return to a comfort area. Example, if you are working on the hip area of the horse and he moves away from the water, then follow your horse with the water on the hips until he stops moving. Once he is standing still, either move the water spray back to the spot where he learned to accept the water or completely remove the water spray to provide a complete release. The complete is recommended for horses who are having trouble accepting the water. Don’t forget to do the other side of your horse. Treat each side independently.
TIPS, TRICKS AND TROUBLESHOOTING
Allow your horse time to be comfortable with a bath. Listen and watch your horse’s body language. He will tell you how comfortable he is with the process. Perhaps you’ll need several short sessions over a longer period, or your horse may accept bathing in one or two longer sessions. Note: some horses will spook at the water dripping down their bodies, especially the back legs. Reassure them in a calm voice that everything is OK (don’t panic if they start jumping around and kicking).
If your horse is really nervous and upset, offer some homeopathic calming remedies. If you’re nervous, take some of the remedy for yourself too. The more you show confidence and convey a bath is no big deal, the more your horse will follow your leadership.
During your training sessions, remember to stay out of the kick zone. A horse may kick at the spray with their front or hind legs. A horse may rear from the spray, especially if they feel they cannot get away from the pressure. If your horse rears, keep yourself safe at all costs. If you need to drop the hose or lead rope it’s OK to do so. Once your horse is calm, start over and go back to an area he was comfortable with. Allow your horse to move but keep the spray on your horse until he stands still, and go back to the front legs or even the hooves to reduce the amount of water touching his body. Make sure the spray is not too hard in a sensitive area of the body. Always try to end your session on a positive note.
It’s important your horse be comfortable in and around water. If you’re out on the trail you will most likely encounter a water crossing at some point and you and your horse should be able to cross safely. During hot summer months, your horse will enjoy a cool rinse after a ride to help him cool down and remove sweat. You can also use water to clean out wounds and cool down hot swollen legs.
For more natural training tips, see Kim’s website www.kbnaturalhorsemanship.com