How to Wash a Horse


Having problems every time you try to give your horse a bath? Want to know the reason why?

Horses hate being clean. Oils and dirt are part of the important skin surface protection horses need against insects and the elements. It’s actually not all that healthy for your horse to be squeaky clean all the time.

This may not necessarily be the only – or even the primary – reason why your equine friend hates a horse bath, but it’s something to think about. In the Parelli natural horse training approach we always start with the “natural” perspective with any horse problem.

Along those same lines, think about what a jet of spraying water coming toward your horse might be like for him. Mother Nature didn’t prepare your horse for water coming out of a hose and pursuing him. If your horse hates having a bath, it may just be that he’s afraid of water being sprayed on him.

In the Parelli Program, we approach everything from the horse’s perspective. Rather than think his reaction to his horse bath is stupid or bad, we try to understand how weird or frightening it must be from his point of view.

How To Wash A Horse With Ease

The solution to the problems you encounter when attempting to give your horse a bath requires a two-pronged approach:

  • If you can develop your horse’s trust in you, then, when it comes to horse bath time, his confidence in you (and your buckets, hoses, brushes, and other cleaning paraphernalia) will prevail in a sort of a “trust me, trust my toys” dynamic.
  • The second approach is gradual desensitization.

It is up to you to prove that you and this thing you are approaching with are not going to kill the horse, so in the beginning a horse bath involves a lot of retreat. Horses are afraid of things that come towards them; the more you can back away while spraying the water, the better. Spray slowly towards, and quickly away, repeating and repeating until you can finally allow the water to touch him and he’s not concerned.

How to wash a horse without traumatizing the horse is all about recognizing ‘thresholds’ of how close he’ll allow the water, and about you not crossing his threshold until he’s unconcerned. Most people don’t take the time to do what it takes, so they end up fighting their horse every time they try to give the horse a bath.

If you take the time to show the horse that you care about him and his fears, and that you are willing to do what it takes to gain his confidence, it will pay off. Yes, it will take a little time to build his confidence, but once you’ve done it, your horse bath hassles will be over.

One of the great trust and confidence builders in the Parelli method of natural horsemanship is our Seven Games DVD. Starting with the first game – the Friendly Game – and progressing through the series is a natural way of building a partnership/relationship between human and horse.

Visit Parelli Savvy Club for more educational articles and videos designed to inspire, empower and educate horse owners of all levels.