Bathing Horses

One delightful summer activity we enjoy is giving the horses a cool down bath at the end of a ride. When the temperature tips into the eighty’s even the late afternoon can be hot and muggy. The horses sweat and dirt from the trail clings to them after a long trek through the woods. Even though the last few miles we always walk to help the horses cool down, they are pretty grubby when we return to the barn. The sweat and grime from the trail collects under the girth and saddle pad forming a thin layer of goo stuck to the horse.

After a ride we turn into the barn and unsaddle, grab brushes, water scrapper and sometimes horse shampoo. One of the riders hooks the long yellow hose to the water pump in the barn and the cool down, clean up begins. A sparkling stream of water covers the horse’s legs first, then as the animal becomes accustom to the water the hose moves upward along the shoulders, neck, back and tail. A refreshing mist bounces off the horse’s hide invigorating the rider as well as the horse. After a nice squirt with the hose, a rubdown with the brush helps to loosen any dirt and caked on mud, then the water scrapper is used to stop that annoying drip, drip, drip, running down the side of the horse and trickling off the belly. As a finishing touch, we usually run the brush all over the horse.

It’s important to remember when riding a barefoot horse that too much water on hooves can soften the soles. It’s a constant battle keeping the horses soles in good shape. Soft soles mean the horses feet are more sensitive to gravel and rocks on the road and trail. So lightly goes water on hooves.

Following the bath, the radiant summer sun pleasantly warms and dries the horses. We let them nibble the green blades and seed-heads in the grassy patches near the barn. A wide assortment of flying pests irritates the horses as they munch happily away at the tall grass. The flies are quick but if we’re lucky a swift swat takes care of the problem. The horses enjoy the fresh grass, but before long it’s time to turn them out to pasture.

We linger at the barn door watching the horses walk across the dry dusty patches in the pasture. The squeaky clean horses meander into the open field to rejoin the herd. As it occasionally happens, one of the horses decides to roll in that bare dusty spot near the barn. He probably feels we didn’t eliminate all the itchy places with the water and brush or maybe he just wants to dry off. In any case, down he goes and up he comes covered in dirt. He shakes off the excess dirt and happily trots out to join up with his buddies. It can be a bit frustrating to see him roll in the dirt after we spent so much time cleaning him, but what can you do? He’s just a horse.

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