Cleanliness is Next to Impossible …

The weather was stiflingly hot on Thursday. Not even a light breeze could assuage the humidity, stickiness and over-heating that is unavoidably the result of training under such unyielding conditions, no matter the sport. When you’re sitting atop a sweaty horse, it can be doubly taxing. Hot air rises, you know …

The coaching session went very well. Elements of our training we’ve been working on for months are finally falling into place. Now we’re integrating new challenges. We spent much of the time working out issues at the canter, and while the breeze blowing through our mutual manes (okay, I was wearing a helmet) was refreshing, as soon as we stopped moving we felt toasted … and done.

The best way to revive after such an intense workout in the summer is a nice, refreshing bath. Technically it’s Bear who gets bathed. However I, in the process of bathing him, am also thoroughly doused. It’s unavoidable really. Still, it feels good on a hot, humid day.

Herewith a quasi play-by-play of the summer wash cycle, complete with colour commentary from Thursday’s experience …

1) Peel off tack … at the end of a sweaty training session, the saddle pad and leg bandages are pretty damp. Even the leather of the bridle leaves sweat marks on Bear’s face. Peeling off might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m sure you know what it’s like to remove clothing after a good sweat.

2) Lead horse to water … Into the wash stall we go. Bear is very good about standing still and accepting the gush of water from the hose on his body. Of course, I do my best to ensure the water temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. He’s a sensitive boy, after all.

3) Get soapy … While setting the water temperature I prepare a bucket of soapy water using only specially formulated equine shampoo … Bear’s is perfumed with roses.

4) Pre-rinse … On Thursday I was not only offering Bear relief from a hot, sweaty training session but also washing off a winter’s worth of accumulated dirt captured under his new spring coat. Recently I purchased a rubber mitt with a special bumpily surface to help massage the dirt and the last of his winter coat from his body. As I was pulling the mitt onto my hand Bear, experiencing a momentary lapse of reason, buckled a hind leg in response to the squeaking sound it made. (This might be equated to how I respond to banging cutlery in the cutlery drawer … ouch!)  A look of terror popped from his big, brown eyes and I knew it was pointless to continue with the mitt. I donated the offending grooming tool to the barn’s communal cleaning bucket and used my bare hands instead to massage the moistened dirt from his coat. … What a boy …

5) Soap cycle … next I grab the bucket full of soapy water and a big sponge and go to town, massaging the soap and water into his coat, mane, tail, etc. … Bear likes this …

6) Rinse … again with water from the hose. … Bear gave me the fuzzy eyeball a couple of times, as if wondering why we were going through this again. “Gotta rinse out the soap suds, buddy.” He seemed to except that explanation. He especially liked it when I rubbed his face with a soft, damp cloth. Some horses don’t like their heads being fussed with, but Bear is not one of those horses. He loves the attention even if, with a curled upper lip, he offers an opinion from time to time. Mostly it relaxes him.

7) Final rinse … I fill the bucket with fresh water infused with anti-bacterial/anti-fungal rinse agent to remove the last of the soap and prevent bacteria and fungus from finding a cosy home on his body. … Again some eyeballing, but Bear seemed to appreciate the extra attention. The repeat of the soft cloth treatment on his face appeased him somewhat.

8) Drying … This is the part Bear enjoys most. I take him outside to dry off in the sun, and while I stand around holding the lead rope with him on the other end happily grazing I get to admire my handiwork.

9) Turnout and final cycle … Once he’s dry and I’ve finished the rest of his ablutions, i.e. cleaning his feet, brushing him, lavender aromatherapy facial (a topic for another day), etc., I turn him out into his paddock for our daily ritual apple bobbing at the water trough. When we’re done he turns to leave and does the inevitable — roams over to his favourite dirt patch. He sniffs at it, his long neck extended and swinging his head back and forth as he blows at the dirt through his nostrils. It’s as if he’s looking for something. And then, I guess, he finds it because the next thing I know he drops to the ground with a groan … and rolls.

With this dirt bath the wash cycle is complete. It is a moment we horse moms dread but learn to accept with resignation.

Where horses are concerned cleanliness is, indeed, next to impossible …

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

P.S. If you haven’t already, please participate in my one-question poll from two posts ago. Thanks!

Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012 

2 thoughts on “Cleanliness is Next to Impossible …

    • Thanks, Tom. … I wish I didn’t have to think of that final step! … Still, as I understand it the horses use the dirt to help keep the flies at bay, so I have learned to live with it. 😉

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