Essays of an Equestrian

Throughout my life, giving a horse a bath wasn’t really that complicated. It basically required bringing a horse to a water source, turning on the water and then bathing it. Sometimes you use shampoo, but most often I don’t as I think it dulls the coat and I’ve always been known for having shiny horses.

All my life with horses the hose would spit out one thing: cold water. The only exception was if the hose had been laying in the sun in the summer and then it would come out hot for a minute or two then eventually run cold again..

Then I got this horse, this sensitive Thoroughbred. He never stood still for baths and now I’ve discovered the reason. He hates cold water baths! Even when it’s two thousand degrees outside and you’d think a cold bath would be a welcome thing, it wasn’t.

Now I am at a new barn and this barn has both hot and cold running water. Mr. Sensitive is now in his glory. Bathing Mr. Sensitive Thoroughbred has now evolved into an art form. In some ways it has expanded my understanding of my partner, my horse, and how truly sensitive he is. On the other hand, it’s a little bit annoying.

Stoic is not a word I would ever apply to my horse. He lets you know from the very moment you are near him that he wants to communicate and he makes every effort to. When a human isn’t smart enough to “get it” he gets annoyed. When a human reacts with violence he simply gets pissed.

Now in the summer every day is another bathing opportunity. Sometimes baths come prior to work, sometimes afterwards, sometimes instead of.

With last weekend so hot and ridiculously humid, the bath without riding was the best option for us. We’re not in training for anything so there was no harm in missing a ride and even if there was something to prepare for I probably wouldn’t have worked him, opting instead for an early morning ride the next day.

Now remember, more than anything, Mr. Sensitive loathes cold water. No matter how hot it is he just does not want that cold water hitting his skin. If you were to use it on him you would see his entire belly just suck up into his back, and he does his pissed off dance.

So here I am last weekend and I can tell my horse is looking forward to a bath as he walked quite energetically to the wash stall and backed himself in like a well driven tractor trailer.

I clipped him to the crossties and then began to run the water, my own hand testing the temperature. Throughout the bath my hand retests the water constantly (several times a minute) to make sure there isn’t some sudden temp change which also tends to annoy my horse.

He’s special, isn’t he?

I often wonder if aliens were watching us from space which creature they would think was master, and which is slave. I’m sure you’re familiar with that feeling! Of course we’re both more like partners, but I’m just sayin’…..

Slowly I made my way along his body starting with the legs, then shoulder and neck and then the butt. The last part of the body is the back and stomach and after that I move to the other side starting the whole process again. Once he’s good and wet I take my fingernails and give him a nice gentle scratch on his neck, under his mane and all over his various itchy spots which I’ve come to know.

He stretched his neck out and made that cute lip pursing until he wanted me to move on, Then he shifted a step and I knew it was time to move on to the next itchy spot. This went on for both sides of the body and eventually that was done. He ended up with a lengthy scratchy massage. I ended up with ick nails. No matter how clean the horse, if you scratch them with your nail black crud will always be embedded under the nail. There apparently is no such thing as light colored horse crud.

After that I hosed the whole body off again for awhile, switching from side to side, letting the gentle shower of the hose remove any other dirt bits from his skin. I knew they were there, I could tell from my nails.

I should mention that I’m only allowed to set the hose nozzle to “shower”. Mr. Sensitive doesn’t like it any other way.

Eventually the bath was over and I realized that for him it was more a spa treatment than a bath. He was happy and energetically walked backed to his stall, grabbed a bite of hay, demanded some more treats and not so patiently awaited the arrival of his afternoon grain.

With all that done he settled in to contently munch his hay.

I watched him and giggled to myself as I could never imagine Mr. Sensitive running in the wild. Yes, I do believe he likes his life just the way it is, even being able to teach his human to change a bath from just a bath into a carefully orchestrated art form.


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The good will of the horse is like the scent of a rose. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.