How do grooms get horses to put head down for hosing?

I’ve seen this at the wash stall at nearly every a/aa hj show I’ve ever been to: horse standing stock still, loosely tied with head hanging down at knee level as a groom hoses the horse’s face. I’ve wondered how they get the horses to do this, mine put their head up sky high. So, how do they do it?

With great patience, skill and wisdom :wink: in my experience, grooms will teach them to that skill by standing on a ladder and sponging their faces before introducing the hose. Eventually horses learn that their faces will get wet regardless, and that the hose isnt so bad after all.

Ear plugs will prevent any errant squirts from going in the ear which is what most horses are trying to avoid.

We teach our horses to Yeild to pressure at home. This means that when we pull down on the lead rope and tap where your leg would hit right behind the girth, they submitt, just like when you are ridign them. You need someone who knows how to teach this to actually get it done properly. This helps alot!! Also easing into to it, and speaking sweet groom nothings in their ears really helps :winkgrin: I’m pretty good at being patient and calm enough, careful enough to get most horse faces wet. There are some though that only our Head groom can get really well. He is one of those guys that just has a way with them!

Also, introduce a slow stream of water to teach them about face hosing. I usually kink a hose with no nozzle so only a trickle is coming out. Bring the hose up from behind the ears so the water goes down the face. Usually, after they have had positive experiences with this approach, you can start to hose by approaching from other directions.

I find it much easier to hose a horse’s head with a hose that does not have a nozzle. Nozzles can be noisy and I can’t always get good control over the amount and direction of water coming out.

I have never seen a happy horse getting their head hosed. I have seen horse reef back and bust halters, rear up and hit end of lead rope and a few other ugly performances at the wash rack. I don’t like head washing unless it is done with a sponge and not a hose. I imagine that at some point most horses would give up and tolerate it. Barbaric practice.

We would hope that before the horse decides that he is.not.going.to. have his head washed, he is gently conditioned to it. Rushing, or manhandling does lead to rebellion.

I’ve seen dozens of horses standing having their heads washed with no fuss
at our “A” shows, so I can’t agree that it is a barbaric practice.

My own horse, she’s not so keen, so I hate to say it, but I do the bucket and sponge thing…but she’s not a show horse much.

Then you’ve never seen my horse get his head washed off. He looks forward to it and leans into it (as long as the temp is right). We have a big, production with face washing followed by a good toweling.

All of the above has worked on most horses, as well as liberal doling out of cookies. I’ve had a couple that just would not tolerate it, so I’ve done other things to get them clean…but those are usually the horses that fight even a sponge. Most horses I have groomed over the years have been tolerant to downright demanding of a good face wash. It is especially common for OTTBs to be good about it, as it is just so much a part of their lives.

You haven’t seen many well trained horses bathed by well trained grooms then (and to be fair, this combination is in short supply, so you could might not be a total newb).

My pet peeve is people who stand back and spray their horse’s face (ears, a horse passing 15 feet behind them and whatever else is nearby) as he is trying to get away by doing his best impression of a giraffe. Now THAT’S barbaric.

But if I take the time to train my horse to first yield his head (and any part of his body) with light pressure, then get him used to a damp sponge, then a wet sponge, followed by a dribble of water from the sprayer, and finally a more generous spray. And if I am very patient and equally attentive to make sure not one drop of water gets in his ear, and I can do this without a halter or lead rope, never mind cross ties? Yeah, your generalization is ignorant or offensive, possibly both.

My ISH’s favourite thing, actually, is a spray into the mouth, he just loves lapping the jet spray…but then he’s a bit dumb and insensitive in some ways.

I have to agree! :wink: Though, I have had a few horses over the years that absolutely love water and love getting water sprayed on their heads. For those horses, we spray. For the rest, we respect that they don’t care for it and either use a sponge or wet towel.

My guy used to hate it so I would always just use a sponge or towel. Now I can spray his face off gently and he stands perfectly happily. To get to that point, I used treats. He started keeping his head down in anticipation of getting a carrot, and eventually realized it wasn’t so bad.

You should get out more…

My old OTTB adored his face getting done, as long as I didn’t get it in his ears. He would take the end of the hose in his mouth as well. He loved it. A horse at the barn adores it. Another hates it. It depends on the horse and many times the way you spray them.

Boy - would i love to be a newbie! I have horses that will stand sans halter or rope and turn into a spray face first and get drenched.Usually on a very hot day. The difference is that the horse is free to place his head where he wants and if if he does not like it he can leave. I just hate a horse getting held down and having his face sprayed. Have washed down lots of race horses and never used a hose near their head. Ever. Trainer would have killed me. And yes I agree. good grooms are not easy to find. I don’t spend time around the wash rack any more. So I guess I don’t get out much. I too have a horse that will drink from a hose . But I still use a sponge on his face. He likes his body sprayed - does that count??

The best way to get them that good is to never let some groom before you “ruin” them for face washing first. That said, I’ve been able to convince quite a few that they really will be ok after all. Some are too far gone and I don’t bother. But I really feel you can do a cleaner better job if you can actually put the hose on it. So…

My tips:

Basic principles of desensitization to anything. Add an amount of stimulus (in this case, hose and/or water) you think they can handle…it stays with them through their resistance and goes away when they relax. You add small amounts of stimulus at a time, and leave things on a good note each day. Simple principles, but what tends to happen is people let “human” priorities and tendencies control what happens with the stimulus rather than the horse.

So don’t try to do this all of a sudden the day before you show, or expect the first bath to include a full head soak. Plan further ahead or find an alternative way until they are trained.

Similarly, don’t soap up the head of one that isn’t confirmed confirmed good at head washing…you will be forced to add a certain amount of stimulus just to get the soap out, and that may be too much for a learning horse at that stage or day.

BE SAFE. Horse is not tied hard. Hose doesn’t have a nozzle or preferably even a hard end, so you don’t have to worry about hitting them (or you!) in the face and eyes if they move around. [Note, nozzles may be fine once they are trained for it, but I strongly prefer not to use them in the learning part, as you may have to wait out a little flailing, and it’s a lot easier to control a soft piece of rubber]

Perhaps most importantly, be prepared to get wet. If you jump away every time your horse lifts it’s head and water runs down your armpit, guess what - you’ve just trained your horse to lift his head and make the water go away. Grooms don’t tend to care too much about preserving their outfits :wink: so that helps. If you feel like it’s too cold on a given day for you to take that on, then don’t.

To that end, it will probably help you if you can find warm water. It will DEFINITELY help your horse to accept it. Some never accept cold water even if they happily will warm.

As for a technique…slow trickle, end of hose in palm. Rub horse with that. Start a little low - cheek and bridge of the nose. Then I work up the forehead, and also up the cheek so the hand is between the eye and ear (carefully, this is where all the above tips are key). I also work from the neck up behind the ear (though admittedly, don’t always get all the way there at this stage).

Next stage is the same very slow trickle, but I let the hose out of the palm and extend it on it’s own a couple inches. Still easily controlled but now the horse feels the actual running of water rather than just a wet hand. (From there I can almost always get behind the ear and let it run down the neck).

When that’s down pat, I start gradually increasing water pressure, and eventually, you can get their face pretty darn wet. I never get to full blast - not necessary and too hard to control. I also always keep my hands near them and never just stand back and blast. Sometimes I eventually introduce nozzles because that’s what’s at a particular washrack, but still, it’s not a pressure washer.

As with all things horses, others may have different means to the same end, but I’ve easily trained quite a few youngsters to accept face hosing this way, and retrained quite a few older ones with varying levels of ease.

Woops…insanely long post went double :eek: Sorry all.

Very good tutorial - many ways to skin a cat, but the basis is to only do what the horse can take at any one time, before moving on…or you are just teaching him resistance.

Patience, patience, patience! Above is a really great walkthrough. Most horses I know will, eventually, be okay with getting their faces sprayed as long as you do it carefully. It just takes time. I like to kink the hose, or turn down the actual pressure of the water if I’m using one of those heavy-duty unkinkable hoses. Some hose nozzles also have a gentle shower type of setting that can also work well once they’re more desensitised.

That said, there are some horses who will NEVER accept getting their faces sprayed. At a certain point I personally feel that it’s just not worth the fight and I’ll just use a sponge very, very thoroughly. Even at shows it’s only a minute or two of extra time for me. Sometimes I get pretty wet, but it’s what happens!

It can be trained without being barbaric. The same as holding a trickle out of the hose over a swollen eye.

Also, there are a lot of things horses don’t like, but that we teach them to accept. Why is gently spraying their faces off any different from, say, sticking them in a tight, noisy, moving box?