I started by taking his hay net to the washbox so it would be there waiting for him. I also filled a pocket with treats in case I needed to bribe or distract him. Then I fetched him. Initially he did not want to walk in, so I employed some of the treats to tempt him into the washbox. He was in, but anxious. He ignored the hay net (unheard of behaviour!) and looked worried. I ignored him and started trying to get the balance of the water warm but not hot. This is complicated by the taps not being labelled so it took me a while to work out which was hot and which cold.
Eventually I got a reasonable temperature and started wetting him. I started from the back end because I thought (rightly) that he’d have less issue with water far away from his head than close to his head. He’s quite a small horse really but as I started washing him I realised quite how much surface area there is to a horse. Being a cheap skate I was using a gentle baby shampoo rather than something marketed for horses. At various points during the process he stood on the hose, blocking the flow and causing a fine whistling spray to come out around the taps, which he considered a Bad and Scary Thing, but each time I was able to shove him off the hose again before he got too upset.
Bit by bit I worked my way up towards his head – wetting, shampooing, rinsing. The neck was difficult – he did not want water on his neck and expressed that quite clearly by doing his best giraffe impression as water ran down inside my sleeves and I grimly carried on shampooing his mane. The head, as I had expected, was barely possible. I had a sponge which he found barely tolerable but mostly I ended up wiping his face, ears and forelock with wet hands and leaving it at that.
I turned the water off and tried to put the heat lamps on. Unfortunately the person before me had tripped the fuse so I had to leave the wash-box to get a member of staff to help. In the seconds I was outside the box I heard the stampy hooves of a slightly panicky horse, but as soon as I got back in his line of vision he was OK and the member of staff reset the fuse and turned the lamps on for us. The scary water was now off and I waved his hay-net in front of his nose. He sampled it and found it acceptable. Calmness ensued. I squeegeed him (OK I know you call it sweat-scraper, but it’s blatantly a horse squeegee!) and began the wait for him to dry. In the meantime I started combing out his tail. I wanted to try to trim it while it was wet, because when I previously tried it dry I wasn’t satisfied with the result. Unfortunately by the time I’d combed out all the tangles it was nearly dry! Last time I’d tried the recommended method of trimming by brushing it over my arm first to try to get a straight line, but he just has too much tail for that. This time I just got the end in a bunch in my hand and cut through the bunch. I wasn’t massively pleased with the result at first, but now I’ve looked at it from a distance I’m quite pleased.
I also trimmed a little off his mane with scissors. Gasp. The top of his mane is thin and if I pulled it to shorten it there wouldn’t be much left. So on that part I have to use scissors. Get over it, anti-mane-trimming brigade!
And then I took some pictures. Most of the pictures I took in the washbox didn’t come out well as I didn’t want to use flash and it was pretty dark in there. But the one above shows a shiny wet horse quite nicely I think. Much better than the one where he shook during the exposure! Eventually he was dry enough to come out from the wash box. I tied him outside his stable to put some hoof-oil on and take some more pictures in the sunshine.
All in all it was not too eventful. I got quite wet, he got a bit stressed, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Once he was dry I saw that his mane still wasn’t clean. I think I needed to repeat shampooing and rinsing the mane as it was really quite dirty. Next time I’ll take more time on the mane, despite his giraffe impressions. Overall I’m quite pleased with the outcome and a dirty mane is easier to plait than a clean one, so every cloud has a silver lining.