Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let go of your hair!

I know horse owners who spend hours every week primping, grooming, and generally styling their horses. I highly suspect it’s a type of hobby or enjoyment, like girls who spend hours braiding, curling and styling each others’ hair during sleepovers.

I was never one of those girls, and I am also not one of those horse owners.

However, I did seize the opportunity that our weird Indiana weather gave to me this year, and I washed horses in March. I groomed them almost daily. I even conditioned their manes and tails. I was so proud of myself! I was like that fairy godmother who gets her horses– er… godchildren?– all dressed up for the ball. In this case the ball took place at Gary Lane’s Windswept Stables, where my son and I took our two horses for a much needed clinic.

So there I was at the end of March, with two lovely, shiny, healthy looking mares. One was light grey (“white) and one was black. It was pure harmony.

Until THEY showed up.

Millie shortly before arriving in Indiana. Photo by Susie Lones

April 1, 2012. I did wonder what the joke was, and I found out when I unloaded Millie and Willy from the trailer. Talk about a hairdresser’s nightmare; these two horses looked like they had rolled in Darwin’s grab bag of skin conditions and problems. Mats, hairless spots, scaly spots, scrapes, cuts, dandruff, greasy fuzzy hair. You name it, they had it. I dusted them for lice and mites the first night home. Twenty four hours later, I was faced with a real dilemma. Was I going to kill these two horses if I bathed them? If I didn’t bathe them, would they instead die of whatever was on or in their skin? The temperature hit an completely unseasonable 80 degrees. I grabbed the Viodine shampoo.

Neither Millie nor Willy were bathing advocates. Millie said, “Gee, I’d rather not.”

Millie gets her first bath. Photo by Ben Alcala.

That’s pretty easy to overcome, and I ran right over her objections and scrubbed her down, washing away yesterday’s dust and months worth of crud, scabs, and what I like to term Ick. With her fuzzy hair all wet, she actually looked much better.

Will had a stronger opinion about bathing. It went something along the lines of, “I would rather run over the top of you and drink pure acid than stand still for this garbage.”

Will's back on the day he arrived in Indiana. Photo by Ben Alcala.

It was at that point that I realized what many people fail to remember; if you don’t have the basic buttons to control a horse, it’s pretty well useless to fight with them about something. I hadn’t wanted to get into schooling so soon after their arrival, but Will was ready to force the issue. I turned off the horse, switched out the regular halter for a clinician’s rope halter and lead, and Will and I had a talk. We talked about respect, personal space, and the importance of pleasing the most stubborn individual on the farm (that would be me). Twenty minutes later Will was able to see my point of view. We went back to the hose, and with minimal fuss the bath was completed.

I still consider myself blessed to have had that miraculous warm day right after their arrival to the farm. It’s really only been that nice one other day since then, and I used that day to bathe as well. Scabs are going away, dandruff is beginning to come under control, and I am hoping that someday soon the new ones will be at least close to as nice looking as Soxy and Baby. However, I have to admit that all this would have been a lot easier if I had picked up Millie and Will in summer, when bathing was much easier to accomplish!

Millie and Will ten days after their baths. Mats gone, stress fuzz beginning to fall off, and weight slowly gaining. Photo by Mindy Lightner

This entry was posted in Horse Care, Millie and Willy, Training 101 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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