Horsemanship / Neu Perspectives

Good Clean Fun

For someone who admires clean horses with soft manes and tails, installing a washrack is no small project.

I really like having clean horses. 

I know that with the volume of colts, broodmares and other riding animals around my place, it’s not always feasible to have silky soft, shiny manes and tails on each and every horse. But I strive to have presentable animals, sans green spots and witches’ knots whenever possible. 

This love stemmed from a young age. My first business was established when I was 10 years old at a boarding stable, where I got paid to wash horses. I learned early on the pros (bright whites!)  and cons (purple stained, dry hands) of using bluing shampoo and how slick your reins get (a big NO) when you put the wrong type of detangler in a mane. 

Needless to say, if I like washing horses, one can assume that washracks are very important to me. When we bought our place, it didn’t have one. Three years later, it still doesn’t have one. I have put “washrack” at the top of my Christmas list every year, but like everything, it requires a chain of events to fall in line before it all shapes up and appears. 

A washrack is a fun tool to clean horses
A good washrack is not only functional, but also safe for the horse and handler.
Photo by Ross Hecox

“We need to plan and build our arenas and gates, and know where we are going to enter and leave the barn, so that we can put it in the best spot,” I’ve been told. “If it’s not convenient, we won’t use it and we’ll just be upset with ourselves.” 

“These things take time.” Cue eye roll. 

So I’ve scratched down the ideal layout for our property time and again, constantly modifying. I’ve dug postholes and filled them with concrete. I’ve held the tape measurer (always the dummy end) time and again, patiently envisioning my wash rack look and location with each and every sucker rod we have welded and each creosote board we’ve trimmed and installed. 

Finally, the day is here. 

“Figure out what you want for a washrack,” Luke told me the other day. “I’m fixin’ to put it in this week.” 

Imagine my excitement, and slight terror, at the pressure of finally having to decide what I want. I’ve scoped out, criticized and admired washracks at different facilities for years. And now it’s on me. I think washing is an important part of starting colts, not only because it’s nice for paying folks to get a clean horse back, but because it creates a situation where they get gentler, learn patience and become more user-friendly for the future. 

The thing is, clean horses are great, but safe ones are much better. Most of the equine traffic we deal with are young, uneducated colts that haven’t been handled a whole lot, much less tied and washed. It can be a challenge to get around all of that with patience and feel and still have something presentable and unharmed at the end of the first few washings. Something without tight corners and no fancy, breakable details is a must. A lot of the wash stations I’ve seen are extremely beautiful, but not made for young horses. 

Do I want sides? What sort of flooring? How tall should the tie rail be, or is better to have a wall with a ring or two? Do I bother with shelving for my shampoos and medicated scrubs? Do we go with a rustic look, utilitarian, or a combo of both? Oh my. I know certain elements are out of the question, such as retractable hoses and custom stonework, so I won’t even bother to write them down, even if I love them. 

I haven’t totally decided the perfect layout, but I’ve got three more days until we break ground, so any feedback is appreciated, and I’ll be sure to update once it’s done. 

And until then, me and my purple hands will be sketching, erasing and re-sketching 40 different plans, regretting every eye roll, until it’s time to mix up that concrete and set those posts. Hooray!

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