Wash Day

Today as I was writing a scene where my new character, Whit Casey, in “Hold Me Forever” is washing down her very promising Quarter Horse racer, I found myself chuckling over the first time I gave a horse a bath.

My parents raised four kids on my dad’s salary of about $5,000 a year in 1965, so I didn’t grow up around a fancy barn, taking lessons and going to weekend horse shows. My lessons came from rude ponies that we caught out of the pasture where my friend’s father, who was an auctioneer among other things, kept the stock he bought and sold to turn a buck.

So, when I moved to North Carolina in 1990 and purchased my first horse at the age of 35, I knew little about owning one.  If I had been smarter, I would have rented a house in town and boarded Cody, a beautiful Arabian, so I could learn the basics from others more experienced in horse care. But I instead rented a farm house and brought Cody home to share the adjacent barn and pasture with my landlord’s donkey, Asset. 


So, after a hot summer ride around the 200-acre farm, I tied Cody under the barn breezeway and opened the new bottle of Mane and Tail shampoo.  I’d had plenty of large dogs, right, so how difficult could this be?

I sprayed Cody down, then turned the bottle over to dribble shampoo up and down his back. Then I used handfuls to soap down his legs, mane, tail and underbelly. Two-thirds of the bottle was gone and he was one huge clump of suds from ears to tail before I started rinsing.

I turned the hose on him and rinsed. And rinsed. And rinsed. Two days later when it rained cats and dogs, I was chagrined to see Cody standing under the barn overhang, soaked to the skin and still making suds on his rump. It had to be the shampoo I used.

Fortunately, one of my old high school friends was an equine veterinarian and only a phone call away for critical questions. Who knew that I should have asked about something as simple as a bath?

I dialed up my friend and inquired, “What shampoo should I use to give Cody a bath?”

“Shampoo? I don’t know,” she said. “Most of the time, I just use a mild dish detergent as long as the horse doesn’t have any special skin problems. Why do you ask?”

I explained the rain and the suds.

“How much shampoo did you use?”

“Well, by the time I got him soaped all over, it took over half the bottle.”

There was a long silence on the other end of the phone, then muffled chuckling. “Tell me exactly what you did.”

By the time I finished recounting my bath procedure, I was frowning because the chuckling had turned to racous laughter.

“You don’t bathe a horse like you do a dog, silly. You wash them like a car. Pour the shampoo in a bucket and use a big sponge to apply it.”

Well, damn. It was 1990. It wasn’t like I could Google “how to wash a horse.”

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  1. //

    That is friggin funny..I would have done the same thing..I give bottles of shampoo that has some left in them to a friend of mine who owns horses and that is what she uses..

  2. //

    Great blog, Deb. Lots of memories — I’ve bathed horses everywhere from wash stalls with heated water to standing in the pasture with a hose and a bucket. The common denominator? I always ended up soaked to the skin and covered with horse hair.

    1. //

      LOL. Me, too, Karis. Cody loved to shake like a dog. Sometimes I wondered if he was part dog because he would come when I whistled for him, fetch a frisbee and follow me around at my heels. I loved that horse.

  3. //

    Hilarious!! Kind of reminds me of the first time I bathed a dog. I had agreed to watch the neighbor’s dog for two weeks while they were on vacation–on the condition that their son, Rex, give Foxy a bath. He was a hound dog of unknown origins and he smelled bad. Of course, Rex was only 14 years old, and managed to delay the bath until they left, so the dog was delivered dirty and smelly! The basement of our house opened straight out into the back yard, so I hooked up a hose to the set tubs (so the water could be a little warm, instead of ice cold) and took Fox into the yard and proceeded to bathe him. I made the mistake of letting go of him for a minute to turn the hose off and he immediately started rolling around in the mud where he’d had his bath. I gave him a dressing down and rinsed him down again. I dragged the unrepentant fellow back into the basement where I toweled him down for a thoroughly before taking him upstairs and turning the hair dryer on him. He sat there and put up with it and had the grace to hang his head just a little bit. I’m sure he never did understand what upset me. After that two-week vacation with us, he figured we were as much his family as the other folks and he loved to come visit. He’d knock on the front door and come in and make himself at home for a while. He’d take a nap, visit with my cat, get a treat or two and then go home. DC is incredibly hot and humid in the summer and sometimes his people would retire to their bedroom where the only air conditioner lived and they wouldn’t hear Fox come home after his evening rounds. When that happened, Fox would come over to our house, knock on the door and wait for me to follow him over and open his door.

  4. //

    Laughing my butt off with you not at you. I learned the hard way too. Too bad life is not perfect and you could have walked him in a clear deep creek for about an hour.

  5. //

    I have also done this *hangs head in shame*, but it’s better than my friend (who shall remain nameless for my own safety) who decided her horse also needed a full body conditioner treatment…we had to rewash her horse before the show so that her saddle would stay on.

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