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Before you actually begin to give your horse a bath you should take the following steps:
The Bath Begins
You have gathered the necessary equipment and performed the preparations… it's time to give your horse a bath! You want to start by wetting your horse down gently, starting at the hoof and working your way up the leg and body. Try to make sure the water is warm if at all possible because most horses hate an ice-cold bath as much as we do! Also remember never to spray a horse's face - when it comes time to wash the face use one of your sponges.
Be prepared for your horse to dance a bit, kick up or swat his tail during the wet down since the dripping feeling is a bit ticklish. The horse probably isn't kicking at you, so just be careful to keep your legs and feet far enough from his.
Once your horse has been wet down start applying the sudsy shampoo with a sponge. Work it in gently but firmly to take out the stubborn dirt, but remember not to allow any particular patch of shampoo to dry. This can irritate your horse's skin and remove the shine from your horse's hair. Be particularly careful around your horse's face; it is best to squeeze your sponge enough to prevent dripping, then apply it behind the ears, around the eyes (give a wide berth – you don't want soap getting in your horse's eyes) and down the nose.
Your next step is to rinse your horse off, so as with the wet down make sure you start from the hoof and work your way up. The rinsing must be thorough since any soap remnants can irritate your horse's skin. Pay particular attention to the lower belly since not only is this area easier for us to miss, it's also the area where all the soap from the back will roll down and collect. Remember not to rinse your horse's face with a direct spray; use your clean rinsing sponge instead.
When your horse has been thoroughly rinsed scrape off the excess water with your sweat scraper. Be firm enough to scrape the water yet gentle enough not to irritate your horse. Do not scrape your horse's face and be particularly careful if you decide to use the scraper on his legs – both areas are very sensitive and should be pat down with clean towels.
After removing the excess water it is a good idea to walk your horse around so that he can air dry. If you turn him out immediately after a bath it is almost guaranteed he will roll around on the floor, thereby thwarting all the efforts you just expended on making him look good.
Try not to bathe your horse too often since repeated baths can dry your horse's skin, strip the natural oils away from his coat and remove the luster from his hair. Many professionals will avoid bathing their horses except for show preparations in order to maintain their horse's coat's sheen. Of course a full bath is not the same as watering your horse down to remove the sweat after an intensive workout – such water downs are fine as long as you're careful about preventing your horse's hooves from drying out.
Many horses actually look forward to a bath once they have become accustomed to the hose, running water and process; it can be refreshing and the sponging can be soothing. Just remember to start slow and allow your horse to get used to the water. A little patience during those first few bathing sessions can create a lifetime of ease, whereas rushing an unprepared horse through a bath forcefully can create a traumatic experience and make him despise baths for the foreseeable future.