Horse Wash Stall Safety and Construction
It’s more than a luxury. In some barns, the wash stall is used as a place to hose off muddy fetlocks, deliver heat or light therapy, administer to wounds, and---of course, wash horses.
Article by Karen Elizabeth Baril
If ever there was a wise equid, it was Eeyore, the donkey of Winnie the Pooh fame. Take this quote from Eeyore found in Pooh's
Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne: “They’re funny things, Accidents. You never have them til you’re having them.” The
funny gray-stuffed donkey might have been a little pessimistic, but he sure hit the nail on the head. None of us expect bad things to happen---they just do.
If you spend enough time around horses, you already know the potential for physical risk is high. Bad enough that we choose to ride
an animal whose first instinct in the face of danger is to….run in the opposite direction. Then we have the nerve to confine him in a
small space, hose him down, suds him up….shave him….do all sorts of things to make him beautiful. You guessed it; I’m talking about the wash stall.
It's more than a luxury. In some barns, the wash stall is used as a place to hose off muddy fetlocks, deliver heat or light therapy,
administer to wounds, and---of course, wash horses. But, because of the nature of the wash stall---all that water and the potential for
slippery floors, electrical hazards, and clutter challenges, wash stall safety is not to be taken lightly.
Let's take a look at the basics:
Location, location, location.
An indoor wash stall will likely be closest to your water source, but consider noise and traffic as well. Choose an area at the end of the barn or well away from tack and feed areas to avoid startling or agitating horses that are in the wash stall. An outdoor wash rack
is sometimes more affordable and certainly a great idea. Just as with the indoor stall, however, you’ll want to choose an area that’s
quiet, on level ground, and boasts soil that drains well.
Water source and heat.
We've all seen wash stall environments with hoses underfoot. That's Eeyore’s accident waiting to happen. Instead, invest in an
overhead boom for horses and take the time to accustom new horses to the boom swinging over their heads. Most horses acclimate
quickly to the idea, but it’s always a good idea to introduce it slowly. If you choose to have heated water, consider a tankless heater.
They’re slightly more expensive than a hot water heater, but will save you money in the long run on electricity and the hot water never runs out.
Size and configuration.
Your wash stall, whether indoor or out, should be at least the size of a stall---10 x 10 or better yet, 10 x 12. The too small wash stall
is a hazard for the handler. If it’s to be an outdoor wash rack, be sure to use durable materials. Pipe corrals can be dangerous in the
wash stall environment and do not always represent a significant psychological barrier to some horses. Always fence in the sides on the outdoor wash stall.
The importance of electrical safety in and around the wash stall cannot be stressed enough. Wiring should be installed by a licensed
electrical contractor. Be sure to install outlets for clipping and trimming in a separate area. Do not use them in the wash stall environment.
Consider installing shower stall walls found in your local home improvement center. They’re easy to clean and many come with handy
storage compartments for horse shampoos and brushes. Never store things on the floor or leave shovels or rakes where horse or human might trip over them.
All horses should be cross-tied while in the wash stall and properly trained to stand quietly. A horse that tosses his head or fidgets
needs further training and no horse should be left alone. Install crossties that are adjustable and be sure to teach horse handlers how
to adjust them for individual size. They should be snug enough to prevent the horse from moving too much, but not so long that the
horse can catch a hoof. It’s a good idea to use quick release or panic snaps at the wall in case of emergency.
Be sure to use a non-slip flooring. Interlocking mats are easy to install and won’t pull apart or shift. They work really well in the
indoor wash stall environment. RAMM Horse Fencing and Stalls sells a unique product made from 100% recycled durable revulcanized rubber. They’re practically indestructible.
For the outdoor wash rack, mud absolutely must be managed.
Consider a relatively new product called, Lighthoof Mud Management Panels (patent pending). RAMM’s Lighthoof Mud Management Panels are a grid of collapsible and flexible plastic (similar to an egg carton). They’re highly effective for managing mud
around gates, troughs, in dirt paddocks, anywhere a permanent mud solution is needed. They are perfect to ensure environmentally safe footing for the outdoor wash stall.
Preparation is easy.
Simply lay down landscape cloth or geotextile barrier fabric directly over the ground. Stretch the flexible mud panel over the cloth,
anchor it the ground and pour an angular crushed rock with fines into the cells. Finally, compact the gravel to ensure a long lasting
base. You can keep the gravel or install mats over the top. Each Lighthoof Mud Management Panel measures 6’x 12’ so it’s a perfect solution for outdoor wash stalls.
Wear appropriate footwear.
Sneakers, flip-flops (yes, I’ve seen it), are not appropriate footwear for anywhere around horses, let alone the wash stall. Plan to wear strong rubber, water-proof boots with no-skid bottoms.
The spa treatment.
Consider adding an Infra-red Heat Therapy system to your wash or grooming stall. A Solarium can help improve your horse’s
performance and his overall well-being. The heat energy penetrates the skin, soothes the underlying muscle, and stimulates blood
circulation. These units work well as a pre-exercise warm up and speed drying after your horse’s bath.
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