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Do horses like getting wet?

"Do horses like getting wet?" is a question that many horse owners and enthusiasts often ask. The answer, however, isn't as straightforward as one might expect.

Published: May 15, 2023

Do horses like getting wet?

Horses that have access to water, like a pond or stream, or like the ocean (Chincoteague ponies and horses of the Camargue), will wade into the water to abate nuisance from biting insects, and will show every sign of enjoying the water.

When I was a grad student at Texas A&M, the broodmares owned by the school were kept out on pasture. The pastures didn’t have any ponds or streams or anything, but they had water troughs like a great big bathtub.

Horses and Water: A Natural Affinity

One of the broodmares had learned to step into the water trough with both her front legs. She would then start pawing the water, splashing it onto her belly, which gave her relief from biting flies and mosquitoes.

The water would splash onto the ground around the trough and created quite a puddle.

This mare would stand in the water trough splashing water on herself until the tub was nearly empty. Then she would step out of the trough and start splashing muddy water from the puddle around the trough.

The Horse Center feed crew hated this mare, because they had to constantly check on the trough and have to re-fill it several times a day. It also made one hell of a mess around the trough, so they had to move the trough to dry ground every day.

The funny thing was that the only other horses in the broodmare herd that did the same thing were this mare’s foals. None of the other broodmares would do this behavior, although some of them would take advantage of the mud puddles she created to roll in the mud, which helped with the biting insects.

Horses that are kept in stalls and given baths by their owners sometimes enjoy the sensation of bathing. (My experience is that horses much prefer a bath using warm water, if you have access to heated water, to a bath with cold water, even on hot days. And most horses are very fussy about getting water sprayed on their heads.)

Individual Preferences and Fears

However, like humans, horses have individual personalities and preferences. Some horses may love getting wet, while others may be less enthusiastic about it. It's important to pay attention to a horse's body language when introducing it to water or during bath time. If a horse shows signs of discomfort or fear, it's essential to take things slowly and make the experience as positive as possible.

Fear of water can be common in horses, especially if they've had negative experiences with it in the past. Some horses may not like the sensation of water on their bodies, while others may be afraid of the sound of running water. In these cases, gentle and gradual exposure, combined with positive reinforcement, can help the horse overcome its fear.

The Role of Weather

The weather can also play a significant role in whether a horse likes getting wet. While horses often enjoy a good splash during the summer months, they may be less appreciative of getting wet in colder weather. This is because a wet coat can lose its insulating properties, making the horse feel cold. In winter months, it's important to ensure a horse can dry off quickly if it gets wet to prevent it from getting chilled.

Health Considerations

When it comes to horses getting wet, there are also health considerations to take into account. Moist conditions can lead to various issues, such as skin infections, hoof problems, and discomfort due to chill. If your horse gets wet, it's important to ensure that they can thoroughly dry off afterward. Having a good grooming routine after your horse gets wet can help prevent potential skin problems.

For horses who are turned out in fields, it's important to provide adequate shelter where they can escape the rain if they choose to. Some horses may choose to stay out in the rain, while others will prefer to take shelter. Each horse is different and will have its own comfort levels and preferences when it comes to getting wet.

Training Your Horse to Tolerate Water

horse runining in water

For horses that are nervous about water or do not like getting wet, there are ways to help them become more comfortable. This often involves gradual, patient training. You might start by simply introducing them to a small amount of water, such as from a sponge or a small bucket. Over time, you can gradually increase the amount of water and the area of the body that gets wet, always ensuring that the horse is calm and comfortable before proceeding further.

Using positive reinforcement, such as treats or praise, can also help your horse associate water with good things. Remember, it's important to never force your horse to get wet if they are scared or uncomfortable. Patience, understanding, and consistency are key when working with a horse who doesn't like getting wet.

Is it OK for horses to get wet?

When it comes to horses getting wet, there is no definitive yes or no answer. The safety and comfort of a horse getting wet largely depend on the context. For instance, horses can comfortably tolerate rain and other forms of moisture in a controlled setting. They are, after all, animals that originally thrived in diverse climates and weather conditions.

However, it's critical to note that while horses can get wet, they should not be left in a damp condition for extended periods. This is particularly true in colder climates, where a wet coat can lead to hypothermia. Furthermore, keeping horses wet can also make them prone to skin infections, known as rain rot or mud fever.

In contrast, during hot weather, many horses actually enjoy getting wet as it helps them cool off. So, while it's okay for horses to get wet, the key lies in appropriate management ensuring they are thoroughly dried afterward and not left damp in cold weather.

Do horses get cold when wet?

Horses, like humans, can indeed get cold when they're wet, particularly in cooler weather. This is due to the fact that water can strip away the natural oils that help insulate their skin and coat, thus reducing their body's natural defenses against cold weather. When their fur is wet, it also loses its ability to trap heat, which can lead to a drop in body temperature.

While horses generally have a higher tolerance for cold than humans, they can still suffer from hypothermia if they are wet for extended periods in cold weather. For this reason, it's important to ensure that your horse has a chance to dry off and warm up after getting wet, especially during the colder months.

Why do horses like to stand out in the rain?

Observing horses standing out in the rain might seem unusual to us, but it's a completely natural behavior for them. Horses, in their natural habitat, are accustomed to various weather conditions, including rain. They have a protective coat that can resist light to moderate rain, and they may find the sensation of rain on their skin refreshing, especially during warmer weather.

However, this doesn't mean that all horses enjoy being out in the rain. Each horse is unique and has its own preferences. Some may prefer seeking shelter, while others don't mind a good soak. As horse owners, it's essential to respect these preferences and provide options for both.

What to do with a horse when it rains?

If it's raining, there are a few measures you can take to ensure your horse remains comfortable and healthy. First and foremost, providing shelter is crucial. Even if your horse likes the rain, having a dry place to retreat to is essential for their well-being.

When riding in the rain, make sure to properly dry your horse afterward to prevent chills and skin conditions. This involves not only toweling off the surface water but also ensuring that their undercoat is dry.

In case your horse gets soaked in the rain, it might be a good idea to use a cooler rug. These rugs are designed to wick away moisture from the horse's skin, speeding up the drying process while keeping them warm.

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