How can I make my wash rack safer?
The wash rack is a barn area that we usually use every day. If we are not bathing a horse in it, we are rinsing water buckets, soaking hay, or hosing off a dirty girth or blanket. It sometimes gets neglected, and sometimes it’s not as safe as it could be. Here are some things to consider when working in the washrack:
- Is the floor dangerous?
Many wash racks can improve on the slickness of the floor. Plain concrete can be slicker than snot. The best type of concrete to have is heavily textured, which is done when the wash rack floor is poured. A broom or rake creates a rough surface. Adding mats can help, too. There are mats out there that interlock, making them stable, and many have textures on them also. Yes, they are heavy, but they can be much safer than nothing.
Watch out for big gaps in between washrack mats. People and horses can trip or stumble. But most likely people and not horses.
If you have a wash area that's mostly a place to tie your horse and a hose, you may want to add some pea gravel to prevent the mud from taking over. A few mats over some gravel can work well, too. You may find that you need to pull the mats every so often and level out the gravel.
This nubby and textured wash rack floor is awesome - no slipping, good for shod and barefoot horses!
- Are the walls and railings and ceilings ok?
First of all, the wash rack should be big enough for human and horse to enter, turn around, and exit safely, which is typically at least 10 x 10.
Wood pieces and parts will deteriorate over time. Materials that can withstand water are best. It’s up to you if the wash rack is enclosed, has a roof, or is totally in the barn. This will depend on climate, budget, space, etc. I have used enclosed, open, and partially enclosed wash racks. All are ok, but totally open ones may not work in your climate. I like at least a roof so the sun doesn’t heat up the water as it sits on your horse. If your washrack doesn't have a roof, let your horse dry in the shade during the summer so he doesn't overheat.
- How is the wash rack configured?
Does the hose come from above, behind, in front of, or the side of your horse? Many horses are spooked by hoses and cords, in which case a hose from behind may be best. Overhead hoses on swinging arms are super, you can move side to side, the hose doesn’t touch the ground and won’t get tangled in hooves and legs. Where ever the hose comes from, make it long enough to reach around your horse but not so long you need a truck and winch to roll it back up.
Hoses that tuck away from horse legs are best.
- Are the cross ties safe?
You can probably guess that I’m going to mention breakaway cross ties at the post. I’ll also mention that you want the actual cross ties to be a material that won’t deteriorate over time because of the water. A light chain covered in a rubber hose works, as do some heavy duty fabric cross ties.
Regularly inspect all cross tie parts for wear and tear and rust on the buckles.
These washrack cross ties are covered in duct tape because some horses like to gnaw their way to freedom from a bath.
- Some technical stuff about hot and cold water.
If you are blessed to have hot water, a few things. Make sure the hot water heater is out of reach for horses and people. Also, make sure the accompanying outlets are out of reach. Please use a low temperature on the settings to be sure that you will never scald yourself or your horse. Most hot water heaters have anti-scald valves that you can maneuver. Keeping the water heater insulated will save you some energy, too.
- Have plenty of good drainage that doesn’t violate your town’s ordinances and rules about runoff.
Open washracks are super for milder climates. The sun plus a wet horse equals an even hotter horse than you started out with!
- Establish rules and guidelines about keeping the floor clean and the area clutter free.
Manure, hair, hoof stuff that has been picked out can all make things dirty and slippery. You may want to hang some hooks so that buckets and sponges can be stored off the ground and away from clumsy human feet and horse hooves.
How have you been able to improve your wash rack?