Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Outdoor Wash Rack Design

If you're trying to make the most of a small amount of space, you may not be able to do an indoor wash stall. For me, that's not so important anyway because I rarely bathe in the winter so the most I need is a place to hose off muddy legs. I decided to convert part of the old house foundation adjacent to the barn into a wash rack by adding a fence and posts for tie rings. Here are some design tips:
  • You can make do with a small space! My wash rack is 12' deep but only 8' wide. My long-bodied 17 hh warmblood can walk in and turn around. I always turn him clockwise so that his head can swing over the fence rather than towards the barn, and he has no trouble maneuvering. If you are trying to fit a wash rack between two solid walls, however, you will probably need a minimum width of 10'.
  • Consider leaving gaps in the fence big enough for a person but not a horse to fit through. I did not like the idea of being trapped between a panicked horse and a solid barn wall, or even a low fence, so I left 18" gaps in either back corner. This is narrow enough that even a yearling will probably not try to squeeze through, but I can escape if needed.
  • A lower fence is easier to reach over if for some reason (like not wanting to get squished) you need to work on the horse from the outside. Mine is only 3'6".
  • Make sure your base, whether concrete or rubber or stonedust, is sloped for drainage. Mine slopes towards the front but if you have a choice it's probably nicer to have the water and debris running away from you and out of sight. Depending on your setup, you may want to put in a floor drain. For my small operation, that was not necessary and anyway the existing concrete slab is very, very thick.
  • Speaking of base, wet concrete can be very slippery unless it's the right texture. If you're pouring it fresh, get a broom finish. If not, spray it down and walk around on shoes with poor traction to see what you're getting into before putting a horse on it. A relatively inexpensive solution for increasing traction is rubber ring mats, but they do tend to trap mud and manure. If you get solid mats, make sure that they are textured and intended for wet use, because some of them can get slippery!
  • The fence of an outdoor wash rack can double as a drying rack for sweaty or washed saddle pads, towels, etc. Since I'm the only one riding there, I don't have to worry about someone coming along and spraying off the things I am trying to dry. On sunny days I even clip my synthetic girth to the tie post so that it dries out completely. Using an outdoor space prevents your dirty laundry from stinking up the tack room.
Some improvements I am considering in the future are:
  • An over-the-fence basket for storing shampoos and tools.
  • A sprayer boom or dedicated wash rack hose (right now my general barn hose does double duty).
  • A shade cloth or awning.
  • Rubber mats or other footing upgrade.
One thing I would like to have done differently is putting the posts for the cross-ties further back. As it is, a cross-tied horse can easily step forward off the concrete.

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