It takes a lot of work and preparation to get a horse ready to go cross country. Going through puddles is *nowhere* near the same as an actual water complex, so it's really going to be a crapshoot whether she'll go in or not. Ideally you would have gotten her out to school many times so she got comfortable with everything long before entering an actual horse trial.
But my advice for the water would be to ride positively and not make a big deal out of it. Slow right down, slow trot or walk if you need to, to give her time to look and process things. Keep your leg on, shoulders back, keep asking her to go forward, be quiet and confident and persistent with your cues. If she hesitates, keep her head straight and don't let her turn away, but if she wants to drop her head down to investigate, let her. If you gun it and try to run her in, she's just going to panic and slam on the brakes at the last second. Same with using your crop the second the horse hesitates, it just makes the water a scary and unpleasant place to be, now you've taught them "Water means mom gets mad and spanks me, I'm not going near it ever again!" I see a lot of people smack or spur their horse the *instant* the horse puts its head down to investigate, which essentially punishes him for showing curiosity towards the water, which you WANT. I wouldn't advise using a crop either your first time out, because the actual water complex will be brand new to her. It's different and new and she may be unsure about it, so getting rough with her is only going to make it a negative experience and will make things harder for next time. With a horse that KNOWS about water and is balking, for sure use your crop to reinforce your leg. Not for a horse that is new and unfamiliar with the question at hand. For those horses, everything needs to be very simple and progressive and step by step, and positive every inch of the way. So imo you still have a lot of homework to do with the water, if she goes through at the horse trials, and I genuinely hope she does, great. And if she doesn't, you shouldn't be mad at your horse, you should be mad at yourself for not doing your homework properly beforehand.
For dressage your question is a big problem that needs to be addressed constantly, every ride. Unfortunately, it's not something that can be fixed in a week before a show. You need to train her to carry herself and maintain it without you holding her there. Lots of leg, and softening and rewarding when she starts to carry herself and becomes lighter will help. It will take a while for her to develop the muscles to do it herself though, baby steps with lots of reward is key to retraining her. It takes two to pull as well, she can't pull on you if there's nothing to pull against. What happens if you just ride on a super loose rein? If you have to drop her on her face a time or two for her to get the picture, that might be what you need to do to get your point across. It also depends on if she's stiffening and bracing against your hand and the contact, or curling up behind the bit. They are 2 very different problems. What is your trainer advising you to do about it?
The herd bound thing may or may not be a problem. Some horses are fine, and some will attach onto the closest horse at the event, the neighbor in the next stall or the horse tied at the trailer next to them if they didn't come with a barn mate. Usually the biggest problem will be during cross country, where they suddenly realize they're all alone in a field. If your horse has never had a problem though, I wouldn't worry too much about it. If she starts to get a bit silly, a firm correction with a "just get on with it!" attitude goes a long way.
Is she anxious or excited and raring to go when she enters the ring for stadium? Or is she nappy, balking, dropping behind your leg and not wanting to go forward? My horse gets just wired entering the ring for stadium, and you can either work on it or just live with it. My horse is naturally hot and I know I'm never going to change that, but hasn't gotten any worse over the years, and I'm never going to sell her, so I chose to live with it. To fix it you'd have to figure out if it's due to excitement or balking, and if it's nerves, you could try schooling a lot and going in and out of the rings in different places until she relaxes and just show her it's not a big deal. For a balky horse that doesn't want to be there, you'd have to get them more focused and attentive to your aids and show them you mean business so they don't drop behind your leg and keep "escaping" your aids as an evasion. Without knowing for sure WHY it is happening, it's hard to offer any sort of helpful advice. This is something a real trainer on the ground would be able to help you with a lot better than some random people over the internet, we don't know the whole story and can't see in person what is happening.
Sorry for turning my comment into a novel, I hope it helps :) Good luck!
Last edited by albertaeventer; 07-02-2013 at 06:15 PM.