There Has To Be An Easier Way Then This... Rant and Vent
 
 

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There Has To Be An Easier Way Then This... Rant and Vent

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    10-19-2012, 01:46 PM
  #1
Weanling
There Has To Be An Easier Way Then This... Rant and Vent

My horse, Buck, is normally very compliant and eager to please. There's only one hurdle that we've been struggling with, and that is water/mud. He has absolute fits about moving through deep mud or crossing water - even puddles! I don't go out of my way to avoid them or coddle him about it in any way but it's still a struggle.

I am very disciplined in that I do not ask him to do something unless I am 100% willing to follow through with making him do it, and do it right. There is no nonsense or misbehavior allowed, with consequences appropriate to the behavior being consistently applies. That being said, I also make heavy use of appropriately given praise to make sure he knows when he is doing right as well as wrong.

Yesterday we were out trail riding in a new area - a nice grassy highline cut through the woods about a mile from home. We came across the tiniest of creeks - about 2 feet wide and 6 inches deep - and I decided that now would be an excellent time to work on water crossing. There are no creeks where I normally ride so most of our water work has been with puddles.

It took over an hour of approach and retreat, praising every foot placed near/in the water and bringing the wrath of mom down on him when he attempted to back up to avoid the water crossing. I don't believe that he was just being obstinate - he was genuinely terrified of walking through the mud and water. Poor guy was shaking with fear and lathered, but I could not give up and let him avoid the water crossing after asking him to do it. After an hour of effort, Buck finally crossed the stream, right when I wasn't expecting him to do so. He half-crossed, half jumped it and since I wasn't expecting the jump I landed face down in the mud. I also, I am a bit embarrassed to admit here, took a glancing blow to the nose as he kept going down the highline without me.

After recovering my shoe which had popped off during the unexpected dismount, making sure nothing was seriously injured, clearing as much mud from my glasses as possible (which also landed face down in the mud) and clearing the blood from my nose, I took off to recapture my horse. To Buck's great credit he only went about 300 feet before turning around and coming back to me. He is a good horse.

Unfortunately I then found myself in the position of being unable to remount, since I am used to using a mounting block to scale my horse. After we both gathered our wits and I assured him that everything was ok and he'd done nothing wrong (if nothing else this ensures that returning to me is a positive thing for him) I took him down a side trail, where I found a dry ditch to stand him in while I scrambled aboard. We then set out to explore the trails and find a way back that did not involve another water crossing, since the highline eventually came to a highway on that side. I did not want to risk falling off again and having him head for the highway.

No such luck.

After exploring every possible way out and finding them to be either gated off or blocked by the creek, I decided to at least try to go back the way we came. To my great surprise he crossed without hesitation! You'd better believe I praised him like he just produced solid gold horse apples.

We rode him back home, doing our usual W/T/C routine to set him up for success and end the ride on a good note. On the way back he was an absolute angel, even more responsive then usual, but I'm sure I looked a fright since I was covered in mud from head to toe with a bloody upper lip from the nosebleed. Makes me wonder what my neighbors thought when they saw me.

Although the second crossing was a clear victory for us, I have to wonder if falling off into the mud invalidates the first success. ;) I'm pretty stiff, and my nose is swollen (not broken) but what hurts the worst is the fear that I saw. I've got the patience and courage to follow through with making him do something he doesn't want to do, but I'm not sure that I have the stomach for it. If he was being obstinate that would be one thing, but I saw more fear then I like to see in an animal. I know it sounds corny, but at one point when I was circling him he looked back at me and the look in his eyes... ugh. Just UGH. I still feel really guilty for putting him into that situation, although we did have 1 1/2 successful water crossings.

So where do we go from here? I'm not sure I have the stomach to ask him to cross water again, at least for a while. Although I got the right results, it feels so wrong. :( I actually cried a little last night out of guilt and I am normally very stern. I just feel I hate seeing him so scared, but refusing water and mud is both dangerous and unacceptable so he HAS to learn to get over it and trust me to guide him safely. Writing this out is mostly a vent but comments, suggestions, and training critique are all welcome.
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    10-19-2012, 01:54 PM
  #2
mls
Trained
Describe the mud. Many horses will not venture into mud while ridden as they do not feel balanced with a rider on their back.
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    10-19-2012, 02:02 PM
  #3
Trained
How good is his groundwork training? When my horse is truly scared of something, I get off and we both "deal" with the scary object. Maybe if you walk in the water with him he might be better.
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    10-19-2012, 02:02 PM
  #4
Green Broke
People and horses can't be governed by fear. If you went to a new job and they asked you to do somthing out side your comfort zone, would you say "sorry, nope, I only deal with certain situations"? How long would you have that job?

Your horse needs to learn his job, which does not involve being afraid of everything he doesnt like. He needs to follow you as leader and build trust in you. And do what you ask when you ask for it.

Be insisting that he follow your directions in a non abusive way you allowed him to work throught his fear and learn trust and obedience. You are doing him a favor, as well as training a trust worthy mount for your self.

DON'T FEEL GUILTY, in fact if I were you I would get back on him today and go ride through that creek, and I would do it every day until he was completely comfortable with it
     
    10-19-2012, 02:07 PM
  #5
Weanling
Typical Louisiana red clay with some sand. Sticky, but not as sticky as straight clay, and not slick. I do agree with you that he does not feel secure walking through the mud with a rider on his back, but he also avoids it when at liberty. I do take caution to only put him on mud of known qualities so he will not slip and confirm his fears.


The mud I landed in, on the other hand, was of the black stinky variety. :(
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    10-19-2012, 02:29 PM
  #6
Weanling
My TB was terrified of going through water, we went to a cross country summer camp, he had to go into the pond and jump back out. He would just stand at the edge, same thing, shaking and lathering him self up.
After the day, I would go out to the pond with him every night, I would put him on the lunge line and I stood in the middle of the pond, it took a lot of treats and encouragement, but eventually he stepped in and I was able to lunge him going in and out of the pond and he got over it! I think myself going in first showing him that it was ok helped... do you have another horse you can go ride through with? That helps having a confident horse in the front and will go through the water.
But, you never know... there could be a big scary monster in there according to them
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    10-19-2012, 03:07 PM
  #7
Trained
To solve the problem one must first understand WHY.

I can't answer the mud any better than others already have, but I can most certainly help with the water. Horses don't have very good depth perception. They do ok with things like jumps but their depth perception through water is terrible, and there is a theory that they can't actually see beyond the surface of it.

Would YOU go into water you can't see into, you don't know how deep it is, and you don't know what might be lurking underneath the surface? I daresay you probably wouldn't. Not without someone you trust saying it's ok. Right?

The thing with horses is that some of them are totally ok with the trusted person saying it's ok, yep, then it must be fine. Others feel the need to look out for themselves, rather than just let the leader keep them safe. You sound like you have one of the latter - mine is like that too but not as bad because he's had training, and LOTS of it. Mine is an Anglo Arabian and very independent, but will do nearly anything for me. I say nearly because he is invariably difficult to get into water the first go at any stretch on any day. Once he is in he will go in and out happily until you move to another stretch of water, then he is difficult the first time again and after that is fine. He needs to make sure for himself that it's safe, and refuses to take my word for it.

All you can do is consistently show your boy that water is ok, it won't eat him, he won't die. Working with perfectly clear water to begin with seems to get the quickest results, and water they can't go around, because if they CAN, they WILL.

The other thing is that horses don't generalize. You teach them something on one side, or in one situation, and they don't automatically apply it to the other side, or another situation. So you may find that, for a while at least, every new water crossing you come to is challenging - but will become progressively less challenging as you do more of them. Just because he automatically walks into THIS stream/pond/puddle without complaint every time doesn't mean he will do the same for the other one down the trail you haven't tried crossing yet.

Mine won't cross running water and HATES waves. It has to be still. If it's running (a stream for example) he will jump it EVERY time. Take him to the beach, getting him in the water is a nightmare, but once he's in he loves it. Usually jumps the waves on the way back out and then bolts clear. I've turned it into a game, because it's actually kinda fun.

What amuses me, though, is that even still water is challenging the first time, and he's been an eventer his whole life, so you'd think he'd have gotten over it by now! He will go in and have it not count as a refusal, but it takes firm riding.
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    10-19-2012, 03:33 PM
  #8
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fulford15    
My TB was terrified of going through water, we went to a cross country summer camp, he had to go into the pond and jump back out. He would just stand at the edge, same thing, shaking and lathering him self up.
After the day, I would go out to the pond with him every night, I would put him on the lunge line and I stood in the middle of the pond, it took a lot of treats and encouragement, but eventually he stepped in and I was able to lunge him going in and out of the pond and he got over it! I think myself going in first showing him that it was ok helped... do you have another horse you can go ride through with? That helps having a confident horse in the front and will go through the water.
But, you never know... there could be a big scary monster in there according to them
This sounds like a good idea. I live right on a large lake (Buck's pasture is waterfront property) but I haven't found any areas that I feel to be safe for both of us to get into. The cliff banks tend to be a bit steep with a sudden drop off to the water and I don't want to get squashed by 1200 pounds of panicked horse who got into the water by loosing his balance. The matter requires more planning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueSpark    
DON'T FEEL GUILTY, in fact if I were you I would get back on him today and go ride through that creek, and I would do it every day until he was completely comfortable with it
I'm going to wait until my swollen nose goes down a bit and try to find an area to do it with a bit more of a controlled environment. When I was working with him next to this stream there were a lot of very close trees, the terrain was at a slight downward slope and we were about 1/4 mile away from the highway. A lot of little things that in retrospect make it less then ideal for a training site. I wish I could get right back out there and work him on it again today though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DancingArabian    
How good is his groundwork training? When my horse is truly scared of something, I get off and we both "deal" with the scary object. Maybe if you walk in the water with him he might be better.
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His groundwork is decent - it could always be better but he leads, backs, yields, ties, and stays out of my personal bubble like a champ. I would prefer to do this with someone there to assist me just in case.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fulford15    
Do you have another horse you can go ride through with? That helps having a confident horse in the front and will go through the water.
But, you never know... there could be a big scary monster in there according to them
I don't have another horse but (don't laugh) when we're out trail riding together with my SO on his bicycle and me on Buck, Buck follows the SO like he is another horse. So maybe having him ride through the creek on the bike might help? Too silly?
     
    10-19-2012, 08:17 PM
  #9
Started
What kind of horse is Buck and what is his history? My mother had a great off the track standardbred who was swum. In order to get the horse to swim at the track he was basically forced into water over his head. He was really, really worried about water. In his mind all water was deep and over his head. My mother had to allow him to walk up to water, paw it and see how deep it was before he would go into the water. Is it possible that Buck crossed the water the second time because he knew it was not over his head. Is there any possibility that he was in a position to swim in the past and had a bad experience.
     
    10-19-2012, 09:20 PM
  #10
Weanling
He's a MFT/Arabian cross adopted from the local animal shelter. According to the local horse gossip he's lived his entire life on a rope and was almost starved to death as a 2 year old. He has rope burn scars on two legs and a big scar on his chest from impaling himself on a t-post. I don't think he ever reached a healthy body weight/adequate muscle tone until I got him. The people who had him before I did tend to keep their horses underweight to make them easier to control. Hardly necessary for my guy, he never tested me until I was ready for it. I have next to no practical expirence with horses and he's never given me problems that I have been unable to nip in the bud.

I adopted him as green broke after riding him a few times and liking his steady personality, but found out later that he had only been ridden 1-2 times before I adopted him. I doubt that he would have been in a situation where he got into water over his head... I live next to a lake by the area he came from is a few towns over. His only water issues from the dark times would have been more to do with lack of it.

This is the only thing that he has ever truly fought me on... I suppose I have been lucky in that regard. He is a great horse.
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