Water Crossing Issues? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 12-22-2009, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
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Post Water Crossing Issues?

Hi All-
I think I need some help/advice on water crossing training for my 7 year old mare. I went out with her this past weekend and for the first time we encountered a shallow water crossing (I've had her about 3-months), about 50m across. My friend, who goes on this trail regularly ponied her and after a bit of urging she took a gigantic leap into the water, almost sending me into the water and unseating my friend. It was almost like she was trying to jump across the whole thing. The same thing occurred when we had to cross back as well.

So, this got me thinking that maybe she wasn't a big fan of water. To test my theory, it rained last night and this morning I found a 10ft wide puddle in the pasture, just a few inches deep and tried to lead her across it and she did the same thing... after urging she didn't just step in but instead took a huge leap into the middle of the puddle.

My question is, how do I get her used to the idea of crossing water safely. I know if she continues these huge leaps it's just a matter of time before I end up being baptized. ;) Thanks for your help!
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post #2 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 02:43 AM
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Hey Lauralynnee, it has been my personal experience that it is only through constant exposure that horses get better. With the first puddle what should have done was rode her backwards and forwards, in and out of it until the jumping stopped. While it was nice that you had a friend to pony you the first time, after that you really needed to push your horse in on your own. From what you have written so far your mare has been lead through water 3 times and she did it grudgingly and reluctantly everytime. At some stage you are going to have to get her through water on your own in the saddle (or get used to wet feet!).

You are going to have to find yourself a puddle or a little creek with a safe ford and push your horse across, giving her no choice but forward. When I say no choice but forward what I mean is that if she gets really stubborn about going in you are going to have to do something that doesn't let her off from working. If she won't go forward then make her go sideways or backwards untill she wants to go through the water.

The thing that worries me is that the first time she probably was worried about the water but you may have set a precedent of her having to be lead through water so you may now have quite a fight on your hands.
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post #3 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 06:51 AM
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You might find it really useful to reinforce going forward off your leg promptly away from the water. Includea voice command such as "walk on" but insist that you get an immediate response. Use a stick if you need to.

Treat the issue with the water as a disobedience to your leg aids, rather than about the water, per se.

The idea is to establish this away from the water so she then doesn't associate the stick or being pushed forward just with the water. Once you've got the response reliablely, go back to walking back and forth through your puddle.

Take a break and go back and reinforce the response to leg aid away from water if you need to.

Be sure to let her, no, encourage her, to put her head down and look at and smell the water. Horses instictively distrust footing that isn't firm or doesn't look like the rest of the surrounding footing - this is a good instinct and one you don't want to subvert. If she puts her head down at the edge of the water and blows out, that's a good sign - she's investigating the footing and thinking about it. The next step is usually a tentatively step in or pawing. Make her move forward if she paws.

This requires patience, control and time - you don't want to lose your temper and make it a huge fight so she then associates that negative experience with the water.

It also helps if you have a friend give you a lead through the water, but goes slowly and stops ever few steps so your horse doesn't have room to jump.

The ideal place to school a horse through water is shallow with firm footing, with relatively flat, easy approachs and too wide for the horse to readily jump.

If there's nothing like that on the trails near you, try flooding a shallow place in your ring or pasture with a hose to practice.
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post #4 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 08:04 AM
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My mare wouldn't cross water either, but I always rode alone. One day I went on a ride with my friends and they crossed a water chest deep. My mare slowed, but didn't stop and went right in like she'd done it a million times. There was no way around the water. It was a river and it was cross or be left behind.

I vote for going with other horses and find such a crossing -- something far too wide for her to imagine jumping. Cross and recross as many times as your friends will have patience for. No you have a good base. Now, never let her jump into water again -- if she does, go back and forth until she settles down.

I agree -- exposure and repetition to reinforce the correct way to cross water.
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post #5 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 08:26 AM
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I agree with everything - practice, practice, practice!

Good idea to use other horses first, but eventually get her to the point where she goes by herself. When she doesn't hesitate following the other horses it's most likely because she sees "they survived!" or something to that effect ;)
When you take her through water by herself you need to make sure she trusts you enough to step right in since they can't judge the depth. Round pen work can help build her trust in you, which should help with the issue.

Mom to 3 bays: Beau, Daisy & Cavalina
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post #6 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by NorthernMama View Post
No you have a good base.
I meant:
NOW you have a good base. -- so carry on by yourself, without the herd as just posted.

Sorry for the typo.
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post #7 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 08:44 AM
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What always worked for me with the OTTBs I've had is backing them into the water. Then once I am in the middle walk them forwards, back in a few more times, make some small circles in the water, walk in and out etc until its no big deal to be in the water.
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post #8 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 11:41 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for such great advice! I'll be sure to keep you posted on the progress and hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and many blessings in 2010!
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post #9 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 11:53 AM
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I'd start by making sure shes desensatized to walking over other things, like tarps and bridges, ect. After it rains I ride in the ring as if it didnt rain. I dont make a big deal about the puddle. If my mare evades me and goes around it, we circle and go back. I dont look down or point it out. Its no different then her deciding to balk out when I go down the straightaway of the ring. Sometimes its dangerous to lead a horse inhand in a puddle, you may get crushed toes.

After you conquer puddles work you way to small streams. You can even make a little one in the pasture (just a small trench.) Most horses also follow other horses, and assume there is no danger if the lead horse dosent act up. You could try that, if you know someone with a well despooked horse.
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post #10 of 12 Old 12-23-2009, 12:01 PM
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[quote=maura;498277]You might find it really useful to reinforce going forward off your leg promptly away from the water. Includea voice command such as "walk on" but insist that you get an immediate response. Use a stick if you need to.

Treat the issue with the water as a disobedience to your leg aids, rather than about the water, per se.

I agree with this. Once your horse comes off your legs everytime you'll be able to ride her in so many different places. I perfer spurs over a stick, reason being, with the stick your don't have both hands on the reins or infront of you. If you are urgeing your horse forward with a stick and she goes to vear off you'll have a harder time keeping her straight with only one hand. Also, using spurs your can escolate pressure. If you can ride your horse without haveing to spank her everywhere other than water crossing then she knows how to come off your legs, so why use something thats not attached to your legs. I'm not saying you should jump on and start jabbing your horse with some spurs, what I'm saying is you start with a bump from your leg, then another, then roll(not jab) your spur up the side, then add some more pressure while rolling then bump her with the spur. I garantee you that the spurs will be more effective and easier to use then a stick or flag.
If she truely is affraid of water, try some sending excersizes. Lung her around the water and every few circles around take a step or two towards the water. You could stand 5 feet from the water and send her between you and the water, keep doing it getting closer and closer, only going closer when she's really good at it.
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