How do I train my pony to be comfortable with water?
Hi there guys.
I have a very sweet Arab who is quite a fun trail horse. However, like many Arabs and Arabxs, she is quite nervous of water. She is definitely getting better, at the moment it takes me about 2-3minutes of quietly pointing my mare at the stream, keeping my leg on and making encouraging noises to get her to cross. If I dismount and lead her across, she'll go across straight away. If I let her watch another horse cross, or let her watch someone in a car, bike or even a dog cross, she'll walk right across. I think she likes to follow someone else across because she is scared that the water will be too deep or something, i don't know. Maybe she just wants security that if loch Ness reared out of the water, her chances of the one being eaten would be halved, lol! Anyhow, i want to get her comfortable with water to the point where she will walk straight across by herself, I'm just not sure how to do that. I'm hoping people could share there tips with working with nervous water crosses, and prehaps I could get some ideas? Thanks.
First and foremost, remove the first thought from your brain. Not only is it not true (my ayrab loves water), it may also be causing you to subconsciously tense up when your horse is facing water, which is defeating yourself from the start.
Try to make water crossings as ho-hum as possible. Certainly having trail buddies along to help is a plus.. and if the crossings are wide enough, go from following behind the other horse to crossing it beside them and eventually in front of them over the course of several rides.
When you get near the water, make a point to not stare at it (same as you wouldn't look directly at anything else "scary" or your horse may decide it going to eat them simply because you noticed it). Pick a point in the distance and ride for that point.. regardless if there is hesitation in the crossing, focus on forward with lots of praise when they are stepping towards/in the water and just calm redirection when they aren't.
It sounds to me like you are sending her the message that there is something scarey because you are preparing for a refusal. So, change your own outlook first and EXPECT your hrose to cross without a hitch. You already know she can do it.
Many years ago I had an Arab/Saddlebred and an Arab/Morgan.
I still have the purebred Arab I rescued 19+ years ago.
They ALL loved the water and were/are good swimmers.
Horses have very poor depth perception, so it's important that the rider has enough "just do it" confidence for both of them.
While I used to swim beside my Arab to cross the river behind the farm, if you are talking "swimming deep water", I am NOT advising that.
The only reason I swam with my Arab across the river, instead of riding him, was because the only open place to get out of the river was a very steep and slippery embankment, next to the old railroad bed. It was a lot easier on him if all he had to carry up that embankment was himself.
If the creek in question is only knee-deep creek, walk it with your horse.
I agree with everyone that you are sending mixed messages. Walking with your horse might help you with your own anxiety which will, in turn, relax the horse.
Yeah, sorry prehaps i wasn't right with the Arab/water thing. Its something I've been told, repeating rumors! (lol)
No, I have never asked her to cross anything higher than knee deep (my knees, which are slightly lower than her knees.)
Walking her in at first seems like good idea but you don't want to be doing it every time. When you get her in the creek try let her stand there just so she can get use to it and the feel and be relaxed in the creek and maybe walk within it if enough room as sometimes horses tend to rush through them to get to other side. Just my two cents. :)
She is just going to be tentative until she learns it's not a big deal.
You teach her it's not a big deal by doing it a lot. The more times she crosses water, the sooner she will take it in stride.
If you have streams to cross. Try crossing and then crossing back and then returning. Each additional crossing is one more lesson learned.
And I agree, Arabs are no worse than any other breed when it comes to water.
If you have a place where you can do so, walk her into the water, but instead of simply crossing, walk her up or downstream a ways and then exit the water. Stop her mid-stream and hold her there until she becomes calm (look for nodding her head, blinking eyes, licking lips, etc) and then prompt her to exit the stream at your command. She's not afraid of the water, she just doesn't like it. You should treat her hesitation at the water pretty much like any other time she wants to disobey. Make it uncomfortable for her NOT to enter the water and comfortable for her to be in it.
I wish I had access to a creek or river to work on my horse's water crossing skills. He's such a poncy little priss about walking through puddles. I have to be very stubborn about making him go back and do it over and over again until he does it right. He's even like that in the pasture - doesn't like getting his feet muddy!
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