Need Help with water crossing
Ok so this has always been a problem with Dana. It has always taken a half hour battle to get her to cross fords, streams, culverts ect. But yesterday we found a new creek and the only way to get to this ridge that I wanted to see the veiw from was across this 60cm deep creek. And I kinda lost it, I tried everything. I tried circling her everything she tried to evade, I tried loosing my temper which really worked ......Not I tried taking her for a walk and coming back to it but she wouldnt even stand and watch the creek. In the end I got really cross and hopped of going 'right! Your on your own you silly horse!' and sat on a rock. Lucky she just stood there staring which is reallyu funny coz she's got a bug eye fly veil on so she looks like something out of Alien vs Predator!!
But I ended up having to lead her and I've only got short boots so my feet got sopping wet and coming back I had to lead her again and we both slipped and she landed on my foot.
So I need your help. What do I do? How do I make it easier? And how on earth do I stop her reversing as an form of evasion?
I start at home with tarps. If you have a blue or silver reflective one, those seem to work best.
Set it up with rocks, tree limbs etc. on each side, so it resembles a creek bed. Ive even dumped water on it so its wet. Work with getting her to step on/across it. Its takes time patience and lots of cussing :wink: but I really thing it helps make them not so scared when the time comes to walk through the scary water.
I find the rocks and tree limbs work much better than just a tarp laying on the ground. They have to step over the obstacle and onto the tarp more like an actual creek.
I start off sending them over it from the ground and work my way up to crossing it from the saddle.
Hope this helps :D
Vidaloco's method is a good thing to try, and some people even try feeding them (feed or hay) on the tarp as a step to get them comfortable on it. Be patient, but keep in mind that many horses have a problem with water, and many never feel comfortable for various reasons. One of our mares will walk through water if it is clear and she can see the bottom, but it takes a lot of effort to get her through murky/dirty water where she can't....and as silly as it may seem, many people actually consider this a 'smart' behavior.
^^ thats very true, Vida has no problem as long as she can see the bottom. If its really deep she takes a lot of pushing. Can't say as I blame her, not knowing how deep the water is is kinda scary to me too :shock:
Horses do not have good depth perception so what is actually an inch deep puddle seems like a deep black hole to a horse. Horses know that if their legs get tangled up and their feet are fouled up they are done for, so that's why horses are so reluctant to go through water, mud, etc. So we need to understand and be sensitve to the horse's nature as a prey animal.
I agree with working with a tarp first. Play approach and retreat. Send her to the tarp and if she stops, even far away from the tarp, she is telling you she has reached a threshold. If you push her past this point things will get really bad. So now ask her to retreat. Come away from the threshold, re-approach, come away, re-approach, etc. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE TARP OR THE WATER. This is about building her confidence in you and in herself. The worst thing you could do is push her and get frustrated. How can she trust you if you push her toward the thing she is afraid of? Be patient. Understand her fear. Put yourself in her place. So now, when she finally sniffs the tarp take her away from it completely and let her graze for a minute. Go back and repeat.
So say she goes across the tarp confidently and she is no longer fearful of it. You will do the same thing with the creek, just from up in the saddle. Say you are riding along....you come up on a creek....you feel her start to hesitate and slow down, so now you stop her softly and say, "Lets back away from what you are unsure of." Stop and let her settle. Rub her and when she is relaxed ask her forward. If she has trouble back her up again and wait. If she still isn't going get more insistant, not mean, but insistant, and when she tries take all the pressure off. So say she approachs some and then stops. Back her away (retreat) let her settle and ask her forward (approach). A big key here is to give her plenty of time to think. Don't rush her. Again, this is NOT about her crossing the water. It's about her confidence. When she crosses stop, turn and face her to the water. This is helping her flight line become shorter and she can assess what just happened.
I agree 100% to what SpiritHorse suggested!!
My horse is terrible afraid of water and tarps. Well I set up a tarp in the arena and had him walk towards it. I let him get as far as he wanted then he'd go around it. So I'd turn him back in a large circle and ask him again. He went a little further then went off to the side. After two more tries he bent his head down to look at it, started licking his lips and stepped in the tarp.
Since horse's have a poor sense of depth perception...to then a creek or any type of water is an endless body of blackness leading to their doom. A horse has to be not only condident in itself, but also in you. That's why if you force her to cross you are not respecting her when she tried to tell you that she is afraid and doesn't want to go in.
Work with her slow. If you have a small like 5 inch plastic baby pool, fill that up with water and have her walk through it. That's how I practiced with Sonny
I never understood the tarp thing, myself. If it works great. I had problems with water crossings with my girl -- the fix was very easy -- I went out with 4 other horses and she was going to cross or be left behind. She barely hesitated and went through swamp, puddles and a running stream chest deep. I no longer have any problems with her.
tarps are scary and horse-eating, didn't you know that? :wink::D
Tarps in general don't mean you can cross water, it's just a way to build up her condifence in you. Tarps can be scary to horses since they make noises.
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