If you go trail riding frequently there is a guaranteed chance you’ll run into a water crossing at some point. To help this be as non-traumatic and easy as possible for your horse, it is best to expose him to crossing water at home before even attempting it on the trail. If your horse has no problem crossing water at home, then great! Happy trails to you!
If on the other hand your horse gets stressed out, anxious, and refuses to go into the water you have an agenda for the next few weeks. The key to helping your horse get over his fear of crossing water is to not get angry, forceful, or try to push the horse to go farther than he is comfortable. Your goal is to make water crossing a no-brainer. Keep yourself calm and the training will go a lot smoother.
There are several ways to introduce your horse to water. You can either create a stream by using a hose or fill a child’s swimming pool. Large puddles after a rainstorm also come in handy for this! You may be lucky enough to keep your horse at a place with an actual creek!
Start on the ground first and just walk your horse up to the water and let him look at it, sniff it, paw at it, whatever he needs. Once he’s relaxed ask him to take a step forward. If he does step forward, stop and praise him. Continue this until he’s standing in the water. Let him stand in it for a few minutes then lead him out. Remember to praise him greatly with a clear release of pressure whenever he takes a step forward!
Practice this for as long as you need until the horse is comfortable being led through the water and standing in it. You can then translate all this to the saddle. Once your horse is comfortable crossing and standing in water at home under saddle, you’re ready to try it on a trail! Remember, your horse may get nervous crossing water in a new environment. This is nothing to be worried about. Take a deep breath and either work with your horse under saddle or work him through it on the ground a few times. Patience is key and will pay off in the long run!
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~ Saddle Up