How to Train a Horse to Cross Water
Hey guys, my client recently reached out to me about how to train a horse to cross water. I am always the first one to get off the horse and start a lesson. I’d much rather start on the ground then when I’m up in the saddle. With that said, preparation is always key when working with a horse. We don’t want to just force the horse into water!
Building the horses’ confidence to cross water
So using preparation, the first step I’m wanting to do, is set him up with an understanding of crossing something that might be uncomfortable for him. I start my horses off with a tarp. I introduce the horse by sending him back and forth across it before we even go look at any water.
I started with a small tarp, where my horse can actually step over it. Again, this is confidence building. Making my horse do anything is about building his confidence.
So two things, I make the tarp small and I put it up against the wall or the rail. Now why do I do this? Well, I want to close as many doors as I can so he only sees one door, which is over the tarp. After I get him confident going over the tarp when it was small, I open the tarp up so he’s got to put more feet on it…so it looks different. He might not care a bit about it or he may be cautious because it looks different now, that’s a horse’s nature.
Build the trust
Once the horse has shown me that he believes me and he trusts me as his leader. He has a good look at that tarp, meaning, I let him look and I just put as much pressure as I needed to on him to ask him to cross it. Teaching him is not about forcing him across it, it is about building trust in him and letting him see he is not going to get hurt. I send him back and forth over the tarp several times.
Once you have established trust with your horse and his confidence is built, you can introduce crossing water. I use a small puddle out in the pasture. Again, starting small to build trust and confidence. Remember we started with the tarp, to build his confidence and teaching him what I wanted him to do. Now I am going to add the water which is the problem for him.
First thing, I want to do is introduce horse to cross the water puddle. Keep him between me and what he doesn’t like. I just send him back and forth, just like the tarp. My horse should be confident with what I am asking him to do. He may put his head down or decide whether he wants to eat grass or smell the turf and see what it is.
You know, horses naturally have poor depth perception. My horse doesn’t know if this puddle is an inch deep or is 10 feet deep. So by letting him explore the puddle and the area around it again builds some confidence with him.
I truly believe that starting a horse and preparing him with the tarp and teaching him how to send back and forth, is what builds that confident brave horse.
Final steps; don’t over do it!
The final step is not to over do it. Once you have your horse crossing a puddle you need to quit for the day. And that’s another hard thing to do… right?
My horse and I have great progress, I do not need to go saddle him up and ride him by crossing through the water. Nope, I’m not going to be greedy. I’m not going be a predator. I’m going to say good job! Well done buddy! Let’s go have some hay! And tomorrow we’ll try riding through it.
Until then~ Ride Safe,
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