Auto waterer and slow on the uptake gelding?

So last winter we installed the Bar Bar A waterers in the front winter fields - love them and they work great. They do have to push the paddle to get the water to come up. My 4yo gelding was at the trainer for the winter, came home in spring and was on the back grass pastures all summer (which have the water tubs you fill).

2 -3 weeks ago I moved him to the winter field with the auto waterer. My old gelding figured out the auto waterer pretty quickly and prefers to drink from that source. My young guy cannot sort out how to drink from it!! I was bringing them in a few hours to chill in the afternoon when I realized he was tanking down in the barn (not like him). I then watched him closely and realized he was not going to the waterer outside.

So I’ve gone out there a few times a day, and helped him push the paddle down…he will happily drink when I fill the basin. But he can’t seem to sort out how to trigger the water himself (even after 2 weeks of trying to encourage him). I’ve put treats on top, but he doesn’t push down hard enough to trigger the water with those.

The odd part…this is the most inquisitive horse that always pushes and pulls on everything - I mean, don’t dare leave a blanket in reach because he is tossing it across the aisle! Always touching everything…except the auto waterer!!! He will just stand over it and look at you, like well, it’s empty.

I finally caved in and put a water trough in the field, as I had to travel and didn’t want to worry about him not drinking. But, I really want him to learn how to use the waterer for the winter when the trough freezes.

Any tips or tricks are appreciated!

Seems like a classic use for clicker training - “targeting” in particular. There are lots of good videos. Maybe a COTHer who is more clicker-savvy than I am can point to a particularly good instructional video.

Mustang Maddy is the one positive reinforcement trainer that I’ve studied. That would be one possibility.

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My incredibly handsome, smart, funny, curious, unchallenged leader of the geldings for two decades was the last one to use a Nelson when they were installed. He was pasture boarded. I spent time watching him and fooled around with filling the bowl. 2 weeks went by and the tub was moved out. He didn’t like the water moving around in a circle when it was filling. Floating some thin sliced apples worked. They were so tasty that he was able to overcome his deep-seated fear and snatch one.

They really get hooked on them. It was shut down for a bit when we couldn’t find the source of stray electrical current. They would gather around the Nelson, waiting. One of them would kick it a few times. if it still didn’t work they moved to the tub.

Could be a problem with putting his muzzle far enough into the water when he pushes on the float.

What if the treats were UNDER the paddle/in the basin rather than on it? Something like carrot sliced. He would have to nuzzle around to get them and may trigger the water? Or even spreading some maple syrup on the bottom of the basin?

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