My 5-year-old went on his first hunter pace yesterday and was a dream—rateable, smart, sure-footed, didn’t mind leading or following his friends, didn’t give two thoughts about deer running out of the woods, etc. I even took a (silly) tumble, and he trotted a lap around the field and then stopped immediately to graze, letting me lead him to a log to remount. All in all, I was super impressed with his brain and how much he enjoyed it, and the huntsman even admired him at the halfway point.
Based on that experience, I’d feel 100 percent comfortable taking him out in the third field—except for one thing: this horse is stubborn as all get out when it comes to crossing water. The first crossing was shallow and inviting, and he still said, “heck no!” After about 20 minutes of all strategies, I got off and led him through with my partner chasing him from behind with a stick. He ultimately walked through it calmly with the coaxing and paused to stand and sniff before coming out, but would not cross another even smaller crossing later on. He doesn’t get nasty and does have a lot of self-perseverance, but he is incredibly stubborn and does try to go backward and get away from the situation.
This horse cantered through every single puddle in our sloppy outdoor ring a week ago, loves baths and playing with the hose, doesn’t mind riding in the rain, etc., but crossing water is clearly very different from him in an unknown environment. I can hack out across the street from our farm, but I’m usually out with pony kids or more novice adults who might be unable to give me the reinforcement I had yesterday to get him across. Thoughts on how to replicate/reinforce this at home? (I’ve considered clicker, but this horse is NOT super food-motivated.)