Scary monsters in water

We went on a trail ride today, and 95% of it was absolutely wonderful! We followed a steady older Warmblood gentleman, and the girl was completely manageable, if looky.

Except for the creek.

Ooooh, good lord, the creek.

We approached the water. Girly’s head shot up. She snorted. She backed up very fast. She skittered from side to side, making noises and looking desperately for a way to not go through that horrible running water. We tried walking her friend back over for her to follow, we tried to pony her through it, she wouldn’t move. I eventually got off and we had a very long, very wet discussion about going in the water and the fact that she will not die if she does so. Eventually (I’m talking 10-15 minutes here), we got across the five-foot-wide creek, with much snorting and many dramatics.

We got through a puddle later with only mild hysterics, but I’m really concerned about how incredibly scared she was about going through the water. She was actually shaking, and I felt awful about forcing the issue but I didn’t want to reinforce her impression that water was bad by turning around. Does anyone have suggestions for helping a horse get over a fear like this?

You do know that the sky reflects in water and at first sight puddles and creeks can appear to be a tear in the fabric of reality that opens into an alternate dimension…

10-15 minutes for a baby who may have been asked the question for the first time in her life? That doesn’t sound so unreasonable.

The key is more and more and more exposure. Guess what, she now gets to walk through every. single. puddle. If the creek is close enough, she gets to go look at every. single. day. And preferably put one or two feet in, and stand quietly. The next couple days, you can aim for all four feet. Then standing in the middle for a bit. And then crossing. It’s a process. Lots of praise! Definitely find a buddy to go with you so that she’s not ALONE! and SCARED! and WET! :lol: Let her be just a few of those things, not all.

If you can get her out to a cross country water jump, that’s quite nice for both them and you as you know the footing is perfect and safe, without any slippery rocks or weird sucky mud spots. And you can run through it, which most horses tend to find quite fun after a while.

Encourage her to play in it as well. My mule was all “Meh…water.” until he found out he could splash around in it. Like so: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAQLkI3EpMk

Oh my god. My coworkers are staring at me.

I was lucky to have a small creek right behind the barn where I was boarding at the time. I wanted to train my horse to go thru water. So I donned rubber boots, lots of treats stuffed in my pockets, and a really long lead rope on my mare. We would walk down towards the creek, stop, and graze a little along the way. We got near the creek, she was rewarded for forward movement towards the creek. If she started to get freaked out, I let her stand and check things out. Step forward, a treat, stop, stand and get patted. Within a short time we were at the edge of the creek. Got to sniff it, and shortly by continuing as above had a foot then two in the creek. Lots of reward. Within just a few sessions over the course of a few days, she was crossing with minimal fuss. Occasionally on trail rides if something looked really funky about water, I would get off and lead her across. It took a few months of this, but she became the best water crossing horse. She never leaps, just carefully steps thru what ever she is asked to go thru.

My OTTB mare was like that too at first. Total drama queen and wouldn’t step foot in water (she also wouldn’t roll outside, only in fresh shavings. She had 4 socks and liked them to stay clean, TYVM!).

I did what GoForAGallop suggested. Every single time I rode and I could find a wet spot, she got to walk through it. At first I had to get off and lead. Eventually I could stay on and slowly work her in. I also let her stand in the puddle and sniff, and eventually she started wanting to go in because she decided she liked to take a little drink from the puddle. :slight_smile:

After repetition, she ended up being just fine with water. We could trot through puddles, and it was a very useful skill to have when showing after a rain storm and she would just canter through, and jump out of and into, puddles in the ring. Actually, that’s one other thing that helped a lot - we went off property to school after a heavy rain storm, to a facility whose footing we knew would get very puddly but not slippery at all. There was no choice but to go through water to get around. The entire one side of the ring was underwater, plus huge puddles in front of and behind the jumps. She was great (we’d already been working on puddles before that) and never had an issue with her again.

I had a little QH who acted like puddles were going to eat him. The next time it rained I donned a raincoat, put a wintec saddle and plastic bridle on him and rode out to the State Forest. By the time we got to the puddles they weren’t much of a question.

Of course there’s monsters in water!

(15 minutes is nothing to spend teaching a horse to get comfortable going through water.)

I’ve never had a horse that I couldn’t eventually get into the water. Then I moved to the desert and got an Oldenburg mare born here in the desert. It rains here about 4 days a year and the water immediately pools. I thought “Great! Here’s my opportunity to introduce her to water”. She danced, she hopped, she snorted. I waited. Patiently. And then a bit more assertively. Finally, she LEAPED over the puddle (about 4 feet wide) and then over the next three tumbleweeds in succession. I’m thinking, she may make a great cross country prospect.

On his first trail ride, my horse threw an ever-loving fit over a trickle of water 6" across and maybe 2" deep. Inches, not feet.

He had to be ponied across it.

I wish I was kidding.

As others have said, after that, his life consisted of crossing every puddle there was, any time there was a puddle, even if we detoured across half the field to find one. Under saddle, on foot, whatever. Water in the vicinity? His feet went in it. (I admit my trainer did the hard work, then I got on after he stopped balking with her… I wasn’t firm enough in the “forward” department to do it on my own.)

He may still peek and take a minute or so to check out puddles in new locations, but at least he’s not having a meltdown about a 6" trickle…

What everyone else said. LOTS of exposure, lots of hooves in the water, be patient and learn how to push her just past her comfort zone, and it should expand. This doesn’t mean she’ll come to love water, but at least she’ll calm down about it.

Water in shaded areas that isn’t reflecting the sky, or water where your horse can clearly see the bottom, will be easier, to start with.

(My mare doesn’t being ridden through water. When she was eventing, with a brave rider she would pop into the water obstacles … and poop in them. She’s gotta share her opinion. She is not consistently good about water, but when I feel like she’s backsliding, we go out and walk through every puddle we can find until she Gets Over Her D**n Self. With ponds, getting her in can be a real chore, but once she’s in she splashes and plays and really enjoys herself.)

That said, dear Trump, who was loaned to me for a while, had vision issues which resulted in a genuine fear of water. This limited his abilities as an eventer but made a nice practice ride for me. And yes, he would occasionally get very silly about a two inch wide trickle of water.

One of the mares I ride used to have a deep abiding fear of puddles, especially when the sun was shining.

On the hypothesis that the glare off the water was flooding her mind I put a fleece noseband on her bridle. We rode that way for several months, and when the glare from the water was not frying her mind I was able to coax her through the puddles.

I took off the fleece noseband several years ago. We still have some discussions about going through puddles, but she will now go through them, like this morning when the ring was sopping wet, with many puddles.

On my first horse, his eye sight changed and water became an issue. One time, on the way home, I finally had to get off and lead him through the little creek.

I’ve taught both of my mares to go into water happily - one with so much success that she wanted to stop and play in the middle of a cross country course :slight_smile:

Luckily I have a small waterhole behind my barn, and the first thing I do is lunge them through it, so that they have to go through the puddle for part of the circle. I’ll wear boots and walk into the water with them, and do a lot of that and lunging before I even get on them and ask them to go in the water. Both handled it beautifully and have no problems with water anymore. We are talking mares that HATED water; one so much so that she would try and run in the other direction. My younger horse is still not quite as gung-ho as the pony about water, but she’ll go in without complaint and even play once and awhile. Pony on the other hand, once dragged me up a hill and into a water complex during a cross country schooling when she felt like she was too hot. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. The looks on peoples’ faces were priceless.

One horse had to be backed up across a small stream. He wouldn’t go forward, so he went backwards! This horse ended up being ok going into the ocean waves from the beach.

Exciting update!

We went on a trail ride today with her buddy Blues (who was walking with mom-on-the-ground because Blues does not get ridden). Not only did the girl and I lead the way, we splashed right into several large puddles with minimal drama! And jumped over some big sticks in the path and cantered around a big field for good measure :3 We didn’t get to the creek because the bugs were getting unpleasant and Blues’s mom didn’t want to walk that far, but I consider this excellent progress!

I have the best horse.

I had one once who I thought was afraid of water. But, as it turned out, he was actually afraid of the water/land interface. Which meant, when I took him to the lake to work on his resistance to go through water, when I had success in getting him to move forward, and he jumped the water/land interface, he landed in the lake at the dead run, spooking away from the land. When his feet left the ground, and he was swimming (for the first time lifetime), his progress away from the land slowed. He (of course) would not turn, and we were headed across the lake. We were not going to make it across the lake, it was a long way, there were weeds, and another land/water interface on the other side. was prepared and thinking about abandoning ship at that point, as I was not going to go down with the ship, but gave it a try to get him turned. So, the drag of myself, hanging on to his mane and floating along above him ended up turning him on his side, thrashing his legs on the water’s surface, me hanging off the other side. When he righted himself from this, we were swimming parallel to the shore. So we did that again, and pulled him the rest of the way around, and heading back to shore. When we got to shore, he was again reluctant to cross the interface, to get back to dry land. Eventually, got that done. THEN had to ride home, several miles, soaking wet. Did I mention that this was EARLY springtime? A new experience in cold and wet and miserable. I sold this horse soon after, there were other issues too that were not suitable for much that I like to do. He was not a nice horse, and continued to be a similar disappointment for several owners after me.

So the next time you think that it is the WATER that the horse is concerned about, take a moment to think of this story, and consider WHERE you choose to tackle the issue of stepping into water.

My mare’s a desert-raised gal, and doesn’t know much about water. During rainy times, I’ve been able to convince her to follow me into the puddle, but if she has to be the first - NO MA’M, NO WAY…

She might have been a beautiful jumper were it not for her “arthroscopic anomalies” as the vet put it. I’ve seen her jump a big puddle with beautiful form. We were in the round pen and there had been a rain - huge puddle and she took one leap and cleared it nicely.

But as for walking in it calmly, I have to lead her in. When she sees that I’m not falling through to the center of the earth, she’ll walk in with me. I ruined some boots this way.

Could I put a kiddie pool in the area and try to get her to walk through it? We just don’t have much water here, but I’d like to get her over some of this…

or…

Would the kiddie pool itself be too much? (snorty, bulgy eyeballs, new dance steps…etc.)

More update!

Second time through the creek (with no buddy, even!) resulted in a 5-minute discussion as opposed to a 20-minute argument that involved me walking through on foot.

Third time through the creek resulted in only a snort and a moment of hesitation before soldiering right on through. We then went through a GIANT puddle (maybe 50’ across) and she hopped around playing in it. I was damp but elated. My horse is wonderful.