Water problems

“I own a 10-year-old former racehorse, who excels at cross country,” explains Alex Ayling of Lancing, Sussex. “However, we are having problems with water. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a water jump or a ditch with water in it, we can’t get anywhere near it!”

“I have tried taking a lead from another horse and just trying to walk in, but to no avail. I have taken him to the beach and going in the sea is not a problem and I can lead him through puddles, although I can’t ride him through. My ultimate aim is to event, but unless I can solve this problem it will be impossible.

“I am at a complete loss as to what to try now. Any advice would be very much appreciated.”

Ginny says . . .

You’re absolutely right to use a lead horse and I wouldn’t give up on that idea just yet.

Try to find a XC schooling course with a water option which is only three to six inches deep. Alternatively a wide shallow puddle or ford might be suitable, but make sure the water is safe to enter first or you risk giving him a bad experience that would knock his confidence further.

Rather than trying to follow the lead horse, let him watch the other horse go into and through the water, without being asked to go through himself. Give him time to relax and take in the fact that the water is OK.

Once you feel he is relaxed enough to attempt the water himself you must calmly and patiently persist with the question until he responds correctly. It can sometimes take all day and you must be prepared to spend that much time if necessary.

If he tries to turn away from the water, don’t allow him to circle — if he turns to the left, bring him back to right. Sit there calmly asking him to forward until he realises that there is really no option but to walk through the water.

Once in the water, praise him and then repeat the exercise until he is walking in without resisting. Don’t try to trot into the water until he is happy in walk.

And remember, if you go XC schooling in the winter always go early so you are not pressurised by the failing daylight.

Best wishes and good luck,

Ginny

Don’t miss Ginny’s top tips to help combat other problems sent in by HHO users, which will be published on the site during the next few weeks.

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