Especially in autumn you’ll find plenty of puddles outside, not only on the trail but also in the outdoor arena. It can be quite a hassle if your horse is afraid of water. We’ll give you some tips on how to train this.
Step 1 Strip of tarp
Because horses see things differently than us humans, it is more difficult for them to estimate depth properly. You can read more about this in this article. You can imagine that a puddle of water is quite a challenge. They don’t really know how deep it is or if they are in any danger crossing it.
To make it a little easier for the horse, and safer for us, we don’t start with water right away. We first want to teach the horse to cross a different surface. We do this by using a plastic tarp. Start your training with a large tarp and a smaller one, which you fold into a narrow strip. Then lay it out like this in the arena:
For safety, it is best to work with two people in the beginning. Person A walks the horse towards the strip, about 2 meters before the strip person B holds the horse. Person A walks with the line to the other side and stands on the corner of the big tarp. This way there is the least chance that the horse will jump on top of you in a spook reaction. Then person B releases the horse and person A calmly asks the horse to cross the strip.
If this goes well you can make the strip wider step by step and finally ask the horse to cross the big tarp. Approach this from the side of the strip the first time so the transition is not so big for the horse. Would you like to know more about this exercise? Take a look at the exercise ‘crossing different surfaces’ in the obstacle training e-course
Step 2 Water tray
Is your horse crossing the tarp without any problems? Great, then it’s time for the next step! We are now going to replace the strip of tarp with a water tray. There are water trays used under jumping fences that are perfect for this exercise. Don’t have access to a water tray? Then lay the tarp over 4 bars so that the edges are slightly raised and then fill it with water. Don’t make it a big square, but make a narrow strip. You could also dig a small ditch in your arena and place the tarp in that.
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