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Water Crossings Simplified

By Kelli Paulson, Mid States Ranch Horses, LLC
Do you have a horse who is green or who struggles with water crossings?

Lets work through the issue by preparing for success. Yes, this means doing your homework before you get to the water crossing. Your preparations will involve a physical and mental factor.

The Physical
First, your horse should be directable. This means that you can maneuver your horse wherever he needs to be including backing, pivoting and sidepassing.
Second, your horse needs to stay between your legs. The horse should not push on your leg but rather respect your leg and move away from it. If the horse pushes on you do what it takes until they move away from pressure.
Third, your horse needs to willingly go forward with intent when asked.

The Mental
The first concept: It is easiest for horses to go forward. Backing up and lateral movements are more work. Horses prefer the easiest path. The phrase “make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult” comes into play.
The second concept: Reward the try.

When you have prepared mentally and physically you are ready to apply your skills.

Make sure the water crossing is safe so your horse has a good experience. No deep mud, big holes, sharp rocks or excessive slickness. You and your horse need to build a trust relationship while allowing your horse to gain more confidence. Allow enough time to work through it with a balance of patience and firmness.

Now you have water before you. Keep the horse headed towards the water. Avoid circling. Circling often gives them a release at the wrong time. Make the right thing (going forward through the water) easy and the wrong thing (not going through the water) difficult.

When things are “easy” the rider is soft, quiet and relaxed. When things are “difficult” you are active, firm, busy, pushy and a real annoyance to your horse. Make him work when he is not trying the right thing. If the horse makes the slightest try to go forward instantly become “easy”. Keep him between your legs and keep encouraging him to try.

If your timing and feel is correct his trys will get larger until you have success (which you properly prepared for).

Kelli Paulson offers colt starting, problem solving, tune-ups, lessons, camps and clinics (horsemanship, despooking and trail obstacles) near Tekamah, NE. For more information or questions visit: Kelli 402-427-5515