Horses are naturally claustrophobic; they hate anything that traps them or limits their ability to run away. This is precisely why crossing water often presents a problem. Horses are unable to move quickly in water and their ability to run – one of their main self-preservation instincts – is severely hampered in water just as it is for humans. Ever try running through water that’s over your ankles?
There’s something else that inspires fear in horses crossing water of any kind – a river, a stream, a pond or whatever. If you’ve ever watched any of those nature programs where alligators or hippos hide beneath the surface lying in wait for zebras, antelope or other prey animals to cross, you’ll understand your horse’s reluctance. This fear is genetically programmed into every horse’s instinctive nature. It warns them: Danger! Stay out of the water! So how do you help a horse overcome his natural fear of water and allow a comfortable and seamless water crossing?
The Natural Horsemanship Approach
The Parelli method of natural horse training teaches you how to help your horse become more confident when he is with you because of his trust in you. Perhaps we sound like a broken record, saying this over and over, but when your horses trust your leadership, they will do what you ask, without fear. This includes horses crossing water.
However, – and this is a big “but” – you must understand that the more you force a horse to do the things he’s afraid of, the less he will trust you. Therefore, the trust-based relationship must be developed before you ask him to do scary things. One of the best ways to learn how to develop trust with your horse is to study the Parelli Natural Horse Training DVD called Seven Games: The Secret of Teaching Horses. It’s all about preparation, simulation, approach and retreat – and it works wonders with horses crossing water and any other horse problem you’re looking to solve.
To delve deeper into the nature and psychology of horses, we recommend studying the Parelli Natural Horsemanship approach to horse personality – which we call Horsenality™ – to learn how best to approach your individual horse by knowing what makes him tick.
If you’re interested in even more “horse savvy,” we invite you to enroll for a Parelli Membership, and enjoy all the benefits membership has to offer.
Visit Parelli Connect for more educational articles and videos designed to inspire, empower and educate horse owners of all levels.
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Problems in the Saddle