Wow, thanks everyone! I'm starting my list of new ideas
This weekend I tried the blindfold thing AND the hot/humid weather. It worked okay...definitely not as great as I had expected. I was able to get his front two feet in the creek for about 3 seconds. He splashed around and flew backwards. There's definitely no tricking him into the water. He knew he was in/around it and did NOT like it!
I don't really have access to water that I can lunge around. The two creeks/large mud holes on the barn property are located at the bottom of an incline. Maybe that's making it worse?
I'm off to grab a tarp for this weekend! I also think I need to take a deep breath and build some patience...thanks for the motivation, yellow-horse!
One last thing...I live in North Texas, where rain is becoming scarce (thus, bodies of water are drying up). Or else I'd love to ride in the rain more.
I've only ever used the blindfold method on shallower water that looks like a horse-eating death trap, so splashing wasn't an issue. Maybe try that again if you can find something shallow, preferably with a sandier base? I've not ridden the filly through water since that ride due to lameness issues, but by the end of the ride she was walking calmly through shallower puddles. I'm in NW LA, so we didn't have anything very deep last year to try.
Simbalism taught me how to get my pony across a creek. Get your Wellies on and a pocket (or more) full of peppermints. Bring your patience. Walk, leading your horse in everytime he/she gets closer or puts a foot in, give a treat. I spent the day walking all over the property, walking in and out of the creeks. After that, make sure you go through water at every chance and make it fun. Now the pony has figure out he likes to swim!
A problem with the get-off-and-lead-him-thru method is that the horse may try to jump the water. I really prefer not to be within rein's length of a leaping horse. Too much chance of being struck or run over.
whatever course of action you choose, ensure you have plenty of time and stay calm, not rushed. For those with former jumpers, please be aware that some barns put electric current through liverpool jumps (water jumps) to discourage the horses from touching the water. My friend rode a former jumper, imported from Europe, who had this issue. He would back into a stream, then once in and realizing he was not getting zapped, would plod calmly onward.
One trick that I've seen work with event horses who don't like water obstacles is this: Prior to schooling the water "jump" or obstacle, you take a bucket of water and splash it all over their legs, especially the front legs. Then go school. There are certain horses that object to getting their feet wet! I know it sounds strange, but at least try it. I've actually seen this work amazingly well for sensitive TBs who - once their feet are already wet - Oh WELL, lets go in the water now, no problem!
As far as the longing idea goes, you don't actually have to longe. You can just back away from the offending water source, work *really hard* for a few minutes and try again. I've used just a section of trail to do collected trot or canter work or whatever then go back to the water crossing.
He is now crossing this stream! And only this stream. We haven't been able to conquer any other water sources on the property, like muddy puddles and boggy areas, but I'm going to take what I can get for now.
The solution: the blindfold method! It worked surprisingly well and very quickly. When I took it off in the middle of the stream he pranced around a little bit, relieved himself, and then played with it for a little bit.
I've ridden him through it twice now; while it's certainly not his favorite thing to do, he's learned that it won't kill him. I just hope this new skill will translate to a strange water source on a new trail when we do our first ride.
Congratulations on getting him to cross the water. Groundwork will help you gain your horse's trust and confidence around all sorts of scary objects, including streams other than this one. There are several good natural horsemanship videos, Clinton Anderson, Pat Parelli, etc. that walk you through the psychology and exercises to teach your horse to cross tarps, bridges, teeter-totter obstacles, uneven footing, etc. It's a little like learning a foreign language, but really fun, and in a way life-changing, because your relationship with your horse improves so dramatically.
Why should he walk through puddles in his paddock?
Arabs are notorious for being careful about where they put their feet - well mine are - they never walk through puddles in their paddock. They will go through water, but need time to investigate and make up their minds that it is safe, and if on the trail will always walk around the edge, or as near as they can. Streams they will jump, otherwise they need to be able to see the bottom, which in our river has a large stony bottom, so it needs careful foot placement on the 20 metre crossing.
And crossing the tarp didn't help get one footfall when it came to water crossings. Great for walking on other tarps though!