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Horses that refused water that you had to quit eventing

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  • #21
    Yes. Ditches, not water. Have tried everything. Fox hunting, Uber clinicians, natural horsemanship. Horse will now jump anything in the hunt field but can and does still stand straight up at a 12 inch ditch if he wants to. Lives in a field with ditches. Can jump them every day and still pulls the plug at a new one. Sometimes an old one. Talent for days. Very scary when he is melting down - big horse, rears, spins.
    i suspect that if I had unlimited time to trailer him somewhere new every week for 3 months etc etc we could work through it. But I don’t. So we are working on our bronze medal in dressage, and still jump and school on a regular basis, and do schooling shows. But not recognized.
    The big man -- my lost prince

    The little brother, now my main man

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    • #22
      I do think ditches are a bit different and harder to get a horse confident. I know a few horses who were difficult at ditches that got better but that was almost always with a pro who had time to take them schooling lots of different places for months. And a couple it turned out they had Lyme or another issue with their eyes. I do know more horses who had ditch issues who stopped eventing then water. And interesting most that had bank issues, we found had an underlying soundness issue (a few it was in their neck).
      ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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      • #23
        If you can get off and lead him and he has way fewer issues, I'd take that as one of two things:

        1) You being on the ground and "going first" so to say is giving him some degree of confidence.

        and/or

        2) You are riding him in a way that makes it exponentially worse as you approach and enter the water.

        I don't feel comfortable speculating what "it" is that you might be doing because you're a way more accomplished rider than I, but I've been surprised when taking very accomplished riders with me on trail rides how incorrectly they approach obstacles a horse is nervous about. Long reins and knowing when to take the pressure off and let the horse bake for a minute is key. Kicking/cropping/spurring are to be used very sparingly.

        Spanking/spurring him around is giving him two reasons to be nervous at the water. Your job is to build confidence, always.

        I think you need to take some pressure off this fellow, and try to undo the anxiety that he has, that has been contributed to by the "you will go now" thought processes. Slow down, get rid of the agenda and timeline, and make it fun for him again. Quit getting pissed at him. He's scared.

        Random but related musing - Maybe it's just because they aren't as vocal about it and it isn't as publicized, but you don't hear of many trail, ranch, or endurance horses flunking out because they won't cross ditches or go through water. Not positive why.

        Comment


        • #24
          Had a fancy PercheronX who would go through water, jump anything with confidence, but drop into water-No. I would school him places and he would finally go, but knowing how his record was, Training level was very sketchy. I finally decided he needed a new career, and foxhunting was it.

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          • #25
            Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
            I do think ditches are a bit different and harder to get a horse confident. I know a few horses who were difficult at ditches that got better but that was almost always with a pro who had time to take them schooling lots of different places for months. And a couple it turned out they had Lyme or another issue with their eyes. I do know more horses who had ditch issues who stopped eventing then water. And interesting most that had bank issues, we found had an underlying soundness issue (a few it was in their neck).
            My experience has been the same.

            Issues with water and banks down, usually tended to be very subtle soundness issues: neck, back, or foot. Don't discount low-grade sole soreness - it tends to manifest the most in drops down. I've heard and seen for myself a few horses with thin soles or brewing coffin bone issues or navicular have difficulty with drops down.

            One of my more honest TBs, who had always been good with water before, started to be funny about the change in footing. He had some low grade laminitis from very thin soles.. changed farriers, added pads, and that went away.

            One of my other TBs, who was bold but very sensitive, started to get intractable once he did a bank down. Especially into water. I left more than one XC clinic and private lesson positively discouraged because even though he was a good Training horse, he would not go into drop downs in water.. which meant he was not competitive at all at Training. I had two BNTs try to ride him in and he said no with them, too. He wouldn't even go in if ponied, lead, follow-the-leader, nothing. He called it quits the second he saw a drop into water. It was very discouraging. I looked into a lot of avenues with him, saddle fit, feet, soundness, etc.. but it took a very good lameness vet to discover that even though he had passed other vet exams, and his saddle fit on paper (and was refitted to him every six months), for whatever reason it didn't work for him especially XC. Had his back injected, changed the saddle to something that didn't quite work on paper, and had my game and brave horse back.

            Something to consider. I know how frustrating it is when you have a horse that seems to have all the pieces in place, but for whatever reason won't play. I hope you can figure it out.

            Water is one thing I do not rush with a horse. Not saying you did at all, just explaining my process. I think a lot of horses can lose confidence in water, since they have a hard time measuring the depth (and cannot tell how deep it is). The clarity of the water does not impact their depth perception. They can't tell how deep it is if it's clear or murky grey. A two foot deep puddle looks the same to them as a six inch puddle.

            I always spent the first XC season with my OTTBs only walking through water, no added elements. Walking in with friends, leading, lunging, ponying. They don't trot until I can bring them through any water, anywhere, without them balking. Then same for canter. It may seem unnecessary, maybe it is, but I think their confidence in water can be easily shaken from what I have seen. I'm very careful for that reason to not have any unpleasant water experiences if I can help it.
            AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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            • #26
              My lease horse is a flunked eventer due to ditches. Her owner took her to pros, schooled her over everything, even dug one in the back yard (which to this day she will scoot away from if you ride her too close to it). Like your guy, she could get coaxed over it one day, but it was back to square one the next day and at the next ditch.
              Her owner said she used to do the "training progressions" for ditches like 4 times a week, but she'd never gain confidence the next time they tried it.
              I don't think her owner ever sent her to a pro long term; and I don't think she tried clicker training, which I suspect might have been helpful because this mare is extremely food driven. That said, she really hates ditches to this day, and doesn't have to see them jumping.

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              • #27
                Not too useful for your eventers, but if my mare gets all the way into the river and just wants to hang out for a while, I let her. She's older, her front legs are pretty crooked and she has some arthritis, and is occasionally foot-sore, so it probably just feels good to stand in cold running water. Eventually I will ask her to keep going with a verbal command and a nudge with my heels as follow up if needed, and she'll do that.

                There are a couple of trakehner jumps at GH and she won't get within 20 feet of them. (I'm not trying to jump them -- it's not allowed and I wouldn't anyway. I just want her to see that There Are No Bears There, and she doesn't believe me!) Ditches are evil, trakehners are worse.
                You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

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                • #28
                  He may have a problem with how light reflects off water. It sparkles and many horses distrust it.

                  When my horse was young and hadn't been backed yet, I used to take him through the woods on the property and there was a small ditch. Every once in a while after a rain it would have a very small stream and the first few times he saw it he wasn't having any part of it.

                  He was very food motivated though, so once he figured out he wasn't getting his treat until he followed me, he did eventually go through. Although, the first time he took it like it was Beechers Brook.

                  Maybe you can try it on a cloudy day, and see if that helps.

                  I've seen horses that gallop merrily through mud puddles and ponds in their pasture but turn inside out if they have to walk through a puddle in the arena.
                  Certified Guacophobe

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                  • #29
                    Years ago I dreamed of Eventing as a little girl but put those dreams on hold because my first heart-horse did not want to play the game, specifically water. My little OTTB mare still loves clear, running water - plays in the hose &volunteers to be bathed in the paddock, plays in the freshly filled troughs, and has done hours upon hours of trail riding crossing running creeks of varying depths and widths with no issues over 15+ years. But standing water in the form of a water jump was always just a no go. We could school it with a lead and eventually get her in, but in competition she would stop the second she sensed we were even near water. Once, I couldn't even get her close enough to take a non-water option (log next to the water) at BN. It couldn't be counted as a refusal either due to how far away we were, so the jump judges had to just let me "time out" on the course and ask me to leave (I was 11). Took her to Young Rider camp and schooled everything with the help of BNR and other UL kids, who all loved her but it was clear to me that asking her to do this job stressed her out. So we didn't event. Instead, she gave me over 10 years of trail riding, 4H, and doing pretty much anything else I asked before I left for college and retired her. She's 26 this year and still goes around the mud puddles in her paddock in order to come up when I'm filling the trough to play in the water. *shrug*
                    I have Higher Standards... do you?

                    "For the love of my horse, I know who I am."

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                    • Original Poster

                      #30
                      Originally posted by MissCoco View Post
                      My lease horse is a flunked eventer due to ditches. Her owner took her to pros, schooled her over everything, even dug one in the back yard (which to this day she will scoot away from if you ride her too close to it). Like your guy, she could get coaxed over it one day, but it was back to square one the next day and at the next ditch.
                      Her owner said she used to do the "training progressions" for ditches like 4 times a week, but she'd never gain confidence the next time they tried it.
                      I don't think her owner ever sent her to a pro long term; and I don't think she tried clicker training, which I suspect might have been helpful because this mare is extremely food driven. That said, she really hates ditches to this day, and doesn't have to see them jumping.
                      This is where I'm at. He's so much fun on CC when he's having fun. He looks for the jump and it is a ton of fun. Except when it isn't . Which I guess is every blessed person here, huh? lol. But you are exactly right. You can get them thru it one day but it doesn't translate to the next.

                      One day recently, we went and schooled. I had mostly given up after an hour of ever getting him in the water when the person working the gate, who is an eventer, asked if I tried to back him in. I had never heard of that so we went back and tried. Backed right in. We walked , we trotted (he was wary) in and out in and out. Getting in was not straight forward but we worked on it for another 40 min. Still unsure but would go in the water but very wary of it. The next day was a schooling show. Brakes slammed on like he had never seen it. I kept trying until the next rider came thru and them going thru got him in and we got thru it. This of course was not the case when I tried to trail ride with another person. They went thru the water but he did not care if he was left behind, he wasn't going in.
                      "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

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                      • #31
                        Can you describe what you're doing to get him in the water, step by step?

                        I've never had an obstacle entry take that long, and I trail ride alone a lot, on lots of horses. Perhaps I'm just lucky though.

                        EDIT: FWIW, I don't ever ride with a crop or spurs really, but especially on trail rides. In a real real pinch I'll use the bight of the reins or snap a stick off a tree, but I can count on one hand how many times I've had to do that.

                        The only time I spank is on a horse who throws it in reverse and shuts their brain off. Even then, at some point you have to be the one with the bigger noggin, turn them around, walk them forward and tell them they're a good horse. Find a reason to back off the pressure.
                        Last edited by endlessclimb; Aug. 21, 2019, 02:45 PM.

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                        • #32
                          I never thought I would be this person but I find groundwork the root to solving everything. I now spend ages on groundwork and even start them xc on a rope halter and 12ft rope. I have had huge success with horses who are very nervous. The big thing is teaching them to think and getting them thinking correctly. It takes a while to teach processing skills but they do come.

                          So napping - is an example of where they simply are not processing because they are reacting. My wonderful 6yo had an issue with ditches so to get her over it we started the same way which was on a rope. With that she didn't resist and processed calmly. This built up into ridden work where she would nap then go until just recently she would go and not worry. She still isn't 100% at water so I am careful where I go to compete as it is drops in off steps that cause an issue and I want to carry on working it in my own time until she is really confident. It will come it just needs time and her first reaction is always NO when she is worried and to down tools. I think this is a long term 4* horse so I am making sure I get it right because she is not one you want to tip over the edge and on the whole she is brave and willing unless she is worried.

                          Her brother was the one that started me down this road. He was awful at ditches, banks and water. Water improved the quickest but banks and ditches took time. A friend who specialises in tricky horses said she had noticed that those with a slightly roman nose or smaller eyes set further back could be more difficult about loading and with other things because she felt their vision was slightly different. I noticed that he would have his head very high dealing with the problem fences so I spent a lot of time on the ground on a rope teaching him to drop his head and work out these problems by himself. This horse is now flying round training level with no issues 2 years later.

                          You can solve these issues but you probably need to learn a different skill set on the ground. It sounds like you are lucky enough to be close to a water jump. I would put your wellies on, take a rope halter and 12ft line (not lunge as find them too long), maybe a chair and some lunch and work on getting him soft through his body and getting the neck dropped so he is relaxed close to the jump and keep building it up so that he begins to process without saying NO from a mile away. Its not going to be a quick fix but with time you can do it. Warwick Schiller and Tristan Tucker are two people I spend a lot of time watching videos of as really love the way they do stuff.
                          The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

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                          • Original Poster

                            #33
                            Originally posted by endlessclimb View Post
                            Can you describe what you're doing to get him in the water, step by step?

                            .
                            So for 1 water complex that is down in the woods, he starts getting wiggly 2-3 jumps before you can even see the water. I firmly believe he has refused a BN jump that is 2 jumps before the water because he is having PTSD about the water he knows is coming. So about 75' before the water, his head is up, his ears are forward and he is on high alert. And squirming all over the place. Then it's pretty much refusing to go forward. This is a horse who does not fear the spurs or crop. When we spent an hour trying to get in the water, no one else was at the park so we took our time. I tried everything from, "It's alright buddy, mama's here" to pony club kicking. I tried for a solid 30 min just walking calmly by, walking the entire circumference of the water, 8' away of course. Then worked on walking on the berm of the edge, 3-4' away.......for 30 solid min. But when we would try either a direct entry or gently side passing into it, there was a point where he would say nope.

                            I was able to back him in and that's how I got him in. I backed him in and then turned him and he realized he was standing in the water. He was alert but it was ok. Lot of praise, "Whose mama's good boy!", lots of petting and verbal praise. We walked around in the water a solid 10 min. Walked out and he refused to get back in. Finally after 1 1/2 hours of work and a lot of backing in to get in the water, he was trotting circles, finally trotting in and out but you could tell it wasn't his favorite thing.

                            Schooling show the next day. HE HAD NEVER SEEN IT EVER! We only went thru when 1-2 horses passed us and he gingerly walked in.

                            This horse did BN a solid year. When is is in CC machine mode, It's a lot of "Whoa, dammit" because he is hunting for the jumps and loves it. But he can have the brain of a 3 year old green horse.

                            He is a 17 hand 9 year old Holsteiner......oh did I mention I have video of this horse going training as a 6 year old. He only went back down to BN when I bought him because he had not been really worked in 2 years and I had not done above BN. He was brought along slowly and we gently worked in the Novice jumps until he was doing well. He is not over faced. All I want is just trotting willingly into water.
                            "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

                            Comment


                            • #34
                              I’m not really this person, but... when you get to the point where he is standing in the water, can you feed him treats? A bunch of whatever his favorite treat may be. You can pair it with a marker signal like you’re clicker training, and reward every time he goes in. Some horses really need a tangible reward to overcome things. Praise might not cut it.

                              The most success I have seen with this kind of thing involves capitalizing on the horse’s herd mentality. In an ideal world, you have buddies (not just one, but 3-4) to ride with and good ride out with simple water crossings. Go out with buddies and get the horses in a line, fairly close (a horse length or two between horses, no more) with the water shy horse in the middle, so they are focused on following the horse ahead of them but also have a couple following. Get rolling, trot and canter around. Jump some simple jumps if there is stuff around. When the blood is going and they’re immersed in the fun, cross the water- staying as close as you can. If he stops, keep asking for the forward but don’t get aggressive. The horses behind you will pass him. Let the other horses continue on for a minute or so, and if he’s still stuck, have them loop around and cross again to “pick him up”. Very important for them to pass as close as possible to him without stopping, even if they come back to a jog or walk- he can join in the fun, or he gets left behind. Keep going with this until he crosses. Ideally this is something he could do daily for a while.

                              The biggest issue here as I see it, isn’t simply the water, but that the horse doesn’t feel that he needs to go where he is told. Getting nappy several fences out from the water is him lacking “forward” when you tell him “forward”. I really like the “horse chasing” for this kind of problem; it gets them forward thinking in a way that makes sense to a horse brain. Also important to have as many consecutive positive experiences as possible. If he goes out and crosses water with company 20
                              times in a row, then goes to an event where suddenly he has to do it alone and there’s stress, you might be right back at square one. If you can swing it financially, I would consider sending him for training with a skilled pro with lots of water to school. Set him up for success as much as possible. If that doesn’t work, you may have the answer you’re looking for.

                              Comment


                              • #35
                                When he even contemplates going forward, do you give him relief from the kicking and let him breathe for a second?

                                I'd stop the kicking/spurring/cropping unless he's in reverse and you can't get him stopped. The second he is stopped, and looking towards the water, let him breathe. Take all pressure off. Loose rein. I'd gently urge him forward, and don't escalate. Just be annoying, pester him. Any thought or movement of going forward would get him a good 15-20 seconds (count it out, it's a long time) of nothing - no pressure from anywhere, no nothing. Just sit there and pet him. Rinse and repeat.

                                Again, maybe I'm just lucky. But I've never ever had a horse flat out refuse an obstacle using methods as the above. I've also got a knack for getting difficult loaders in trailers using the same methods. Forward is the way to get me to stop being annoying. Backwards, if used as a "weapon", will be the only way discipline will get applied. I don't escalate it, if I can at all help it, and even when I do, the escalation is minor and stops the second the horse even shifts their weight in the correct direction. I'm just really annoying, and funnel the horse towards the answer, making it clear what it takes for me to stop being a pest to them.

                                I see a lot of mistakes in when to take the pressure off. The handler gets an inch and tries to take the mile before the horse is ready, and never gives a true release where the horse gets to think about it for a second. I think maybe the pressure of you wanting to compete at the level that requires him to go through water is a contributory factor here. Slow down, start over, let him find the answer.

                                Next question:

                                Will he cross a tarp? What about a stall mat in the arena? An old kitchen rug? A shower curtain? If he won't do those things, that's where I'd be training for now, to help him learn how to approach new scary stuff, with you keeping the pressure low and letting him find the answer via release.

                                Comment


                                • #36
                                  I saw a clinician get on a horse that wouldn't do a drop into water. He presented the horse to the face of the drop, then spread his hands out and held the horse there while it danced around, he didn't kick but he used his legs to not let the horse take more than one step backwards. It seemed like eternity then that horse quietly slipped down to the water. The spread hands allowed enough length of rein to not catch the horse's mouth and the horse slipped down vs launching. He came directly back and represented and the horse repeated it without any hesitation. Something to be gleaned from this …..
                                  The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton

                                  Comment


                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by pony grandma View Post
                                    I saw a clinician get on a horse that wouldn't do a drop into water. He presented the horse to the face of the drop, then spread his hands out and held the horse there while it danced around, he didn't kick but he used his legs to not let the horse take more than one step backwards. It seemed like eternity then that horse quietly slipped down to the water. The spread hands allowed enough length of rein to not catch the horse's mouth and the horse slipped down vs launching. He came directly back and represented and the horse repeated it without any hesitation. Something to be gleaned from this …..
                                    This is exactly the type of riding I'm thinking about, and that I execute.

                                    I really do think I've just been lucky though, because I'm full aware I'm not god's gift to horses. I just have a knack for getting a horse to go into/onto scary stuff.

                                    Backwards is the only no-no. I want "maybe" or "I'll think about it" or "wait I'm scared". Backing up, to me, is a horse saying "no."

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                                    • #38
                                      Can you start small- fill a liverpool or two with water and get him stepping over and through it? For a horse that had liverpool issues (jumper) years ago we just made him live with them. He had to cross one to get to his food, to get in and out of his field, etc. A day didn't go by that he didn't have to go across one somehow and he had to jump one (usually less than 18" high) every single ride. Worked like a charm. Maybe something similar would work for you but with stepping in the water? You could put two together to make it wide enough that he couldn't step over it, possibly, and introduce it on the ground.

                                      I read once about someone teaching a horse to swim to get them over a fear of water, maybe that's an option? Can't remember who it was though.

                                      I remember a COTH article about Beezie Madden using clicker training to get Judgement over his notorious fear of water.

                                      Another thought is to see if there is a cowboy or hunt rider or something in your area you could send him to where he could go out in a big group and have to cross water regularly within the safety of a big herd or group.

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                                      • #39
                                        When I had a water shy homebred, I fantasized about having a "permanent puddle" somewhere so I could put her feed bucket in the middle every day. We spent a lot of time walking through puddles after rain and little rivulets, gradually progressing to larger ones. The beach was great for this, and when with a group that was trotting through tide pools, a light bulb suddenly went off above my horse's brain and she realized that water really wasn't a big deal.

                                        Can you borrow a beach somewhere?
                                        They don't call me frugal for nothing.
                                        Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

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                                        • #40
                                          OP what you are describing really really really isn’t that uncommon. That sounds like a green horse. Someone has scared him by making a BIG deal getting into water so now he fights it and you are probably right...some PTSD. Especially WBs...they often remember better than elephants. He is NOT ready for novice, is probably not even ready for BN. He probably shouldn’t be eventing yet. Schooling...absolutely yes. But if you want to make him into an Eventer...and nothing you have posted makes me think this isn’t fixable....then you need to go back to basics. KNOW that he will think every water is new and scary....even if he has been in it before. (Same as jumping, they could have jumped something yesterday, you may still have to put it back down and build back up the next day. They don’t always come right out and pick up right where you left off). ACCEPT that is him and where he is at this point in time. You have to keep making positive experiences. Keep working on your schooling with everything else...his skills at the water are the only thing holding you guys back so just take the time to work it through. It is going to take you a bit longer since he has this distrust...but once he gets it....it will be like a light bulb going off.


                                          ETA: It is a skill in teaching green horses. And NOT all 4*+ riders/trainers have this skill...especially if a green horse is more difficult. Same with teaching ditches....or really teaching how to jump. UGH the number I’ve seen chase and beat. It never really works. You don’t beat a green horse for stopping.... That doesn’t teach anything. You beat yourself for asking too hard of a question too soon....and you break the question down smaller and easier to set the green horse up for success. It is learning how to put pressure on AND releasing that pressure when they give the slightest positive response (this is the hard part). A lot is taking your time, not letting them spin or back away...but also not putting so much pressure on them that they fight hard. It takes a feel and timing. And it is DIFFERENT with each horse. Good luck!......it absolutely is sooo much easier when they don’t think it is a big deal. But you can learn a ton about your timing and training on the ones that are harder. It makes you both better in the long run!
                                          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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