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I have a 6 year old Arabian guilding that will not cross water. It doesn't matter if it is a little pool after a rain or a small creek. Do you have any suggestions on how to train him to go through the water?


- M. M.


Welcome to the club! I think most, if not all, horses have a fear of crossing water. To help you understand why, let me put you in the horse's place:

Let's suppose I took you to the top of a couple of tall buildings. Now between those buildings I've stretched a big piece of absolutely unbreakable, but invisible, clear plastic. Next, I ask you to step onto that plastic and walk from one building to the other. Do you think you might be a bit nervous? Depending on how much you trusted me, you might put up quite an argument before I finally coaxed you into putting a foot on the plastic.

That's pretty much the situation your horse is in. Depending on how much reflection is on the surface of the water, the horse has almost no way of knowing that the pool of water isn't thousands of feet deep. Remember, a horse can't see things as clearly as we humans do.

How to solve the problem? Exactly the same way I would build your confidence to where you would trot back and forth between the two buildings without giving it a second's thought. I'd build your trust in me -- teach you that I'd never knowingly put you in danger. I'd probably lead the way a few times. And I'd let you test it yourself until you were satisfied that it was okay.

Now, I suppose I could get you across a lot quicker by just pulling out my bull whip and whipping you with it until even falling to your death seemed better than being whipped. It might get you across the plastic, but it sure wouldn't make you want to be my best friend!

So take it slow, using a lot of patient understanding.

If you haven't already done so, you'll want to read about a very similar experience I had with Willy in Q&A #9 - Can you help me not be afraid of my horse?

To help you understand how your horse sees things, go to: Q&A #39 - Keeping a horse from spooking.

Stick with it, and before long your horse will go through water without giving it a second thought!

Happy Riding!

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