|Minnesota, 13 year old TWH with Professional
Training ridden in walking horse bit and western saddle in round pen, outdoor
arena and 10 miles of trail by intermediate level rider.
Question: Blaze is a polite and kind-hearted horse, willing to go on
trail for long rides. He's fun to ride and light with touch commands.
The problem is refusing to cross a
From Panelist Laura
You're right, this can become very unsafe. Here are two suggestions for you to try:
1. Take your horse back to basics on the backing. By this, I mean teach him that everytime you ask him to back, you will immediately ask him to go forward. What you want to do is to associate backing with always going forward in his mind. Lead him out to your arena or work area, mount there and quietly ask for a couple of steps back. Praise him and ask him to move forward. Stop. Praise & pet him. Repeat this several times. Never back up without asking him to go forward.
2. Don't engage in a fight with him while you are on his back - you won't win this one. Long before you get to the stream or barn door, dismount and lead him forward. Since you already know where he will go into fast reverse, think ahead of him and be in a safer position to teach him to move forward. You won't "lose" by working your horse from the ground. Ground driving your horse past the "rough" spots can also be very effective. Good Luck & be careful.
From Panelist Steve
Common problem. The easiest solution is to ride with a bunch of friends and use the pressure of being left behind help him to make the right calculation and cross after them. Then reward/praise him and repeat it over and over. Five times in a row wouldn't be too much. If he won't cross to stay with his buddies then beating the horse won't offer any greater pressure, trust me.
Some "don'ts": just tap with a crop, don't beat the horse...just increases the adrenaline and makes everything worse. Don't get off...that is a reward which sends the wrong message.
This horse probably spent most of his life in a stall. Water scares him. Its a phobia. We deal with phobias either through avoidance or exposure...chronic exposure, preferably "immersion". As an example of the latter (I don't recommend this necessarily) the Amish teach their horses to be road safe by tying them next to a highway. It works.
From Panelist Erica
Try getting off his back and building confidence from the ground. Many of the horses I've worked with are afraid to cross water when being ridden for the first times, but when led across and shown it won't hurt them they get more confidence and trust that it is okay. Horses have no depth perception so that small little creek probably looks like the edge of a cliff to him.
Be sure to have plenty of patience with him though - the slower you go in advancing towards the water the quicker he will get it. Good luck!
From Panelist Lee
Seems to have a little glitch in his "forward gear" doesn't he?
For the creek situation, where he might actually be afraid of the water,
the solution is to first lead him through it -- a LOT! Get some rubber
boots, a couple of pockets full of apple slices, put him in a strong halter
(don't do this in a bridle at first) but carry your bridle with you.
Go to the creek. Stand in the creek. Let him see you splashing in the creek.
( a hot day is a good choice for this). Offer him an apple, keeping
his lead line slack, so that he has to stretch his neck over the water.
Back up, a bit at a time, until he has to really stretch out to get that
apple. Keep the line slack most of the time-- but pull and slack
it to ask him to walk forward a step or two from time to time.
Be ready to stand there all day if you must, but
Don't make a big deal of it, just keep on asking, pull/slack,
pull/slack until he tries again. This time the instant the hoof hits the
water, give him an apple slice. Eventually (it may take a long time)
he will put both front hooves in the water, decide it is no big deal, and
stand there. Praise him lavishly -- give him more apples, then start again
to ask him to
Now, for the barn leaving problem --- this is entirely different --
he is not afraid of leaving the barn, he is barn sour! Two things will
help with this -- making life away from the barn a little more attractive,
and making stopping and backing while leaving and life under saddle at
the barn less attractive. Don't feed him grain at the barn the day
before you try this.
Good luck with your horse!
From Panelist Liz
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