Does your horse baulk at the sight of a muddy puddle? It’s a reaction that isn’t particularly helpful, especially with the wet British weather. We’ve collected some top tips together for you to try.
1. Understand why he’s scared
While it might seem silly to us, horses are afraid of puddles because they can’t see the bottom. You could be asking them to jump into something 6ft deep for all they know! It’s all about learning to trust you as the rider.
Try to avoid going around puddles and mud, instead encourage your horse to go through them. He doesn’t have to go right through the middle, even if he gets one hoof wet it’s a victory. Try going back and forth through the same patch, or asking him to halt while in it. Make sure to encourage him with your voice and lots of patting, teach him that there isn’t anything to be afraid of.
3. Take it slow
Take puddles at a walk, on a long rein so your horse can look down at the puddle (but with your leg on ready to kick if he stops and maintaining a contact so you can prevent him turning away). Let him take his time, go in and out very slowly, lots of times, to build confidence. Trotting and cantering is hard for horses in water and more likely to unbalance them.
4. Safety in numbers
Use allies to your advantage; ask for help leading him through puddles, perhaps following another horse, or even someone on the ground. You could also try leading him yourself, and make a point of leading him through mud in the field when you catch him (just make sure you’ve got your wellies on!).
If you begin to pre-empt an argument you may tense up without even realising it, but your horse will, and even if he wasn’t worried he may wonder what you’re panicking about and decide to join in. Take a moment to breathe, stretch your shoulders and try to release tension in your body.
6. If all else fails, go around
Of course, this isn’t always an option, but sometimes it’s worth losing one battle if you’re working towards winning the war. Try to only do this after a few attempts at getting him through the mud, that way at least you tried. Next time, come back with a confident leader to give your horse more confidence.
7. Patience is key
If you become impatient, perhaps even losing your temper, your horse’s focus will become fighting you, rather than the puddle. In this case, you’ve instantly lost. If you’re not in the right mood, had a bad day or feel yourself prone to becoming frustrated quickly, save tackling the issue for another day.
There probably won’t be a miracle cure, it’s a habit a lot of horses get themselves into. Work towards cracking it sooner rather than later, though. That way you can get back to enjoying your rides out, no matter the condition of the ground.
8. Make it fun
Reward him with plenty of patting and maybe a treat or two when he does a good job.