Some horses can be so fearful of water, they may even refuse to cross a small puddle. And no amount of encouragement or coaxing by you will change a horse’s mind.
A horse’s fear of water is a common problem and there is a reason for this fear. The placement of a horse’s eyes on the sides of his head give him the ability to see a broader area of his surroundings. At the same time they inhibit his ability to see details and he has little or no depth perception.
To your horse, that puddle can look like jumping off a cliff.
In order to overcome your horse’s fear of water you must instill in him complete trust of you. This trust is built over a period of time. NEVER, NEVER use any sort of physical force or show anger to solve the problem. This will only increase your horse’s fear. He will learn to associate this fear with you which will make any training extremely difficult.
Horses are herd animals and they learn to follow the directions of their leaders. You have become the leader and you can lead by example.
If you are out riding with a friend who’s horse is unafraid and will walk through the puddle, your horse may follow.
But if you’re on your own and don’t mind getting wet and muddy, you might try to step through the puddle yourself, demonstrating to your horse that it is safe.
You can also set up the conditions in an area where your horse feels comfortable and secure. Create a puddle with a hose and try coaxing your horse through it. You can use treats like carrots to encourage him. Even if your horse jumps across it, praise him as he’s trying to confront his fear and please you. You can gradually increase the size of the puddle a bit once your horse steps through it, if this is possible. Better yet, try riding your horse through places where you might encounter puddles. You can eventually bring your horse to running water, like a small brook or a lake and using the same patient, gentle techniques, overcome his fear.
Don’t expect success overnight. This reconditioning can take time. Above all, be patient and kind. You’ll be rewarded with a horse that will trust you and follow wherever you lead.
Don’t be afraid to let your horse go into deep water. Horses can swim very well, and once they do it they’ll love to go into deep water to keep cool on hot summer days.