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Q: How can I get my horse to overcome his fear of water?

A: Fear of water is a very common issue in horses. They can’t see how deep it is, and being prey animals by nature, they’re not inclined to get themselves into any situation that might threaten their survival. Once a horse has got into the water, however, he often enjoys the experience!

The first thing to keep in mind when teaching your horse to go through water is that you as the rider cannot lose your temper or attempt to use force to get him to go through. This will simply stress him further and weaken your chances of convincing him that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Keep calm, coax him confidently and praise him lots when he eventually goes through.

Try to find a shallow puddle to work with first. Avoid a running river or stream, as these are harder to negotiate. Ask a friend to come along on a horse who doesn’t mind water, and ask your friend to repeatedly ride their horse through the water in front of your horse, so that he can see that another fellow equine is quite alright through the water. Once he’s seen another horse go through a few times, ask your horse to follow behind the other horse. Don’t try to go straight through the middle of the puddle, but rather just around the edges, gradually spiralling in. Make a big fuss of him if he tries to offer a step forward into the water. If he repeatedly backs out, let him (remember: no forcing). Let him settle himself and then try again. You can also try leading him into the water from the ground if you don’t have another horse and rider to help you. Be sure, if you are going to attempt this, to have a long lead rein and some waterproof boots.

Ultimately, it’s a patience game that will only come right with a calm approach. If your horse is really scared of water, you can consult a professional trainer or equine behaviourist to assist you.

AskHQ: Hydrophobia

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