Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Question and Answer on going through the creek

I got another great question from jane augenstein regarding her horse struggling to go through a ankle deep creek.
Hey Jane, it sounds like you have been very devoted to working through this problem with your horse. That is why I hope my answer will maybe shed some new light and open your thoughts to another angle of looking at this problem. I read your question very carefully and thought about how your horse may be interpreting this situation.
When approaching a problem we have to find the root of what is really going on from the horses point of view before we can find the best way to help your horse.
We are predatory and our horses are prey. That sounds like horse 101 but how does that apply in this case. We view the ankle deep creek as something simple for them but horses do not have good depth perception and sometimes cannot judge if it is a black whole 50 ft deep or a simple creek that takes 3 strides to cross. If he were on his own he would probably choose to go around it.
All that being said is the creek your problem at all? In your question you stated several times that you were concerned if you would be able to stay on and ride out what ever came up.
Your horse may be interpreting your concerns as you not having confidence in him. He knows when ever you approach that creek together that your feeling in him changes and in yourself. Our natural response is to tighten and stop breathing when we are unsure. Your horse may be trying to get a way from that feeling of your confidence changing more than the creek.
I say that because you mentioned when you get off and walk him he is fine. When you get off you remove that pressure from him and yourself and you take leadership. He then has no problem following you through the creek.
You also mentioned when you up the pressure through aids he really over reacts. Again that is more pressure on pressure.
My advice is to try an new angle. I would pretend the creek is a non issue for awhile. Start by doing what you have done successfully the next few times. Get off and walk him through it. Show him you are a confident leader , even if it is on the ground.
After you do that a few time try riding him around the creek if there is room like that is exactly what you planned. Your goal right now is to stay relaxed and confident around the creek at all costs. He wants to please you so set it up for success.
Once you have accomplished that a few times in a row then try and get closer to the creek, just wait for him to stand quietly pointed at it , if he does that then just pass it by again as a reward. The next time get a little closer to it and see if he will just drop his head and sniff it. Then pass by. Then ask for a foot, and so on, yes this will take time but you are building confidence.
All of those behaviors he was having are defensive so we are taking away the fight and rewarding each try. If you follow this idea he will walk through the creek on his own. .
Set up the right answer and wait. So many times our horses Begin to try and give us something and we add to much pressure to quick and then they shut down or like your horse back up and get agitated.
You are not the looser if you give him ways to win, like getting off or going around. Your proving to him you care about his confidence and want him to feel good about what you are asking him to do.
Remember reward each step toward the creek by taking off the pressure. This could take 10 times or more but the results in trust and confidence in you and your horse will last a life time.
Please let me know how this goes or if you have any more questions. I cant wait to here.
christa Lynn


  1. Great advice, Christa! I think one of the hardest things about taking off the pressure is finding the exact moment to do it! It is truly a sense of feel and timing, at least to be effective and not everyone has it naturally. It takes a lot of practice! Buck Brannaman talked a lot about that in his clinic. I would love to hear more about your ride with him!

  2. Again...I don't have that issue and we crossed water 10 times yeaterday. Jesse thinks he should get to have a big o' drink at everyone. Mom picks the one he gets to drink at, I always rotate it so he doesn't get cheeky about it. But he did try to pull a fast one on my poor cousin who was riding him, every time we crossed water he would just stand there in the water saying, drink please! I had to yell for her to "kick him like it's her husband, not her boyfriend"!

  3. Hi sissy! What's going on! Love your post, I only wish I had a horse to try this out on!!!

    cathleen (Sissy)

  4. Hey, I emailed you last week on more about Gilly and his problems. Did you get it?

  5. I sent you an email to your yahoo account, did you get that one? I wrote more about other things that Gilly does than just the creek crossing issues, it was a really long email. I haven't gotten to ride him yet to see if what you have said above will help.....bad weather here.

  6. How nice to see someone who uses common sense and patience to "get it right" with their equine partners. I just found your blog through Jane, so I'm a new follower, I like your brain !