The squirting water box was a real deal breaker a lady from Florida recently told me while are a trail challenge. Not only did most of the horses refuse to step into the box but they left upon the first step. It made me laugh for I knew exactly what she meant and had seen. For you see my own horse Checkers left when he witnessed the water coming up. So how do we teach the horse to master this obstacle?
Here are the steps that have worked well for us.
First, wrap your horse’s legs to prevent injuries. Before starting the training, you must have the horse’s respect. If you don’t, the horse will try to push into your personal space, (or your “Bolender Bubble.”) If this happens, you must correct the behavior before proceeding.
Once you’ve determined your space is respected, drive the horse from the ground to water box and have it inspect the obstacle. Do not force the horse, but give it all the time it needs to inspect, smell, chew or even paw the box if it desires. Being curious creatures, most horses will place one foot in the water box and then take it out as soon as the water squirts up, then repeat the process. You should apply gentle pressure to the horse until it moves forward and puts its foot back in the water box. Immediately stop all movement to take the pressure off, and let the horse “think it through.” This method will appear slow at first, but will pay dividends in the end because it builds more boldness and confidence than the method of pushing the horse and forcing it to comply with your request. The only force that you will use is to convince the horse that you are serious about it facing and the water box and thinking its way through. It will have no pressure but only encouragement while it attempts to think and try.
As the horse steps into the box with a foot, make sure your lead rope is loose. This is crucial because if the horse doesn’t stand in the water box on a loose lead rope then, in its mind, the effort never happened. So you must resist hanging onto the lead rope. Depending on the horse, placing both feet in the water box and then removing them is normal, and this may go on a number of times. But once the horse has both feet in the water box and appears quiet, it’s time to apply pressure and ask it to step into with its hind feet. Once again, when the horse steps into with all four feet, stop all pressure. Allow it to stand on a loose lead rope before moving on. At this point you will be facing the horse.
Remember that in the horse’s mind, the less you move your feet, the more authority you have. Stay quiet, calm, and show no emotions. The horse will reward you by taking several baby steps. It may take a day of two before the horse walks completely relaxed through the water box in a relaxed manner while “hunting the trail.” When the horse has mastered the water box from the ground, then you can move to riding the horse. If the horse is still rushing through the box and or jumping then do not ride until the horse is relaxed and navigating it in the proper manner.
When the rider is mounted up ask the horse to approach the water box. You must allow enough rein so the horse can drop its head and inspect the water box yet one needs to maintain soft reassuring supporting contact with the horse’s mouth. DO NOT be surprised if the horse does not walk right through the water box. Most will draw back at first when the water squirts up and your job is not to show any emotion but present the water box again and maintain a soft reassuring leg contact and allow the horse the time that it needs to think it through. In a short time the horse should be approaching the obstacle with its head down which I call hunting the trail and will boldly and confidently walk through the Squirting Water Box.
Happy Trails and Bolender Blessings
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