Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Thing: Puddles of Opportunity

Spring is a good time to take advantage of all those yucky puddles that form after spring showers and melting snow. If you are looking forward to trail riding, puddles at home offer great training opportunities.

When I purchased Marley I was forewarned of his great aversion to water.

He hated getting his toes wet.
He hated baths.
He hated any water touching his body.

I was even told of an incident during a cup-of-water relay game, when Marley threw a tantrum when a small amount of water spilled out of his handicapped rider's cup onto his shoulder.

Marley has challenged his trainers in ground training sessions involving water. I watched as he refused to walk across a water puddle and opted to run up a hillside, pulling his trainer with him. This was a forested hillside, so the trainer took quick advantage and wrapped the lead rope around a tree and brought Marley to a surprising halt. Marley can put up a pretty strong argument when presented with a task he doesn't like. But we've been working on his water issue every chance we get.

When I came home from work yesterday, I was pleased to see that the melting snow from last Saturday's blizzard had created puddles of opportunity for Marley.

Marley's opportunity to walk through a puddle:

Ok, Mom, I can do this.

When working through puddles on the ground, I like to do more than simply lead Marley through the puddle. We started out that way, but now we work in a circle on a long lead rope and I "send" him through the puddle, without being close to his side in a typical leading position. When I'm riding Marley on the trail and we encounter a puddle, I won't be by his side to lead him through it. I'll be on his back and he may feel he is facing that horse-eating puddle all alone, unless I've reinforced his confidence on the ground by sending him through these preparatory puddles.

Marley's opportunity to stand calmly in a puddle:

Look Mom! I'm calm and sweet and willing.

And finally, Marley's opportunity to stand patiently while the puddle muck is washed away:

I'm a good boy. Can I have dinner now?


  1. I love how Marley took all of those opportunities for growth. He was such a good boy.

  2. Marley, we don't like water that much either. You are really brave to go through the puddle on your own. You don't look all that happy about it, though!

    Best to you from Pippin & Doc

  3. My mare Maisie would avoid water at all costs - even tiny puddles. The only way to get her through a substantial puddle was to back her through it. We've worked through all those issues now and she's bravely march through any size puddle now.

  4. Marley is a brave boy. It is nice that he was facing his puddle issues earlier too, by himself with the puddles in the pasture.
    I love Marley. He steals my heart!

  5. Great training opportunity. That's taking lemons and making lemonade. What a smart boy he is.

  6. What a good willing boy Marley was for mom!

  7. Good boy! My mare hates puddles but only because she hates getting dirty, she's a bit of a princess that way. He sure seems to be OK with the puddles now, you are obviously a good trainer.

  8. What a hero! Give that boy his dinner. Straight away!

    My Fame is funny. She loves the creek, but not puddles. Go figure.

  9. Yes! I love the puddles, too. They're great training opportunities for me as well--with a horse who balks at water. I've taken to trotting him through them first and then standing in them later because it seems to build up his confidence more. I used to do it opposite, but that almost trained him to stop and be scared at every water crossing. Puddles are great.