Training Your Horse for Beach Riding
Fantasy – What Horseman hasn’t dreamed of galloping along the shoreline astride their majestic steed? You’ve become a centaur silhouetted against a breathtaking sunset. Cares of the world that once held you hostage, must submit giving way as surely as the tiny grains of sand, helpless against mighty hoofs that swept them behind the joy that lies ahead.
Unbridled freedom takes command settling deep within your soul with every breathtaking stride. Locks mane and tail, blow recklessly as ocean waves crashing where they will, seeking permission from no one!
Reality Check – You’ve approached the shoreline and Mr. Majestic instantly morphs into a prancing snorting smoke bellowing runaway express locomotive! He’s full steam ahead! Or is it behind?? It’s so hard to tell as all those spins left you a little dizzy.
The funny thing is (Come on you can laugh about it now) you never saw the switchman throw the switch! Ole Crazy Horse has really made a mess of a horseman’s ultimate fantasy, but we can trust him for one final act of desperation. He’s headed back to the station faster than the Orient Express!
You’re hanging on for dear life, because you knew the warranty on his brakes were just about to expire before you left the barn. You knew full well he needed a tune up before setting out on this great adventure.
Come on be honest, did you really expect him to offer him-self up as an equine sacrifice just so you could fulfill your little fantasy?
The Real World - Set yourself up for success. Don’t become an idle passenger at high risk for de-railment. Why not take an active role to help insure that the outcome of your first beach riding adventure more closely resembles the ride you’ve actually envisioned. Prepare your horse at home. Create a formidable water hazard that rivals your horse’s worst nightmare.
Be creative it’s your baby, find a large tarp or dig a pit and add water. You could always wait for rain and allow nature to design it. Finally, add a few more scary things around it. My personal favorites are those shiny little pinwheels, but any whirly gig will suffice. How about a few cones or jump standards with plastic bags duct taped to the top? The options are endless.
Seriously, you know your horse so start small if the accoutrements you’ve scattered are too over whelming. The goal is to build trust in your leadership not totally scare the heck out of your horse.
I would put a rope halter on Ole Crazy Horse to prevent him from escaping; it offers you a little more control than a chain over the nose. If a horse is already afraid, the chain grabbing his nose and not releasing is just going to confirm his fears that crossing water is not only scary, but extremely painful as well.
Using the tail end of a 12-14 foot rope, start sending your horse toward the water, the moment he hits the brakes, leave him be, don’t add any pressure. If he changes directions on his own just send him rapidly toward the water again, so you add pressure when he is going away from the water, take it off when he’s close. Soon he will want to investigate the water. He may snort, reach his head down, paw and splash. Leave him alone this is try. When he stops thinking about going into the water, change directions again, make him trot toward the water. 10 feet before you get to the water, take the pressure off. He will quickly figure out being near water is easier then being away from it and that he can trust you to not pressure him at the water so he can use his head and think about going in.
Don’t allow him to come into your space at my time if he only puts his front foot in that’s great! Take him away and praise him. Continue until he goes all the way through or until you are satisfied he has made progress. There are several other ways to approach water crossings this is just one. Once you have been successful add additional scary objects around your water hazard. Put your horse to work away from the obstacles, allow him to rest near them. He will soon realize that anything unusual to him will provide a resting spot, a place where he can relax and get a good scratch from you.
Time to hit the beach!
It’s certainly best to go with a friend that has a seasoned horse that has no fear of the ocean. If that’s not possible approach the beach, ride as close as you can. If your horse refuses to go any closer ride parallel to it asking much of your horse. Leg yields, rein back; trotting in a circle, then approaching the beach again. Quickly ride your horse away from the water before he wants to leave on his own.
If you are not able to go into the water, don’t be discouraged just riding along the beach should make you smile!
End on a good note and your horse will want to try for you next beach ride!
Cathie Hatrick Anderson is a Professional Trainer specializing in starting colts and rehabilitating problem horses. She is a member of the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association.
Cathie trained Shesa Faint Echo to attain her “Certified Shooting Horse” status and the pair rode to level three. She rides all her horses bitless.
She lives in Upton MA with her Husband Robert Anderson.
For more info visit www.bobcatfarm.com, an EquineSite Member!