2019 Jan/Feb 2019 E-magazine - Page 18

Conquering the Water Bridge By Lana Grieve E very year at the AMHA World Championship Show, there is a popular and complex obstacle called the ‘eliminator obstacle’ by many exhibitors behind the scenes. Posed to make or break your pattern, the water bridge obstacle features a step down into water and a step upward to conclude. While some horses approach it more confidently and even apprehensively go through it, the majority of horses revert back to their ‘reactionary side’ of their brains, using their fight or flight response in how to navigate. Even if your horse has practiced a similar set up at home, this fundamental reaction is a sign of two key components - TRUST and CONSISTENCY. You may be giving your horse trust and consistency, but no matter how many times you perform an obstacle at home, it won’t improve or become consistency reliable until you break down the barriers of the horse mentally, and you can’t do this nearly as affectively without incorporating natural horsemanship techniques. Once you truly connect and understand how and why your horse is reacting, you can instill and earn a solid level of trust from your horse that translates into confidently following your guide over anything, even if they have never see it before. BUILD CONFIDENCE & TRUST When you are practicing any obstacle at home, you want to teach your horse the approach and retreat method. Begin by approaching a simple obstacle at home (depending on the horse’s skill level.) Walk up to the obstacle with your stick in your left hand behind your body. Tap your horse forward if necessary. The whole point of this method is to avoid hesitation tactics in your horse. Instead of pulling them forward and forcing them over an obstacle when they hesitate, you actually want to do the When practicing the water bridge at home, aim to position your horse on the first bridge section, then back them off of it using your training stick. opposite. Before they display their reaction, stop your horse and flow into a back up using the Stopping and Leading Exercise (see exercise on the Star Point Horsemanship YouTube Channel.) Repeat this and try to go one step closer to the obstacle, then back up again. Once the horse is calm and confident in their closer proximity to the obstacle, you can stand at a 45 degree angle to the horse’s shoulder and rub them with the training stick to instill they are doing the right thing by standing calmly. After a few sessions, ideally 2-3, you can begin to ask your horse to step up onto the obstacle. Encourage your horse’s face downward by bumping the lead rope toward the ground. Using a 4 Knotted Star Point Horsemanship Training Halter along with a training stick will allow you to guide your horse and give distinct cues as you approach and retreat the obstacle. Beginning the Approach and Retreat methodology on obstacles the horse already understands confidently will prepare them to mentally accept a new obstacle.