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THE TROLL BRIDGE - DON JESSOP

Don Jessop

The reason horses are so scared of crossing bridges and water.

First of all, the horse's eyesight is different than ours. They see with less depth perception. Try closing one eye and notice how its a little harder to judge distance. This is sort of how horses see.

Second, trolls live under there:)

Regardless of the trolls and the eyesight issue, how does one address a horse that's terrified of water and bridges? Answer...

With patience, persistence, and positioning. Those three magical "p" words that every horse owner should memorize.

Patience means, don't have a timeline. If you come to the bridge with a "gotta get it done now" attitude you'll fail with many horses. If you're patient you'll express better energy toward your horse and create a better relationship overall. One that's based on mutual trust, not one that's based on servitude.

Persistence means, don't give up. If you have no timeline that means you can come back to the task tomorrow. Not giving up doesn't mean getting everything you want all at once. It means staying active with a program for as long as it takes. Take a day, two days, or two weeks addressing the topic, just don't give up. Horses need leadership. Leaders know when to quit. And leaders know the difference between quitting and regrouping. Being persistent requires regrouping often. Imagine trying to cross a bridge over water but your horse says he won't do it. You may need to pause for a few minutes, regroup your thoughts and tools and start again. Starting again might mean starting tomorrow but it most certainly means you'll start again. Persistence doesn't mean you'll finish today. Persistence means you'll start again, and try, and try, and try, until some sort of progress is visible. Then regroup, then try again, knowing eventually the horse will cross that bridge.

Positioning means, body awareness related to the task. If you stand in the entrance to a horse trailer, asking your horse to go in, but fail to notice the horse's crooked body related to the entrance point, you'll struggle to access your goal. You must first correct the position and reward it, long before you ask for forward steps. The horse has three major body parts to be aware of. The head, the shoulders, and the hips. If you line those parts up relative to the direction of travel you seek, you'll achieve your task sooner. People often try to drive their horse forward onto a bridge or water crossing, or into the trailer, when the feet are near the entrance point but fail to notice the nose, shoulders, and hips are offset. That's like trying to shoot an arrow from a bow that isn't even attached to the string. Sure the head is sticking out the front but the back end is way off course. Positioning is about teaching the horse to feel rewarded in position, then feel rewarded for forward steps as they come. Don't think about the feet, think about the head, shoulders, and hips, and notice how much easier it is to cross that troll bridge.

As always, I write to support you, to hopefully inspire you, and to simplify some complicated leadership issues with horses. If you enjoy reading these articles, comment below. Let me know I'm reaching you. Give me some feedback by commenting below. May your dreams with horses come true!

Thanks, Don

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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