What's the biggest difference between the way you and your horse see a water jump? You know there are only a few inches from the water's surface to firm footing underneath. But from his perspective, that puddle might be six feet deep with sucking mud at the bottom.
That's why when you begin introducing your horse to cross-country water questions, your most important asset is his confidence in you. If he's already certain you won't ask him to do something that puts him in harm's way, he's much more likely to believe you when you assure him it's OK to enter the water--and then do what you ask. So although you can begin getting him used to water by splashing through puddles or small streams on trail rides, you do it only if you already know the water is shallow and the footing is good. Your goal is for him to have one unremarkable, even boring, experience after another as he learns his way into water. Then, when he sees it at a competition, there is no anxiety.
In this video, eventing star Boyd Martin shows you the best way to stay dry as you introduce your horse to these entry-level water jump questions.
To read more about Boyd's system for introducing your horse to water, see "Water Jumps: Get His Feet Wet" in the May 2009 issue of Practical Horseman.