First of all, you are on the right track wanting to practice the water at home prior to encountering one in the ring.
I would start by first introducing your horse to a small liverpool with a single pole in the center about 2’6” without water. Most of the folks who sell jumps will be able to provide you with one and it’s beneficial to move them to different places in the ring.
Start with the blue ones as I find the black ones are spookier. Later you might want to invest in a black one as well. Introduce your horse to it by walking parallel to it about 3” away. Do this from both sides and directions. I don’t like to face a liverpool head on as the horse has really no desire to get close to it and I don’t want them to back away from it. When they face it they should jump it. Also, when they face it and kick sand on it, that only complicates the issue.
Once comfortable walking quietly by it, then go ahead and jump it. For the next few schools, move the liverpool to different places and build both verticals and oxers over it. You can make it open face with the vertical at the back edge and reverse that with the vertical at the front edge as well.
Once that goes well try putting some water in it and then you may consider putting some blue color (Tidy Bowl) in the water. Later, when things are going well, try some darker blue color in the water as I find the dark color is more spooky.
Once you are happy with your horse over liverpools, the next step is to introduce your horse to a larger water jump. The ones in the ring usually vary in size from 8’ to 12’ plus, and may have take-off boxes or small walls on the front side. Some will have a pole and some will be just open water without a pole. Hopefully you will find a class that offers one with a pole in your first attempt at a show.
Jump builders will also have larger portable waters if you want to make the investment, but this can get expensive. A blue tarp from home depot will serve as a less expensive alternative.
Start with a small-simulated water, a tarp folded to measure approximately 12 feet wide (slightly less to accommodate 12’ poles) by 6’. Place a small take-off on the front side. This can be flower boxes to start or a very small wall. Build a 2’9 or 3’ ramped oxer and center it over the water. Get your horse comfortable with walking by it, again parallel to it, and then canter over it. Once this is going well, increase the size of the tarp to 9’ wide, still with the ramped oxer centered over it. Ride this width with a bit more pace and enough leg off the ground that you encourage him to jump way out and not land on the tarp. That is the purpose of the ramped oxer. Jump it once without poles at 9’ and if that goes well do not jump it without poles again.
You may then move the water to another location and make it slightly larger. Once he jumps it well, I would not jump it again. You want him comfortable with it but not bored with it to the point he wants to step on the tarp.
If you are clever you can also construct this tarp to hold water and introduce some color to it. I think in this way you will give your horse a much better chance of a nice experience in the ring with water for the first time. Remember to keep the oxer over the tarp, as it’s important that he does not land on it. There is no correction from the tarp and he will quickly lose interest in clearing it!
There is an interesting topic on Equestriancoach.com where Leopoldo Palacios and I discuss the water jump.
Leopoldo Palacios & Bernie Traurig Discuss The Water Jump
World renowned course designer, Leopoldo Palacios, and Bernie Traurig talk about the always controversial water jump.
Running Time: 7 minutes and 2 seconds
Introducing the Green Horse & Training the Spooky Horse to the Liverpool
This member requested video features a horse that is afraid of liverpools, affecting his show performance whenever this obstacle presents itself. Bernie tackles this issue using the same techniques he uses when introducing green horses to liverpools for the first time. His tried and true methodical approach leads to success.Running Time: 15 minutes and 44 seconds
Schooling Your Horse Over Open Water
Open water obstacles can be intimidating to both the horse and the rider, so you want to be sure you’ve done your homework to avoid potential faults in the show ring. Join Bernie as he shows us how to properly school over a simulated open water jump in a way that encourages the horse to jump beyond the tape. Nobody wants a toe in the tub on show day!
Running Time: 8 minutes and 55 seconds
Have Something You Want to Ask Our Panel of Experts?
Ask The Experts is the ultimate way to get help from the top professionals in the equestrian industry without leaving the comfort of your home. This service is available to Monthly, Annual and Lifetime Members of EquestrianCoach.com.