But it wasn't solved by the work I did Saturday, Sunday, & Monday. Not that it hurt to practice tying and standing with patience, but when I went out to load her Tuesday--two hours earlier than the lesson--she was still balking, pawing and pulling back.
Before I went out that morning, however, I had read another article from Jedi Horsemanship, The Trick to Trailer Loading. In it, they pointed out that even if a horse goes into the trailer pretty easily (like Leah), if they paw and rock back, they are not okay with it. And, if you want to fix any trailer loading/hauling issues, you have to teach your horse that the trailer is a place of rest and safety.
It was an Aha! Moment for me. Leah wasn't okay with it. She didn't think the trailer was a place to rest. She sees the trailer as a stressful place--a place that means being alone, leaving the herd, and driving off to scary places. No amount of tying her in it was going to solve that. It only reinforced it!
There are so many reasons a horse needs to be okay with a trailer--getting to a vet, possibly a new home someday (God forbid!), going on a ride...or to a lesson.
How could I make Leah okay with the trailer?
The article said, and here we go back to the basics again--make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy. I'm actually embarrassed to write that because I already knew it. But because she loaded okay, I didn't associate her issue with not wanting to be in the trailer. I had brain fog. Remember what my trainer always says about Leah? She's a horse who wants to please and do what she's asked, BUT she is sometimes resisting. She's sending subtle cues that I'm NOT okay with this...really. And, if those cues go ignored, she has the potential to blow up.
The article also pointed out that a horse should load herself into the trailer, rather than being walked in (or pulled in) by her owner. Another Aha! moment. Loading herself would show that she is making a choice, rather than being coerced...trapped. (Which is yet another thing my trainer is always having me do with Leah--give her choices!)
I asked her to load her front feet into the trailer and stand relaxed for a minute or so and then, before she had an opportunity to get resistant, I backed her out about 30 feet and over to the arena, where I did some work on the lunge line and gave her lots of praise. Then, back to the trailer, and I asked her to load herself. She went fully in without hesitation. I stepped in and stood with her as she rested. Backed her out...to the arena...lunge line...back in the trailer standing tied...rest...back out..lunge line...back to the trailer...tie...close door, open door..back out...lunge line...back to trailer, tie, close door. Drive away. Quiet.
And, we had our best lesson yet!
(Above: For Teresa, another reason ground tying is important...photos.)
When we loaded to go home, she went right in by herself, but as I got in the truck, she started prancing around. I got out, unloaded her, worked her in the driveway, loaded her back. As I got back in the truck, she started again and I got out and again and repeated. That was that. We had a quiet ride home.
At Liberty with Beautiful Girl on Monday. It took a lot of running around and playing to get her to finally follow me. She's an independent little cuss.
This pretty much sums up most of our At Liberty work that day. Her eyes were on the herd.
(Lots of cars in the parking lot. Yay!)
Success is sweet when you work so hard and worry so much about something, like I did trailer hauling Leah. What freedom to be on the other side of such a scary issue.