Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Trailer Loading & Hauling Success

The trailer troubles I wrote about Monday are over.  Leah did not paw or rock back in the trailer either going to or coming from her lesson yesterday.  YAY!!!

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.

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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.








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After yesterday's lesson, I did something I don't normally do...ride alone in the park.  Thankfully, there were lots of hikers and bikers there, so I wasn't really alone, alone....and it was one of the most magnificent rides I've ever had.  Maybe it was because I was alone with Cowboy...and listening to him and the world around me rather than chatting.  I don't know, but it was MAGICAL.  I'm still basking in the after glow today.  We trotted, we loped, we walked and meandered through the woods.  We even rode up to our friend's house, who lives near the park, to see if she was home.  She wasn't, but it was a good excuse to keep riding...because, again, Cowboy did not want to go back to the trailer.

(Lots of cars in the parking lot.  Yay!)





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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.

14 comments:

  1. What an awesome session. Thanks for the ground tying pic- good point about the photos. :)

    In teaching Irish to self load I always had a bit of carrot in the feeder. I don't generally treat for training but make the exception for trailer loading.

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    1. That's a good idea. Whatever makes them happy in the trailer! Oh yeah, I thought of you when I threw a load of laundry in yesterday. LOL. It made up for the whole day of play.

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  2. I LOVE that picture of Beautiful Girl rolling with the sunlight backing her! It's like she's glowing.

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    1. I think that's pretty symbolic of her overall aura. She has a glowing personality. ;)

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  3. Congratulations on getting the loading figured out. Makes a lot of sense.

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    1. Thanks, Annette. I'm happy to have a path forward that will keep her safe.

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  4. Hi, read your post and want to send you this You Tube video link from a well-respected breeder/trainer of Arabian horses for the past 60+ years, Miss Sheila Varian, an inductee to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and world renowned breeder/trainer. This is a You Tube video that she posted after presenting "Trailer Loading the Varian Way" at a clinic at her breeding farm. I think you will see that it expands on what you've been doing in your training. Wishing you continued success! Vicki ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfyia8FsOY4

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    1. I love Sheila Varian...or at least what I've seen of her work and accomplishments. Thanks for the link. I'm watching it now.

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  5. What a relief, huh? Now that you mention it, I do remember someone telling me to keep the horse's feet moving until it gets into the trailer, and then take the pressure off and let her rest. I didn't really understand the concept at the time and basically led the horse in small circles, which didn't really help. Lunging is a good idea. I think my main problem back then was that none of my horses knew how to move off pressure, so the only way I could keep them moving was to lead them. They needed more basics like moving off the forequarters, the hindquarters, backing, and sidepassing before I attempted to trailer them.

    You sound like the opposite of me as far as not having a lot of experience riding alone, and preferring to have other people on the trails. I mostly ride alone, and I prefer to have the trails to myself because the other horseback riders, hikers, and bicyclists don't always have good trail etiquette. They gallop up from behind me, or race their bicycles up from behind me without announcing their presence, and scare my horse into bolting. I'm more afraid of people than I am of whatever nature can dish out. My horses are more relaxed when I ride with a friend on a buddy horse, but I'm picky about who I ride with, because I've heard horror stories about group rides gone wrong mainly because of thoughtless riders. But if you've got those homeless camps to deal with, I can see how you would want safety in numbers.

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    1. The lunge line work that I did was just circling at a trot with lots of direction changes...what we'd normally do in a warm up. I took her out of the trailer before she acted nervous, rather than after. I didn't want it to seem punitive. So, each step of the process gave her a way to succeed and be heavily praised.

      That's funny how we're opposites. I think, though, that you see more people than I do. I saw two older couples with dogs, one biker (who was very polite), and a couple of guys coming back from a hike. They're all respectful of horses and give horses the right of way.

      I've been on group rides before that had the potential to go bad. It has made me picky, too. The friends I ride with are all extremely respectful of each other and our horses. Unfortunately, none of my friends were available to ride Tuesday. :( But it turned out great, after all. I work 3 days out of the week, so I can't afford not to ride on my day off just because I can't find riding partners. I would be kicking myself.

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  6. Great work with Leah and the trailer loading. It makes sense to do it that way. Beautiful certainly sounds like she's very independent with a mind of her own. Great pictures. I love Cowboy,he's a great horse. Sounds like he's do much fun to take anywhere.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, Cowboy is a kick. He has a curious nature. I was thinking about that today...how some horses...most, I think, are emotional and in the moment. Leah, however, is very stoic and seemingly unemotional. Cowboy and Beautiful both put up a lot of fuss at first, but then melt into their partnership. Leah appears to partner, but doesn't really let herself melt. I'm working on that little by little. I'm calling it "masking". Leah has a tendency to mask her true feelings.

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  7. Good stuff as always. I think success is measured by the amount of happiness and relaxed time is spent, by both horse and human.

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    1. By that measure, Cowboy and I are very successful. I have a ways to go with Leah before I can say the same, but I have faith!

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