I had someone on my email list for this blog, ask me about getting a horse to load after the horse refused for an hour to get on. This neighbour eventually had to give up as they were headed to a show and couldn't wait any longer. (The horse had been loading onto a trailer fine last year but, for some reason, didn't want to load on the trailer that day.)
I suggested that she practise some trust exercises because the horse did not trust the person loading the horse onto the trailer. The horse was rearing and bucking in the end.
There is some reason for the refusal. It wasn't a small enclosed trailer. The horse knows how to load. Something was peculiar to the horse that day. The horse did not feel that it's handler was trustworthy enough to get on the trailer despite being leery.
What Kind of Trust Exercises?....
Groundwork. It's all about groundwork. (Anyone reading my column would know that I'm a big advocate of groundwork).
We emailed back and forth, where I suggested that she work on desensitizing to scary objects and then ask the horse to work. Lateral flexion is a great exercise! :) (Can't do enough of it.... well... almost.....:)
The difference with working on 'scary' objects and practising for trailer loading is that we need to make them work next to or in the 'scary' object. That's the key. Us women tend to be 'nicey nicey' and say "come on Penny.... it's ok.... it's not so scary.... you can do it' and baby them around scary objects. (Not all women....:) (We are the nurturing kind.... after all.... :)
Or we just lead them up to the trailer and when the horse isn't scared of trailers any more.... we lead them away.
But for trailer loading (eventually) we lead them up to a scary object, but when they aren't scared anymore we need to put them to work by loading the horse into the trailer.
Desensitize to Scary Objects and Then Work The Horse
So you need to add the 'work' part after introducing the horse to a scary object.
The horse HAS to learn to WORK in all situations. Including trailer loading.
The horse HAS to understand that they will be made to work even in less than 'comfy' surroundings and it's ok. The horse can trust you.
Soon... after some groundwork trust exercises where the horse is introduced to scary objects and then worked or flexed on/in/near the object.... the horse will trust the handler and be willing to load onto a trailer in all circumstances.
A side benefit is that the horse has built up their confidence from all the exercises and 'doing good'.
Good luck in all your trailer loading!
If you need help with trailer loading... please contact me.
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