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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Trailer Loading 101 - or is that 50?

Today was Snap's first official training session with me. Up till now we've dealt with personality issues. Serts' personality doesn't like Snap's personality, so they've been pretty much separated and the switching horses back and forth has been challenging, but I think we're finally getting that rhythm down.

I've learned a bit about Snap in the 10 days or so we've had him. He's intensely curious. Loves to see and taste anything he can get a hold of. He also hates being alone. No big surprise there, since he grew up with 10 or so other horses always around. However, he really hates it. He was going a bit daft in the head after 2 days of stall confinement due to fencing issues. He did have company some of the time, but not enough.

Back to today. I decided to do some trailer loading work with Snap. He did get on the trailer eventually when we brought him home, obviously, but needed a lot of work.

I put a web halter on him, used a 10 or 12 foot lead rope slung over his back and my 36 inch tapping stick. I did a couple of taps away from the trailer. When I kissed and tapped his hip lightly, he stepped forward. This is the go forward cue that I use to ask my horses to get into the trailer. I stand on the ground and ask the horse to get into the trailer by himself.

Having assured myself that he stepped forward away from the trailer, I presented him with the trailer. After a couple of false starts, Snap put both front feet in the trailer and looked around. I asked him to back out and praised him.

And it was 20 minutes before his feet touched the trailer again. He backed up, he tried to squeeze me into the trailer, he tried standing stock still, he tried kicking me, he tried pawing, all to no avail. That crazy small human still insisted that he was supposed to get into the death trap on wheels.

Finally, Snap loaded himself completely into the trailer, taking me completely by surprise. He went, grabbed a bite of hay from the hay bag at the front, turned around, and promptly hopped out. I grabbed the lead rope as he passed.

BTW, our trailer is a stock trailer with heavy duty gates for slant dividers for a 2 stall trailer and a tack room. So there is plenty for room for Snap to turn around.

It took a few more false starts for Snap to try again, but maybe only a minute or two before he loaded his front feet. This time I was ready for him and stopped him at 2 feet. I asked him to back out. We repeated this 4 or 5 more times, Snap getting better every time.

Then Snap reloaded himself to grab more hay. He did it about 4 times in a row, but I noticed he was getting progressively nervous and rushing out, so I decided no more full loads. I loaded his front feet several more times and decided to call it a successful lesson.

I learned that Snap paws or kicks when he gets frustrated. Not exactly endearing traits, but maybe after we get to know each other better, he won't get frustrated.

All in all, it was successful and I feel sure that, given enough time and patience, I can get Snap in the trailer for his vet visit. Of course, we'll have other lessons, too.

1 comment:

Karen Cox said...

Hi, I have had trouble with trailer loading too and just did a blog post on how we worked through it. Thought you might want to check it out. The original post was http://allthingsendurance.com/2011/03/trailer-loading-the-slow-way/ and the follow-up was http://allthingsendurance.com/2011/03/trailer-loading-the-slow-way-update/. I learned the method from YouTube videos posted by a horse training, and it actually worked! My post has links to those videos. Good luck with your horse!