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View Full Version : Step-ups, backing out and pulling tails...



pintopiaffe
Jan. 25, 2010, 06:47 PM
I LOFF my step-up trailer. I've had bad ramp issues, never had an issue with a step up... EXCEPT...

The horse who is afraid of that first step out/back.

The stallion is the scarediest. But he's easy. He's so little I simply turn him in the trailer and lead him out. :lol: The BlueEyedBlonde(tm) also dislikes the big step down. I think she's going to outgrow the 'turning around' trick though.

I COMPLETELY don't blame them. I know they can't see, and obviously can't feel, and it's like stepping off a cliff for them...

I train self-loading, (lead rope over neck, send horse in, hook up tail chain, walk around to clip.)

My process for unloading (alone, of course) is this: Attach looong cotton lead (10 or 12') to halter, and swing up over back. For some, leave clipped. For others, unclip. That just varies with temperament/personality.

Go around to back, undo tail chain. Ideally, on my way back, I grab long lead and bring it back with me, and from the back, ask horse (verbally) to step back.

Youngsters or ones like the stallion, go back up front, unclip and ask them to back, walking back with them.

Obviously this requires training them to stand until I say different, which is part of initial training.

I'd love to add the cue of pulling on the tail. I think this would help. I also think it might help associate the step?? Not sure, it just seems like it would.

How do you teach that? Can anyone see any thing that I am currently doing that is causing or exacerbating that 'first step back' issue?

mustangtrailrider
Jan. 25, 2010, 07:28 PM
It sounds as if heese need to know step by step that they can step down.

Start by playing hokey pokey in the trailer.

Yes, they self load, but they need to learn to unload just as they load, One step at a time.

One foot in, one foot back. Repeat 100 times.

Two feet in, two feet out. Repeat 100 times.

Three feet in, three feet out. Repeat 200 times.

Four feet in, four feet out. Repeat 200 times.

If they learn that they can back out with only one foot in, then two feet in, then three feet in, then four feet in, they will come out again and again.

Many horses are trained to go in, not back out.

Play hokey pokey, one foot in, then out....wash rinse repeat! Good Luck!

M

harveyhorses
Jan. 25, 2010, 08:54 PM
Yep, what MTR said. (we used treats because it did get kind of boring) Ours learned to wait for the voice que 'step down'.

Meredith Clark
Jan. 25, 2010, 09:32 PM
It sounds as if heese need to know step by step that they can step down.

Start by playing hokey pokey in the trailer.

Yes, they self load, but they need to learn to unload just as they load, One step at a time.

One foot in, one foot back. Repeat 100 times.

Two feet in, two feet out. Repeat 100 times.

Three feet in, three feet out. Repeat 200 times.

Four feet in, four feet out. Repeat 200 times.

If they learn that they can back out with only one foot in, then two feet in, then three feet in, then four feet in, they will come out again and again.

Many horses are trained to go in, not back out.

Play hokey pokey, one foot in, then out....wash rinse repeat! Good Luck!

M

Not sure I'm reading this correctly..

You're suggesting asking a horse to step on and not letting it get into the trailer but having it step right back off before it's in?

If feel like with hesitant horses this could cause loading problems on top of backing off problems.

I teach my horses to step on walk all the way in and stand quietly until I come around and tie them. "In/Out, In/Out, In/Out" is not really the message I want to convey.

Jay didn't like backing out so I would unload the other horse first (one that's good at backing out) and then just stand there and wait for him to decided that he'd rather back off the scary "cliff" than be left by his friend.

I try to avoid letting horses turn around because I've had a few leap out which isn't fun!

Tangerine Farmer
Jan. 25, 2010, 10:51 PM
I completely agree with Mustangtrailrider. This way the horse only has one foot at a time to learn to navigate and when they are good at that you add another. Nice simple steps.

They don't get difficult to load. It makes it dull, dull, training, but with a good ending.

mustangtrailrider
Jan. 25, 2010, 11:10 PM
The idea is to make backing off as comfortable as going on the trailer. It is not an in-out issue. Horses must learn to come off the trailer as well as go into a trailer.

Yes, mine know to wait inside for me to do what I need to do as well. Mine also know how to back off of a step without issue. I repeat on-off as long as necessary for them to not care about step. I always allow mine the time it takes to do so. Mine have no issues going in or coming off trailer.

It doesn't take that many times. The idea is to repeat until horse is bored with backing off the trailer. The idea is for the horse to be very comfortable going on and coming off of it.

It is not rushed training. It is a step by step approach just like anything else with horses. Also, what works for one will not work for all. This is what I do with mine....they figure it out very quickly....usually 4-5 times with the on-off approach.

Good Luck!

mvp
Jan. 26, 2010, 07:40 AM
You can add a cue for the step down.

With my ramp tailer, I tug on the tail to ask my gelding to begin backing up. Since I don't want him to come off the side of the ram, I put a hand on his hiney in order to keep him straight as his back feet reach the ramp. I will press harder, or say No if he continued to push into me. In a new place, or being asked to wait too long, he'd like to curve off the ramp so that he can twist his neck around an eyeball his new surroundings ASAP rather than leaving his body out there first.

You should do any training with loading quietly and slowly. I like to be alone and to have "all day" in mind. I do it in bits.

One thing that might help is to think about how to get your horse's mind to slow down after he took the scary step off the cliff. Can you ask him to stop with hind feet out and praise him or offer him a treat? This helps him think about moving and waiting.

If you can't stop him once he has started his descent, stop him after all four feet are on the ground, as close to the trailer as you can. Or if he flew, lead him back up and give him his treat there.

You'll be surprised at how a treat offered stops or punctuates movement. If he knows there's a bonus coming half way off the trailer, he'll be more than willing to stop and collect his prize. At that point, you have a thinking, not rushing, horse.

Paddys Mom
Jan. 26, 2010, 08:51 AM
I put my hand on the hiney too, while undoing the butt bar...letting him know I am there working on it. Then I leave it there reassuringly and ask him to "back slow, step down". He gets less nervous about it every time we trailer.

I can't do the tail thing since I have to spend so much time putting his tail up and tugging on it in the process. :lol:

katarine
Jan. 26, 2010, 10:09 AM
Not sure I'm reading this correctly..

You're suggesting asking a horse to step on and not letting it get into the trailer but having it step right back off before it's in?

If feel like with hesitant horses this could cause loading problems on top of backing off problems.

I teach my horses to step on walk all the way in and stand quietly until I come around and tie them. "In/Out, In/Out, In/Out" is not really the message I want to convey.

Jay didn't like backing out so I would unload the other horse first (one that's good at backing out) and then just stand there and wait for him to decided that he'd rather back off the scary "cliff" than be left by his friend.

I try to avoid letting horses turn around because I've had a few leap out which isn't fun!

It won't cause problems, I promise times 10 it won't.:D It may near term feel like an issue, if they get worried and anticipate, but you just stay cool and calm, do not get worried, just ask them on and off one foot, then two, then one, then maybe two and pause, offer a carrot, straighten a forelock, look at their teeth, scratch their tummy, etc. Let them eat and let down a minute or two, and start again. NO hurry. Never any hurry.

Do make totally sure that you are asking them to step off onto 100% perfect ground as they learn where the ground is- good grippy sandy ground is ideal. And don't do this right in front of a peanut gallery of yearlings oogling you over the fence. LOL, set the horse up for quiet, boring, calm, success. I do add a verbal cue of STEP, STEP, STEP so if they are coming off from the very front stall, they learn to slow and start feeling for it when I say STEP STEP STEP.

deltawave
Jan. 26, 2010, 10:39 AM
Yes to the hokey pokey. :D


I feel like with hesitant horses this could cause loading problems on top of backing off problems. It's more a matter of obedience than of getting on the trailer, really. If you want them to put one foot in, then one foot out, by God that's what they need to do! Once they've got that concept down (whatever she says, I am going to do it) then it's a matter of desensitizing them to the awkward feel of changing planes with each, any, or all of their feet WHEN you ask, and HOW you ask. :yes:

If a horse is hesitant about loading, that means that it's truly afraid of the situation (which is usually pretty obvious) or it doesn't know what you're asking, or it's decided it doesn't really feel like listening right now. :) The hokey pokey is all about obedience and doing what they're told. It applies everywhere, not just in and out of trailers.

coloredhorse
Jan. 26, 2010, 11:15 AM
Agree 100% with the hokey pokey. :D

MC, in this case, it sounds like pp's horses are solid on the step UP to load bit, but need to have the step DOWN routine broken into smaller, more manageable bits. The hokey pokey approach achieves this admirably.

For a horse that is a timid loader, it can also work brilliantly for the same reason: It breaks the overwhelming task of going all the way onto the trailer and standing into manageable stages. Once they understand that you are only going to ask for small things (i.e., one foot on, then off; two feet on, then off; two feet on, one step forward, one step back, then off; etc.), they are able to process each step and without too much time/effort, loading and unloading becomes old hat.

MunchkinsMom
Jan. 26, 2010, 11:24 AM
Just wanted to tell you all, that thanks to this thread, the Hokey Pokey song is now stuck in my head!

I agree, better to do the gradual approach to loading and unloading while trailer training, for all the reasons posted above.

pony89
Jan. 26, 2010, 11:39 AM
My mare usually rides towards the front of a 3 horse slant load. We generally have two people, so I just walk up to her head and back her out. When we start backing, she squats waaaaaaaay down with her back end, and does this little shuffling tip toe thing all the way from the front of the trailer to the door, feeling for the edge. It's hysterical :lol: At least I don't have to worry about her rushing!!

Unfortunately, the reason she may feel the need to do this is not so funny, so I will emphasize - make sure that you are on good footing when you teach them to back out of the trailer. I don't know her history, so I don't know if she may have been on a step up before, but the first time I ever tried putting her on one, I had her back off in the gravel driveway, which was on a small incline. As soon as her back feet hit the driveway they started slipping on the hill, she was scrambling around with her hooves sliding under the trailer, whacking her legs. She walked on the trailer the first time 100% trusting, but it took a little work to get her back on after that. Thankfully, she did not hold a permanent grudge, but a younger or less experienced horse might take exception to loading after an experience like that!

ReSomething
Jan. 26, 2010, 11:59 AM
Yep, what MTR said. (we used treats because it did get kind of boring) Ours learned to wait for the voice que 'step down'.


Back, back, step down, Good Boy. Step down and step up can be useful cues for other situations too.

Meredith Clark
Jan. 26, 2010, 05:57 PM
ok.. I'll trust you guys but if it doesn't work you have to come help me :winkgrin:

mustangtrailrider
Jan. 26, 2010, 07:15 PM
Be there in a heart beat....let me know when....you pay trip though!

Meredith Clark
Jan. 26, 2010, 07:34 PM
Be there in a heart beat....let me know when....you pay trip though!

:lol:

I need to teach both of my boys to back off.. right now one will and one won't, which works but if I ever trailer 2 that won't back off they'll be stuck in there like sardines!

mustangtrailrider
Jan. 26, 2010, 09:37 PM
In order for them to load, they first have to unload!

Most people don't teach that aspect of trailer training. It is just as important if not more so. If a horse can't get one hoof off the trailer, he can't get 4 off. Simple math!

Play the hokey-pokey! One hoof in, one hoof out. Two hoof in, two hoof out. and so on.

Teach them step by step, one hoof in, one hoof out! Go from there.

I have seen too many horses load beautifully, then rush back out! Either the horse has PTSD or doesn't know any better! The training to fix this is still the same. Walk in, walk out! Rinse repeat!

Good Luck. One of mine tries to turn around. I don't let her. She waits for me to tug on her tail as her signal. If given the chance, she will turn around. I just don't let her!

Will be happy to help!

bewarethechestnutmare
Jan. 26, 2010, 11:50 PM
I feel it's helpful for them to have an extra cue that says, hey pony, you're about to reach the edge so don't freak when the ground's not where it should be. :) I use the word "step." So, a cue (lead, tail pull, lead rope, whatever floats your boat) to say back up now, and another that says here is the edge. Seems to give them a little extra confidence because I never surprise them by backing them off a cliff. Just a thought.

MistyBlue
Jan. 27, 2010, 08:34 AM
LOL...the Hokey Pokey! It fits so well. :yes:

And yep, it works. Takes time and repetition, but so does everything with training large flakey prey animals. :lol: And whe we take the time, it seems to "stick" better.

Had to use that on my mare despite the fact that she self loaded and unloaded on step ups. The problem was...she did both in Airs Above The Ground style. She'd leap onto the trailer and then leap off of it. Backwards. :eek: Our unloading technique was opening the back door, untying the horse (stock trailer, no butt bar) and get the hell out of the way. She'd either jump backwards or squish/turn around and jump off forwards. Then stand still to be grabbed. I figured one day she was going to get hurt...or take off so we worked on the "repeat each hoof 100 times" method and she finally accepted that she could enter or exit a trailer without giving me grey hair. And I do recommend a hand on the arse so they know you're there and for the cue to start backing up instead of pulling the tail.
FWIW, she never did get on or back off well from a ramp though. She HATED ramps. I think it was because she was a pretty heavy horse (1600+ lbs) and any ramp would dip quite a bit once her weight got onto it. It was either that or she was just doing it to drive me nuts. :cool:

ayrabz
Jan. 27, 2010, 09:13 AM
somewhat? off topic, but not really....
I'm curious on your thoughts: in re: leg issues with a big drop of a step down. I have a ramp, wanted one, am happy with it....works for me.
But I have a friend, who, after years and years of a step down, now feels its just too hard on their hocks. She's constantly laying down saddle blankets, etc...to 'soften' the hard surface when they step down to back off when its a big drop.
Anyone else feel this can/might be an issue for legs?

MistyBlue
Jan. 27, 2010, 09:28 AM
How tall is her stepdown? :eek:
If a horse already has issues lifting and putting it's legs down and really shot-to-hell hocks then a step down might be an issue.
But otherwise a step down isn't that big a step. They're not normally jumping down, but placing one leg down at a time so it's not high concussion. I don't see horses putting a hind leg down from that height any higher than walking them over cavaletti. Well, backwards, but still.

deltawave
Jan. 27, 2010, 09:30 AM
I do think some old/creaky horses find steps up/down to be a little harder, but certainly don't think the occasional single step up or down is going to do any further damage.

ayrabz
Jan. 27, 2010, 09:41 AM
not sure on the drop measurement...it was just something I recalled, when I read the thread, and thought to ask. I know some(?) trailers seem higher..and some 'ramps' on those models are very steep, so the same models without are more of a drop than others. This friend just seems to feel years and years of on and off with a steep- back up step down and off movement can be hard on their hocks. I dunno! Just wondered if anyone else felt so.

katarine
Jan. 27, 2010, 10:41 AM
I think unless that horse is delivering pizza, the number of times he's asked to step off that trailer over his lifetime is going to have negligible deliterious effect on the health of his hocks. Seriously ;)

ReSomething
Jan. 27, 2010, 11:59 AM
. . . . . She's constantly laying down saddle blankets, etc...to 'soften' the hard surface when they step down to back off when its a big drop.
Anyone else feel this can/might be an issue for legs?

I believe that for arthritis and joint issues it is the height (range of motion) and not the "softness of the landing".

starkissed
Jan. 27, 2010, 07:12 PM
lead him up so just his front feet are up. Then back him out. Do this a few times, then see if you can get just one back foot up, then back out. If you leave him in there long enough he will probably back out on his own if you don't let him turn. But definitely try the first part.

Oh and a good simulation for this is see if you can get him to back into his stall in the barn. You can teach this much the same was by leading them halfway out into the aisle, then back in again.

Good luck. The one time my TB had to go in a step up he was a complete spazz about the back out, he sunk his HQ way down and started quivering like I had parked at the edge of the grand canyon.