My 3 yr old gelding had " an incident' last week, and I am unsure how to work with it - would like some advice. He has always been a good loader, and travels well. He has been hauled on short and longer ( 2 hrs) trips with no problems. Learning to self load, but will lead up with no issues, never hesitates. Rides quietly, no kicking of fussing by himself and with others.
Last week, I took him to a lesson with another horse. afterwards, the two were standing quietly on the trailer ( 4 star, , extra tall, extra wide straight stalls) with the ramp down, as it was 95 degrees while I was taking off my boots. The trainers puppy came up the ramp behind him and went under his legs. He freaked out ( rightly so, I guess), sat down on top of the butt bar ( he is 16.1, so I think he got his haunches over it), and managed to break all the welds on both butt bars, so they were no longer attached to the side walls. He then broke the aluminum butt bar in half, and removed himself from the trailer
No wounds, although the poor other horse had the whole rubber side of the sidewall in on top of her. ( needless to say, SHE was traumatized as well.)
after a short pause, where I recovered, he loaded up ( gave him some ace, since I had no tailchains or bars of any sort) and he traveled home fine.
Trailer was fixed and re-welded, and I am practicing with him - he is now loading, but will run backwards immediately . I have not put up the tail bar yet - I was planning on having him stand and eat quietly first for longer and longer periods of time. I am very confident that he will be fine with that eventually .
The big issue is that I am afraid that he will panic and sit/break the tail bars when he feels them when I do shut them. Any suggestions on how to get him to not react like that when he feels them and to move forward instead? It is a miracle he wasn't hurt, and I am not sure how to correct this issue without causing him to panic and /or get away with breaking them
Ask him in, ask him out, ask him in, ask him out, lots of treats and repeat a lot. You need a helper- you might use pool noodles with thin rope threaded through it for butt bars for practice so it's not going to hurt anyone if he bonks them. Slow and steady and patient.
In the meanwhile I'd also get him ok with those pool noodles or the like draped on him like a britchen while he's led around. He needs to know getting 'touched back there' is no big deal.
Gradual desensitization, just as one would do with an anxious horse that's never trailered before. Won't hurt to reinforce ground manners just so you've got a horse more likely to listen if the poo hits the fan. Make sure he's very responsive to your aid to WHOA and move forward/back to pressure on the halter.
Baby steps. Lots of youngsters (and mature ones) go through trailer drama and IME most of them soon learn that the isolated incident was a one-off and go back to their normal unruffled ways.
Strategic desensitization. Specifically, desensitize the horse to pressure on his butt and train him to move away from it instead of following his instinctive reaction to move INTO it. You can do this by looping a longe line around his butt while you stand in front and pull with steady pressure until the horse finally takes a step forward, and then release. Just like teaching away from pressure at the other points on the ground it'll take a while for the horse to discover which direction to go to escape the pressure on his butt. Once he starts understanding the reward of release for leaning or stepping forward away from the pressure you can start bumping him farther forward with pressure/release for each step.
Thinking like a horse, he was probably used to occasional light contact with the butt bar. But when he tried to avoid the dog at his feet the butt bar "attacked" him. And his instinctive reaction was to charge backward to trample the "attacker". That's a normal instinctive survival response and why horses naturally move into pressure. It's also why we have to train them to have the opposite response because everything we do as riders and handlers is asking the horse to yield to pressure rather than resist or fight it. ~FH
As others have said, continue what you're doing with the trailer. That's the ideal plan. Also work on desensitizing him out of the trailer around his hind end. Have him so used to be touched and bumped by things behind him that he no longer feels the need to react. The pool noodles are a fabulous plan once he's ready to try that in the trailer again. Just put baling twine through them and then when he goes backwards, he can break then without hurting anything.
Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.
...The pool noodles are a fabulous plan once he's ready to try that in the trailer again. Just put baling twine through them and then when he goes backwards, he can break then without hurting anything.
I understand the concept of pool noodles to prevent the horse from hurting himself or damaging the trailer. But I honestly think they will send the wrong message to the horse if he can successfully break through them backing up. He really needs to be desensitized to pressure on his butt before loading on the trailer and actually encounter some resistance if he does try to lean against the butt bar. Once he learns he can push through the noodles it will defeat his away-from-pressure at the butt training. ~FH
I agree with FH -- I see the goal, but it seems like that will just teach him that what is behind him breaks and he can keep coming back out. I would make it slowwwww and boooooring with baby steps and working with that pressure. It was a single incident and I think if you put the time in, he will get over it soon.