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Help! I have a climber! Today...trailer manger!

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  • Help! I have a climber! Today...trailer manger!

    So I lost at least 10 years off my life today. The monkey horse is a 3 year old 13.3hh Clydesdale X pony. Have had her for 4 months and she's a dream! HOWEVER her one bad habit really got us in a pickle today!

    She's a climber. She will climb on and up anything and everything she can. Hay box? Check. Wheelbarrow? Check. Mounting block? Check...and got all 4 feet on it like a circus pony! Stalls? Check. She gets her front hooves on the ledge and stands there calmly until she's busted. Today...right into the trailer manger. She loads like a dream and is calm and relaxed in the trailer. I closed her in, walked to the car and heard clunking. So I run back, open the head door and see hooves! She's just standing there calmly with her feet in the manger and her head almost to the ceiling! I sharply tell her "Get DOWN!" and she backs down and is fine. I almost have a heart attack as I've never seen or heard of this before and realize she could have broken a leg or torn a tendon.

    So, after nearly passing out from fright I get it together and slowly close the door, open it before she can react, click/treat rinse and repeat increasing duration. Get to a minute...reward and haul ass to the truck to get driving before she does it again. Arrive at destination 20 minutes away. She's calm and fine. I open the door and she's still fine but I realize I need my leadrope. Close head door and turn to walk away...clunking!!! She's up again!! I whip open the door and firmly say "Get DOWN!!" (BTW I don't think I've ever had to say get down to a horse until i got this one! LOL) and she does...but her front left leg is now stuck up in the manger! She's calm as can be and I try to free it(I on the other hand am sure this us the end of my beloved pony and im ready to pass out but somehow remain externally calm) No luck. So I untie her and she does a lovely levade, puts her other foot up and tries once again to get down. Still stuck. So she goes up into the manger one more time and as she comes down I use my shoulder to lift her leg and we're free! No injuries!!

    And THEN after I unload her at the new barn they have me put her in a roundpen made of those metal gates for the day. She settles right in, happily eating hay until someone walks by. Attention obsessed pony proceeds to calmly walk up gate, hook her knees over the top and stand there calmly until yelled at. She'd get down and go back to her food.

    WHAT DO I DO?!? I've never encountered this before! My current plan is to "set her up" in situations she may climb and remotely punish her with either hose, air horn or some other corrective measure. Any suggestions?

    Now for the trailer...as this was VERY scary and I'm lucky she didnt get hurt! Trying to figure out a way to secure a tie from down low to go along with the normal trailer tie. Perhaps over the center divider and then coming up from underneath it? It would come out at about shoulder level and then I could adjust the length so her head could be comfortable but not get raised above a certain level. Then if she tries to go up she can't get her head up to rear into position. FYI the manger of the trailer is just a few inches below her throatlatch. It's a 7'8" trailer so when her leg got stock it was up by her eye! That's option one...try to find a way to keep her from going up. Option 2 is put her in backwards. Option 3 is board up the manger...but then there is no chestbar. Is that safe? Not to mention I'm SURE she'd climb on a chest bar anyways.

    I also intend to do training sessions teaching her to load and stand quietly but I don't want to take any chances with this happening again!! All suggestions for solutions would be greatly appreciated! She's a smart one but with any luck at least one of us can outsmart her! :-D
    Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.

  • #2
    I am afraid I will be no help...you couldnt give me a manger trailer if it had cash in it.
    Can you block it off somehow?
    "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


    • Original Poster

      I could board it up as she has plenty of room to spare in there. Is it safe to board up without a chest bar? I just worry about hitting the brakes it will be her face rather thank her chest that takes the impact. I've never had a problem in one before! Had one get loose and wedged under the chest bar of a walk through once so I thought a manger would be safer! I guess not! :-(
      Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.


      • #4
        it would certainly seem safer than climbing into it. I saw a horse die when he got stuck climbing in one of those.....
        "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


        • #5
          Back in the two horse trailer days, we would fill the manger with straw bales and tie them up there. No ledge to get a hoof on, rear into. I did this until horse was over yearling age, understood standing and tying well.

          Depending on manger shape, you may need only one bale or two, smashed in there. Could be stood upright, or double stacked. One of my friends had a horse stick their hoof out the front window with severe lacerations the result, so covering that window was our main objective.

          I don't know about the bad result noise for climbing, but perhaps being tied and left to stand for a while, in regular sessions, might be helpful in changing UP when tied thinking.

          Hobble training also might be an aid in preventing hoof lifting, pawing, so she can't get up to climb. There are nice ways to train for hobbles, don't need to fight the hobbles to learn quiet standing. I use rolled up burlap, NOT the hobbles you buy. Burlap can be adjusted to fit any horse, easily cut if horse gets tangled badly (which I have not seen happen). While the strap types are usually rather small in width between legs, would be hard to cut fast if horse really got in trouble. All the horses I have trained for hobbles took it pretty easy, but they were well prepared beforehand. I DID NOT just tie the hobbles on and turn horses loose to figure things out.

          Good luck with her, that is a habit I hope to NEVER own.


          • #6
            Originally posted by mroades View Post
            I am afraid I will be no help...you couldnt give me a manger trailer if it had cash in it.
            Can you block it off somehow?

            Ditto that ^^^

            Years ago I borrowed a trailer with a manger and up went the horse and ripped his legs from elbow to knee.

            And the only advice I have is you in her world now and you will have to corral, stall and trailer her with things she cannot put her feet on.
            Live in the sunshine.
            Swim in the sea.
            Drink the wild air.


            • Original Poster

              Yikes! This is bad news! I was hoping someone had successfully reformed a climber! The trailer I will take no risks with again. Too scary and dangerous. The rest is manageable and I guess I just need to get creative with ways to correct her little climbing hobby. I should have had a clue the first week I got her. I was cleaning her stall and she wouldn't stop pestering me. I put her out and barricaded the door with the wheelbarrow. Start mucking again and clop clop! Whip around to see her standing in the wheelbarrow working her way in to me. The next day? Followed me up human stairs into the tack room. Walked up to get her brushes and clop clop! Turn around and who's coming with me? Willa. Ugh.

              I guess my main question at the point is do I barracade the manger with plywood or straw bales and tie her that way or travel with her backwards? What is safest?
              Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.


              • Original Poster

                Forgot to add she will straight tie overnight very quietly. This seems to be more of a playful or frustration behavior than anything. She never seems upset or anxious when she does it. The stall and paddock behavior is defintrly triggered by wanting to be near people but it's not panicked. Very thoughtful and slow. I though about a hobble as well but I've never used one. Not sure how I would incorporate that except for in the trailer. Do they make front leg hobbles?
                Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.


                • #9
                  I had a climber. When my very fancy pony was a yearling, she had similar very bad habits (though not so much in the stall).

                  When in doubt, she went up.

                  One day she trailered quietly all the way to a show. Once there, tried to climb over the breast bar. Retied her. When we went home, she LITERALLY went up and over the breast bar, I heard the rumbling in the trailer, my co-pilot panicked, opened the escape door without look and out charged the pony onto the Pa Turnpike.

                  I re-loaded her (my 2 year old at the time stook like a SAINT), drugged the beJesus out of her (I figured, she'll die from being tranq'd or die from killing herself, I took my chances, she was fine), tied her FAR back and got home ( as in to the bars in my window).

                  Then it was therapy time. Rearing or going up w/ younger horses is a defense mechanism sometimes. Thankfully, when dealt with, they seem to grow out of it.

                  I spent a LOT of extra time working with mine. I worked w/ her in the trailer. It became VERY familar to her. I also blocked it off w/ straw bales to there was no way to get over it/to it. I fed her in the trailer.

                  Every time she would walk too close to the front, I would say "back" and feed her. Every time ( I guess this is like clicker training). When we started moving while in the trailer, I tranq'd her so she would be calm.

                  And personally, it seem like anxiety. I would try tranq before hobbles. I can see disaster in that one.

                  PM me if you want to talk.
                  Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                  • #10
                    According to the previous owners my Morgan was a climber early on in life. He too ended up in a hay manger in a trailer as a 2yr old with the former owner. Its one of the reasons they had to get rid of him, they had a large busy working farm with a zillion things for him to get into (and he did) but they just simply couldn't monkey-horse-proof the farm well enough and were tired of babysitting him. The day I got him, after introduction to the herd over the fence, he was permitted in and declared himself king within 15 minutes. Triumphantly, and resembling a billy goat, he climbed up on top of a rather large stack of logs that horses have been ignoring for decades. Me and the BO uttered, 'uh oh. He's going to be different.'

                    The good news is, they seem to grow out of it as they age. I guess as the body gets miles on it playing on monkey bars doesn't seem like such a great idea anymore.

                    The bad news is, according to my horse, climbers tend to keep the tendency to get themselves, especially their front hooves, into anything and everything. Its as if they wished they had hands and need to investigate everything. But the silver lining is that they tend to be calm when entangled and often can free themselves calmly too. The mantra around my barn though is if there is something for my Morgan to get into, he will find a way. Over the summer he hung himself in a haybag that was hanging above his rump. Suspended himself from the stifle for a while. How he got a hind leg into, and then calmly out of without tearing down the barn is beyond anyone's guess.

                    I would think of this little trick of hers similar to pawing.... its a ploy for attention. Even negative attention (get down!) is attention, so even admonishments are a reward.

                    The best way I know to cure pawing is to make it clear to the horse that this behavior will be ignored. I walk away from a pawer. You, clearly can't walk away from your pony hanging in a fence, but if I were you I wouldn't "admonish" in terms of being emotionally reactive about it. Like baby humans and dogs, horses read emotion changes on a person's face, eyes, eyebrows, voice, etc. If they elicit a change, they learn their action just did something. To an attention seeking animal any change pointed in their direction is a reward. Her getting caught up in creative ways causes you to run to the rescue. She's like the naughty little kid that keeps pulling the fire alarm just to watch everyone run around like mad.

                    I would correct this mare in a state of non-emotion, poker face, like its an everyday occurrence warranting no special attention. Take the fun out of it for her

                    I would monkey-horse-proof what you can, and always be mindful about not encouraging this sort of behavior, don't leave her loose with things to climb on.

                    I think hobble training is a fantastic idea!! Its actually something I've been meaning to do with my Morgan too but never got around to it. That is an area you can use positive reward training. Teach her to hobble first, then hobble when you tie her places she might be tempted to climb, like a pipe panel. Reward her for keeping her feet planted and ingrain that behavior.

                    I would do this over tying her low so she can't get her front feet up. My morgan can get completely entangled in less than 3' of lead rope before you can whistle Dixie.

                    Then just wait her out. Once you start really "ignoring" her behavior, it will get a bit worse before it gets better, but she'll learn she's not getting the reaction she wanted and it won't be worth the effort any more.

                    If you're at a busy boarding stable, you'll need to get everyone on board with this plan. They all have to ignore her and calmly fetch you who will, very calmly and without any emotion, extract her.

                    I love my Morgan, he is a very creative problem solver and he has taught me SO much. I like the uber smart ones, they turn my hair grey, but I have got some of the most amazing stories and memories having survived this long with them Enjoy your amazing and uniquely gifted mare.
                    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                    • Original Poster

                      This is EXACTLY right! 90% of the time it's to get attention. Yesterday I tried to think of ways to remotely punish her so she got no reward for the behavior. I'm a canine behaviorist and my mantra to people is "Any behavior that is ignored or the motivation removed will stop. Any behavior that is rewarded will be repeated. Sometimes even yelling at a dog is a reward to them. It's attention". Well she's got me pinned the little crapper! I thought the same thing yesterday when I had to run back, interact with her and then stay with her. She just got rewarded for climbing into the manger. But like you said...that one you can't ignore. I had no choice but to reward it.

                      This pony lives outside so she's only stalled temporally for clinics or visits to my friends barn so we've only dealt with it a couple of times. But I'm trying to think of a remote punishment that doesn't include me having to go to her. For dogs I'm in LOVE with the spray commander. A remote controlled ice cold air collar that shoots air in their face and scares the crap out of them! It would work BEAUTIFULLY for this type of problem. I would be able to stay hidden and everytime her get start to go up to touch something inappropriate I could spray her without being seen. They can't associate the spray with you and immediately think the spray came from the object. Do they have a giant one for horses?! LOL. Seriously trying to think how to attach it to her halter! Otherwise a shock collar could work. I think I saw one for horses once upon a time. Any other ideas for a remote punishment? I wouldn't use it if she was in a compromised or dangerous position...as said the benefit of the climber is they tend to be calm about getting hung up and know how to get themselves out of it. She was brilliant on immediately figuring out yesterday she had to calmly rear back up to stand in the manger and try again. She never panicked. Just said "uh oh. One leg is stuck. Let me go back up and try again." if she's up I will calmly get her down with as little reward as possible. But if I can continuously set her up in safe positions where I can correct her remotely the MOMENT she's beginning the climb I think I can break the habit completely and redirect her neuropathways to eliminate that option from her vocabulary. Then reward for having all 4 feet on the ground.

                      The round pen is easy. The stall is easy. The trailer...hard. That I just need to monkey proof and work on clicker training for standing quietly for longer periods of time. Any remote punishment ideas here?! I think we're on a roll!! And what do we think for monkey proofing the trailer? Plywood blocking off the manger? Thanks guys! I really want to correct the problem rather than just live in fear and try to avoid it!
                      Please excuse the typos...I'm always on my iPhone and autocorrect is not my friend. Yes I mean mares autocorrect...not mates.


                      • #12
                        what about trailering her backwards? Also when training a horse to cross tie I have seen them tie them to the ground also so the can't go up. You could put an anchor in the floor to tie her to.


                        • #13
                          Hey Kegger, I had a TB years ago that liked to jump in the manger. He was not a baby, so he didn't have that for an excuse.

                          The trick was to tie him fairly short and "behind" him. In that trailer I was able to tie a lead about where the manger part started if that makes any sense. That way they can't get the room they need to get the momentum forward.

                          A chest bar type arrangement would probaby be dangerous for you also at this point. Horses haul just fine in stock trailers with a solid wall in front of them, so if you had to board up the manger it would probably be just like that.

                          The very best thing was when I was able to get rid of the manger trailer!