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"Trailer loading problem = leading problem" so how to fix LEADING PROBLEM?

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  • "Trailer loading problem = leading problem" so how to fix LEADING PROBLEM?

    I'll try not to make this a novel but I'm not very good at that!

    My friend and I have some young horses. We don't take the kids too many places -- the farm is big enough to do whatever we need to do with them. But at some point in their young lives we do trailer training.

    About a month ago we trained with three 2-year-olds and a yearling. Three of them walked right on and off the trailer several times like it was nothing.

    One 2-year-old colt DID NOT. Here's the thing though. He too walked right onto the trailer -- and tripped with one foot and fell to his knees. Of course the trailer made that empty-tin-can sound when he fell, and he backed out very fast.

    We worked with him using all of the tricks in our arsenal and came up with an epic fail. I am not going to list everything but as suggestions come up I can discuss. When we applied pressure, he would rear or brace.

    Now I have heard that failure to load is a leading problem. But this colt seems to lead just fine. We do teach our horses to drive/longe in the NH way, i.e. point with one hand, drive with the other, but he is just starting that and is not a pro -- that's the only thing I can think of that I have used with other horses that we didn't try with him.

    We'd be willing to do leading exercises not in conjunction with the trailer if that would help. I just don't know what those should be! So I'm looking for EITHER loading or leading suggestions. Some time soon we have to dedicate a day to this... ugh.
    Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.

  • #2
    If he already knows how to drive, build on that. Teach him to do it well, then teach him to do it between you and the fence, over tarps, over poles, etc etc. Then do it at the trailer! Between you and the trailer, etc, then actually loading. Expect a lot, reward little (the slightest try, even if at first it is just a weight shift). Then build off that. So long as he is trying, release. Next time, ask for a little more (ie, maintain your 'ask' until he responds with a little more effort this time - you can decrease your 'ask' as he tries if that works for him, but do not fully release until there is a little more). Just keep building. When he does especially well (for him), walk away from the trailer, even let him hand graze a moment. Then return and try again. Rub rub rub to create relaxation and re-inforce effort when he does try. Call it a day not necessarily when he loads, but when he makes solid progress

    So long as he is facing the trailer, don't correct him, just be passively persistent in your 'ask' position when he gives the 'wrong' answer(s). If he braces, maybe ask a little quieter, but continue asking, and build/escalate your 'ask' only as necessary. Keep in mind that when he braces, he is processing and thinking. Sometimes even really decreasing your 'ask' at that moment and allowing him that moment to process and try on his own is the answer (depending on the type of horse). If he rears, you pushed him too far - let him come down and without missing a beat, quietly and gently (really be aware of your energy!) re-ask. If he really throws a tantrum, you can make the wrong answer harder and the right answer easier by making him work (ie, sideways, circles, back, etc), then allowing him to rest by the trailer. Then re-ask. Rinse, lather, repeat. It's all about setting him up, then letting him be and maintaining consistency and persistence.

    Hope that helps a bit! I teach everyone to 'drive' and apply that to 'driving' into a trailer and never have had a non-loader with that 'tool' in my toolbox... never takes long, either
    ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


    • #3
      Sounds like a classic opps. Horse did right but the sudden tripping and noise scared him to the point of being overly cautious about going in the big bad trailer again. You didn't do anything wrong. But now you have to get him used to scary noise and confinement to get him okay with going in the trailer again.

      Build on what Naturalequus is suggesting but you can also do some desensitizing first away from the trailer. I suggest rigging up noisy obstacles like walking over raised plywood which will make a holly noise. Also you can work with passing through and between hanging tarps that crinkle and make noise. Over too.

      You can also work him in hand near the trailer while someone else is in the trailer making the trailer rattle and make noise.
      ...don't sh** where you eat...


      • #4
        Patience. Patience. Patience.

        First, are you sure the horse leads well? Have you "tested" this buy intentionally walking by/into "scary stuff?" If the answer is "yes" then you can move on. If it's "no," or "I'm not sure", then you've more basic work to do.

        If the horse, in fact, leads well then you're going to have to take it back into "the zone of danger." Just how you do this will depend on your general practices. I like to walk toward the "booger", stop well clear and reward, stop nearer and reward, the watch for the first sign of "spook" as we get into the "zone" and stop there (or maybe back off of a step), reward, and wait. When the horse settles, reward and try one step forward. If that works then reward, wait a bit, and try another step forward. A journey of 1000 miles not only begins with one step, it is a chain of single steps. You might not solve the problem in one session, but you will solve the problem.

        By the way, the key to this is the human determining how many steps and in what direction. If the resistance peaks at some point then back off a step. Remember that this is not a competition and you don't get points on how fast you do this. If YOU choose to back off then back off. The horse, of course, does NOT get to choose to "back off."

        Put another way, this is a finesse based program.

        Good luck in your project.

        Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão