I think I finally figured out Saleem and the trailer… It just hit me what happens with him, while we were practicing trailer loading the other day. I asked him to enter the trailer, and he did instantly, walked straight up, stood up there and looked happy, until he happened to take a step to the side and his hindquarters touched the divider beside him. He instantly fell apart, flew forward, reared up, tried to jump the front bar and then, when I pushed him down, he flew backwards, out of the trailer at high speed.
I was astounded. I had not seen that coming, I thought we were making progress and here he was, having his worst meltdown ever…
That’s when it hit me. It has never made any sense with Saleem that he can’t be driven alone, because usually he does not have a problem with being alone. I can ride him alone, in the forest, he can be alone inside the house for hours when the Ferrier is there, I mean, it didn’t make sense that he couldn’t be alone in the trailer.
What did make sense was that for Saleem, it is all about touch. Saleem has always been a very touchy horse, especially since my chiropractor looked him over last spring. We have spent weeks, just touching him, running the whip up and down his body, desensitizing him.
So what does happen with Saleem and the trailer? Here is my new theory. When he is driven with another horse, he can handle it, because he understands why he is being touched if he makes contact with the walls sometimes. He then believes it is the other horse he is touching, and he is used to that, from living the way they are, always sleeping in a big bundle of horses on the pasture or in their house…
But when he is driven alone, he knows that nothing is supposed to touch him, so when he does hit the wall, he panics.
Sometimes I think I am a bit too good at training horses, this ‘touchy’ problem was huge last year, but I made it go away so fast, I allowed myself to completely forget about it… let’s see how good I am then, if I can deal with it and the trailer as well.
Anyway, so we started over, Saleem and me, with the trailer. We walked up to it, and I touched him with the whip, down his side, both sides and across his hind legs. He tensed and jumped and freaked out.
Still, one step at the time, we loaded into the trailer again, while I touched him all over every step of the way, until he relaxed. One step forward, touch, jump, relax, break to think about it, one step forward, touch, spook, relax… In the end, after about 15 min, we stood relaxed inside the trailer while I touched him all over. He sure is intelligent. He just needs a human who is bright enough to figure out what his problems are, and clearly, I needed to have him bend it in neon for me and scream it in my face.
Still, this is actually good news. If this really is his problem, then it is something I think I know how to fix. Fingers crossed that I am not missing something else as well…