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I’ve really been a lousy blogger these days, I know. So, what’s new?
We were practicing trailer loading yesterday, Saleem is almost cool with the trailer again now, he did develop a dislike for it after the last time we drove him, so we have been kind of catching up on his friendship with the trailer.
Apocalipse is strikingly awesome, he just loads and stands inside the trailer as if he had been born in there and had no plans of ever leaving again. Can it be that I, for the first time ever, have a horse that is not claustrophobic?
We even closed the bar behind him yesterday… he didn’t flinch… I swear he was laughing at me, as I was using all of my willpower not to panic… I hate trailers, I really do…
Marble has been a real issue. When we bought her, she had to be loaded and driven, one year old, away from her mom and to my place. I have no doubt that she had a very traumatic experience, she even gave up when we tried loading her. She just dropped dead, lied down and refused to get up.
So, I’ve been turning her over in my head quite a few times. With Saleem and Apocalipse, I’ve been asking them to load, by using the very well known “forward signal” on their shoulder. When you’ve been practicing horsemanship for years, “forward” is one of the first buttons you install in your horse. That has worked like a charm on those two, and it did so on Apollon to. It’s simple, they understand it, and you can’t force the horse into the trailer by using the forward signal, you can only ask it nicely and hope it respects you more than it fears the trailer.
Marble fears the trailer more than she respects me. No doubt about it. So, what to do…
Sure, she does not need to be driven anywhere for the next two, three years, but do I want to leave her with an untreated trauma for that long, or do we need to attend the issue before it becomes permanent?
I tried asking her once, to load, by using the forward signal. She instantly backed off, reared up against me and said “hell no!” in as many languages as she knew how. I got the message.
So, we haven’t trained her all summer, while we have been training Saleem. But this week, I decided to try again, using a training method I could have sworn on my life, I never would.
We simply opened the trailer, pushed away the separation bar, to give her as much space as possible, and I sat down with a bucket of treats, luring her closer, asking her to at least take a look at the trailer.
She did. She crawled. She hyperventilated. She moved closer on stiff legs and she got her treats, every step of the way. In the end, (ten min tops) she closed her eyes and jumped into the trailer, nearly taking me out on the way.
She got more treats and I asked her to leave again. No forcing her to stay. No waiting for her to panic up there. She entered, she was rewarded, and now please unload on my command.
Yesterday we tried that again. Her attitude had changed. She didn’t crawl up to the trailer anymore. She walked up to it. She didn’t hyperventilate. It did take her a little while before she stepped the first hoof on the ramp, but once she did, she just loaded and was totally cool with it. I could walk her in and out of the trailer three times in succession, with no fuss, no panic attacks, and no forward signals. She just followed me, licking my hands, looking for treats.
So… Of course she has to learn to load by using the signal, of course she has to learn to follow the signal without the treats, but this is actually a HUGE win, even if I cheated to get there. We got past her mortal fear of the trailer in two days, ten min at the time.
She does not feel safe around the trailer yet, but she doesn’t look like she is about to suffer a heart attack anymore and she could easily overwrite her discomfort, to get a treat. I am jumping for joy!
We tried loading Tardis for the first time yesterday. I knew she was going to be trouble, since the previous owner had spent three hours trying and failing to load her, when she had to deliver her to me, and she had ended up having to call the vet and have Tardis sedated, to be able to drive her.
We haven’t trained Tardis this summer, because of her foal.
But yesterday, we figured it was time Ablaze met a trailer as well. So while my friend held Ablaze on a rope, Tardis and I took a look at the trailer and she walked straight up. My friend and I looked at each other in wonder, as I asked her to unload again.
Ablaze poked around the trailer, checking it out, as I asked Tardis to enter by using the forward signal, instead of using treats. (Yes, I cheated, I had expected a second Marble…)
Tardis said “No!”
So, here is my assessment of her. She is not afraid of the ramp. She has a strong dislike for the trailer itself, for being trapped. She is very claustrophobic, but not anymore so than she can be reasoned with. It is going to take time with her, to get her comfortable with the trailer, but it doesn’t look as impossible as I feared it would.
She loaded easily every time I showed her the treat bucket… and she didn’t, when I didn’t offer a substantial reward. So, I’ll have to think about her a little as well. I’ll figure out how best to motivate her.
The thing is, I don’t like using treats. I fear the day when the treat lose its magic, when the horse gets tired of the taste and decides it is not worth the trouble. I want to know, before I drive my horses anywhere, that they are TRAINED, COMFORTABLE and ABLE to load and drive without bribes. I want to know that I am not relying on a piece of candy to get my horse home again after a show…
Ablaze wasn’t scared of the trailer. He easily stepped onto the ramp, but I didn’t load him, mostly because I was a bit afraid of how Tardis would respond if she saw her foal enter a trailer.
First off, I don’t want her scaring him. There is no need for her to teach him of her fears. Second, I don’t want her to feel that she has to run into the trailer to reclaim her foal. That kind of blackmail is beneath me.
So… I guess that’s what I’ve been doing… at least yesterday… now I better get to the stable and move some hay from one loft to another while my boyfriend is here to help… I’ve been told that he is going to England next week, to shoot some movie stuff… leaving me alone with having to chip and vaccinate the foal and check teeth on the others… nicely planned of me, or him, which ever. Anyway, I’ll make it work. I always do.
I bet it’s going to rain as well…