Thursday, June 10, 2010

Horse Training - Solving Trailer Loading Problems

I was asked by a client to help his horse, Maximus, be more comfortable with getting in a trailer. This is probably the most common problem people bring to me. Max has previous refused to get in the trailer after an hour of effort by the owner the day before.

My way is to establish a relationship with the horse, getting him to accept me and asking him to do some simple things, through pressure and release, so he understands when I put some pressure on him to do something, he'll find a fair deal with me because when he does it I'll give him a release. Some people say "it's establishing who's the boss",....I don't look at it this way - I think it's more of partnership. You want a willing horse not a fearful horse.

Anyway, part of Maximus' problem is that he is only taken from his corral and put into a trailer to go someplace and work a couple times a month. Everytime he gets into that trailer he can anticipate a long bumpy trailer ride, then 6 or so hours of hard work, then another long bumpy trailer ride. I think to keep your horse fresh you need to diversify what you do with him when you take him out of the pen.

Take him out of the pens and just groom him; or work in without a saddle in the round pen; or tack him up and ride him a short distance maybe working on something specific; or just take him out walk him around for awhile then put him up. Horses can get mentally burnt out just like humans.

One thing is for sure: don't start something like trailer loading training unless you have the time not to quit on him. Because if you don't succeed sometimes the horse will learn that he can quit on you and get away with it.

I learned a big lesson years ago when at the end of a day I was going to take my paint horse through a small puddle of water. I chose a bad time - early in the evening; I chose too small of water obstacle as he ended up jumping over it time and time again. I knew I couldn't give up on him or he would learn how to avoid the lesson. The end result was around 10:00 pm at night I gave up and put him away. Being madder than hell didn't help him become a brave horse that night. He eventually would willingly walk through large water obstacles.

Back to trailering - it's called leading him into the trailer, because you can't pull a thousand pound animal anywhere. I see people standing in front of their horse trying to pull him into the trailer - often the horse won't go if you're standing in front of him! Get out of the way, lead him up by suggesting it to him,...if you did you ground work you'll be successful.

Once you and he are successful, and if the horse is still pretty timid about it, then do this everyday for a few weeks - it only takes a few minutes - and you help him conquer that fear. Good luck and be safe.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your view on trailer training. I had to laugh the other day when my friend could not get his horse into a trailer to take him home. I said, you brought him out here in that trailer! Anyway, rather than work with him to get him to accept going in the trailer, my friend had me hold his horse for three hours, while he drove home and exchanged trailers for one more acceptable to the horse. I thought this was the wrong thing to do. What do you think?