Wednesday, December 27, 2017

More Questions on Trailer Loading

Everett wrote to clarify some things on trailer loading. "I have several questions on trailer loading if you have the time to answer me. I own and have watched several videos on trailer loading and generally have no problems with my two horses, but encounter some problems when helping friends of mine with their horses getting in the trailer. Videos are great and have been my primary outside learning experience but you can't ask questions! (1) I've seen different trainers work their horses in different patterns before trying to load them such as circles or just going back and forth. Is any pattern okay or are their advantages and disadvantages with each? And if you are lunging a horse around a trailer then try to load her and she stops at the trailer and refuses to load, isn't she being rewarded with a rest anyway? (2) One problem I almost ways have with other's horses is a when you are asking the horse to get in the trailer she will move around the side of the trailer sort of hiding so how do you keep them straight? (3) Have you encounter a horse who won't step into the trailer because the trailer is too high? Will a ramp work better? Any answers you can give would be appreciated. Thank you for your site and videos as well. Respectfully, Everett".

Good questions Everett. The pattern that you lunge a horse in prior to asking him to attempt to load is really not important. What is are the reason for doing so and how you go about doing it. See diagrams before on two common patterns - although some people will lunge their horses in ovals on all sides of the trailer or lunge them from one side to the other - whatever you are comfortable with. I look at it these ways:

Although it often said or thought that the reason for working your horse outside the trailer prior to loading is to get him seeking that rest in the trailer. While this is pretty much true, I believe the primary reason for working the horse outside the trailer is to direct his feet therefore establishing leadership with him and getting him focused on listening to you, so when you ask him to enter the trailer it is an extension on what you just had been doing. Moving around the outside of trailer is useful on getting him sacked out on any anxiety with the trailer he may have. See figures 1 and 2 below - they are common patterns I do when working a horse into wanting to load.

I understand your point about working a horse then letting it rest at the trailer refusing to load. While it may be a physical rest for the horse (for a moment), as you are asking it to load it becomes mental pressure as the horse realizes you are asking it to do something it is wary of doing. Besides, you are not going to stay at this point for a long time. A few moments without an effort to load before you are back to working it. As long as the horse makes an effort, I'll stay at this point in the process.

As far as the trailer being too high for the horse to step into,....I think can't and won't are too different things, with can't stepping that high being a rare thing. The height of the trailer can add anxiety to the horse and the horse may leap into the trailer. This is why we don't stand in front of the horse leading them into the trailer. This can also cause additional problems if the floor is too slippery or not stable. I once refused to work a client's horse on trailer loading into his trailer because the floor would have likely cracked and it was looking possible for a horse to get his hoof through that floor. Can you imagine the damage if that happened on a moving trailer? All possible for want of a few dollars worth of 2x6 planks.

Anyway, before I forget, even if you have a trailer you can walk into leading your horse, it is a good idea in my book to also be able to send your horse into the trailer while you stay outside. On sending, sometimes the horse will turn around because it's hard to stop him from turning around while you are on the outside, so it's good to be able to back him out after sending him in. All good experience for the horse - makes him safer and more handier.

I don't have a trailer with a ramp nor have used a ramp much. I don't prefer them as you kind of need level ground behind the trailer for loading and un-loading. If you fashion a ramp for a ramp less trailer because you think your horse needs it to load, just make sure it is stable - won't move and will take the weight. A horse around 1,200 pounds becomes much more than that when stepping hard onto the ramp. I would think the 'sponginess' of some ramps may increase a horse's fear of loading.

I think your last question is what to do if your horse steps to the side of the trailer avoiding loading. If you are in the trailer (but off to the side) it's hard to keep a horse straight for loading that doesn't want to stay straight. I would likely go back to working the horse in circles or half circles, then going back to asking to load. Or you can use a lunge whip or just a stick to tap the horse on the outside of his barrel or butt to get him to move over and become straight again. Sometimes, I'll step out of the trailer and back the horse with energy, then walk back around to the trailer and ask him to load again. See figure 3 at left.

Some other important things are going to be:

When you lead a horse to a trailer to load, expect him to load just fine, otherwise he may sense your hesitancy and not load;

Remember that you can't pull a horse into the trailer - you can put a little pressure or hold on the lead rope momentarily so he understand you want him to come forward, but he needs to load on a loose lead - Good Lord this is likely the most common mistake - continue pulling on the horse trying to get him to load;

If he load's then back him out before he backs out under his own decision - then build on the amount of time he can stand in the trailer. It's okay to turn around if you can do it safely in the beginning but eventually he needs to be able to back out. I like to back a horse out under a loose lead when I'm inside the trailer and use the verbal cue "step" to help him identify the edge.      

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Arena Patterns: Ground Poles and Box

This is another easy pattern or obstacle for your arena, consisting of ground poles and a box, that everyone can use and use in multiple ways so you and your horse and can get a lot out it. While it can just be used as ground poles to go over and over with your horse to help him learn to pick his feet up, and to help you with the timing of the feet, it can also be used for turns, backing, side passing and tight turn arounds with forward momentum, which judging from the Arena Obstacle Challenges I run each year, seem to be a problem area for many horses and riders.

I had a client in my arena riding a horse who was half draft horse - pretty tall maybe 17 hands, but short backed actually. The pair had a problem with turning tight circles. We weren't going to get everything solved that day, but after working on lateral and vertical flexion, and controlling the head/neck, front end, barrel and back end - which I advocated doing everytime that horse was pulled to ride, we moved onto the drills you see in the diagrams below. As I demonstrated the many various things you can do with ground poles, the client said words to the effect that she "would have never thought about doing anything but riding over the ground poles like cavalettis, like in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. Riding over the ground poles really helps the horse pick his feet up. The change of interval from the first five poles to the last ground pole on the far side of the circle adds a challenge in concentration. I think this exercise also puts a reason into asking the horse to get soft, drop his nose vertical, as it helps him see the ground poles.  You can also change up the interval from pole to pole.

Figure 2. This is pretty much the same exercise as Figure 1 but adds a small circle under forward momentum in the box. I have my box with 6 foot long sides, but if you have a really large horse you can extend the box somewhat. I do that for big horses competing in Arena Obstacle Challenges. The idea is to do this circle smoothly without it looking like a narrow turn on the hocks, then a step forward, then another narrow turn on the hocks. It helps if the horse is soft and can follow his nose keeping the bend without fading out - which requires forward momentum. The follow on to the circle in the box is to do the circle using only a neck rein and once you can do that, do it using only leg cues and pressure.
Figure 3. This exercise is riding between the ground poles, doing a turn around after you get through the poles in order to get lined up and go through the next set.  The basic idea is to do a 180 degree turn with forward momentum.  You can turn on the front end or on the hocks which will likely require re-lining up a bit to proceed forward through the next ground poles.  After four trips between the ground poles, you enter the box and execute a 360 degree turn with forward momentum.
Figure 4. This is pretty challenging - riding forward between two poles, side passing to get lined up for the next set, then backing up. Repeating this until you can side pass over then step into the box for a tight circle.
While you could ride over this pattern and these obstacles for a while before ever doing the same thing, if you change up the way you enter the poles, or doing it in reverse, I would consider sticking to a particular pattern until you horse gets comfortable with it and improves quite a bit before you change it up.  You can also side pass over the poles - in fact, another way I use ground poles is to trot over them and stop my horse so he has his front feet on one side of a ground pole and the rear feet on the other side of the pole, then side pass him one direction or the other.    

You are only limited by your imagination and what's safe for you and your horse to perform.  One more variation is that once inside the box, position up and do turns on the hocks or on the front end rather than doing a circle.           

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Ideas for Horse People

There are my ideas for some good Christmas gifts for horse people.  Aside of not having a pair of Carlos Macias (Buckaroo Gear) Armitas, everything else I have and put to good use. 

Air Compressor for Truck and Trailer Tires. ARB 4x4 Accessories offers several different on-board (mounted to a vehicle) and portable air compressor kits. These are not your cheap K-Mart type units that don't have the guts to inflate larger tires such as load range E tires or even the tires commonly found on most horse trailers. I don't remember how many times I have people pulling trailers with under inflated tires or tires that were damaged, dry rotted or about to blow out.

I have a portable unit since I use three different trucks to pull four different trailers - I can store the ARB portable High Performance 12 volt air compressor in any truck I am using that day. If you think the same then you have two basic options considering what you are willing to spend - the ARB Twin High Performance 12 volt portable air compressor (MSRP $875.00) r the smaller ARB Portable High Performance 12 volt air compressor (MSRP $352.00).

ARB also makes a tire repair kit. This is not your cheap truck stop kit, but a well made kit and includes pencil type tire gauge with dual pressure range and dual chuck, insertion and reamer tools, needle nose pliers, lubricant, additional valve accessories and 30 self vulcanizing repair cords for complete air sealing. MSRP at $42.00

Buy Knowledge Not Gear. That's what John Lyon's told me earlier this year. I cannot more highly recommend a subscription to Eclectic Horseman magazine and their DVD series The Horseman's Gazette. The eclectic Horseman magazine, which is published six times a year, presents information from well-known clinicians and trainers including Buck Brannaman, Martin Black, Joe Wolter, Wendy Murdoch, Bryan Neubert, Paul Dietz, Deb Bennett, Jim and Donnette Hicks, Mindy Bower, Scott Grosskopf and a host of lesser-known clinicians, trainers and cowboys who get up and work with horses and students every day.

You can watch short previews from the Horseman's Gazette DVD series at this link.

But if you need Gear, then here are a few of my favorites makers and providers:

Martin Black. Martin is a highly regarded clinician but also offers quality gear including Rawhide and Kangaroo Hackamores. He offers DVD's ranging from ranch roping to starting colts. He also offers the famous Ed Connell horsemanship texts - "Hackamore Reinsman", "Reinsman of the West" and "Vaquero Style Horsemanship", as well as many others. I have a 1/2 inch Kangaroo Hackamore, which is very soft. All his hackamores come with leather hangers and you will not find any higher quality gear.

Buckaroo Gear. Formerly known as Lost Buckaroo, Carlos Macias is well known for his custom chinks and armitas. He makes chaps and other leather gear as well. It's his armitas you hear being referred to when Trinity Seely sings her song "Low Maintenance". For everything from bosals, to saddles, ropes, bits and spurs to many other items, go to Carlos website - Buckaroo Gear.

Craig Cameron. A famous clinician and founder of the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA), Craig offers a great selection of gear. Some of my favorite items are his hobbles. Offering soft cotton training hobbles, sideline hobbles, to adjustable and no buckle leather hobbles you will be able to find the hobble(s) you need. Craig's No-Buckle hobble is a constant companion on my saddle.

Consider Your Horse. Right now as I write this it's snowing just west of El Paso, Texas. Temperatures in the mid 30's and forecasted to be in the low 20's. Time to put blankets on the horses and they need to be water resistant. We're pretty happy with the Weatherbeeta line of blankets. Weatherbeeta has a page on their website that helps you select blankets if your horse is a,....Blanket Wrecker, Blanket Houdini or is just plain blanket friendly. I've got some of each actually. Weatherbeeta offers all sorts of turnout blankets and cooling sheets, but I have several of the medium and heavy weight blankets made from 1200D ripstop nylon with 220grams of insulation and 1680D Ballistic Nylon with 360 grams of insulation respectively, with MSRP's of $114.99 to $349.99 - although I've never had to pay that much even buying retail. Those two blankets covers my horses' needs in West Texas.

Don't Ride Naked. That means wearing suitable clothing. Some of what I wear is from Schaefer Ranchwear and since it's cold weather time, I'm normally wearing a wool vest over a shirt and under a coat. The 805 Cattle Baron vest at an MSRP $130.00 is something that will last you a long time and provide some comfort when riding on those cold days. I like the vest not only because of it's thick wool (24 oz. Legacy Melton Wool) but it has actual pockets - four outside and two inside.

Schaefer's RangeWax version of outer wear is also premium items. The Schaefer 230 RangeWax Drifter Coat at an MSRP $240.00 is a great coat to break the wind and keep you dry. The Schaefer RangeWax is a non-sticky version of the old Australian waxed outback clothing. The RangeWax Drifter coat has a heavy duty front zipper, two 2 way pockets, and two slant pockets, and snap out side vents for riding. My only complaint about this coat is the velcro cuffs rather than brass snaps, but I can live with that.