Trailer unloading issues :(
Hello! I am new to this forum but it seems like there are a lot of great draft people here. 6 months ago I purchased my first draft, a Belgian rescue mare who is approx 12 years old. She had been horribly treated and was several hundred pounds underweight when I got her. Her feet had not been trimmed in years. She was wary of people, particularly men. Aside from all of this she was still unbelievably willing to learn and trust, but it's taken a lot of work and time.
I trailered her the first time when I first brought her home. She loaded a bit frantically but didn't hesitate too much to get in. I tied her, then went to step out and she immediately tried to turn around. She isn't huge, but still a draft and nearly got stuck! This was with a 4 horse stock trailer. At the time she weighed about 1600 pounds (she is 16.1). Quickly I went back and retied her, more tight this time. She still tried to turn around but couldn't. The rest of the ride was fine but you could tell she was very uncomfortable.
I always back my horses out of the trailer...when we arrived, I tried to do this with her. She wouldn't budge. She definitely wanted out, but everything in her wanted to turn around and go out front ways. I spent and hour trying to coax her out backwards but it was like her feet were stuck in cement. I HATE giving up but it truly seemed impossible, so I let her turn around to get out. This made me so nervous I can't even tell you! The entire trailer rocked back and forth and she made the loudest noise...I thought either she was going to break the trailer somehow (which isn't mine to begin with) or hurt herself (or me).
I borrowed a trailer after a couple of months to practice with her. I still couldn't get her to back out. I felt like I had made progress, she had gotten one foot down...but only to hop right back inside again. We were both exhausted after hours of trying, and I am sick to say I gave up again, only to let her turn around and nearly kill the trailer, herself, and me in the process.
Unfortunately since I don't own my own trailer, I cannot practice with her very often which makes things much worse. I had to take her to the vet last month and it was hell again (even worse as she is now nearly 2000 pounds) trying to get her out of the trailer safely. I am moving my horses to another location tomorrow and am just dreading it as I am going to be using a friends trailer and would feel so terrible if something happened to it when she turns around to get out (it is a 3 horse slant).
The method that I have been trying to use is just not working and I am making it worse everytime I let her get away with turning around. Usually I will open the door, untie her, she will immediately try to turn around and I will stop her, calm her down, ask her to wait patiently. She will do this. I'll ask her to back up. She will back all the way to the edge of the trailer. I give lots of praise. But this is when the progress stops. A few times she has dropped her back foot to the ground (this took a lot of lead rope smacking on her chest and pressure with the halter). I have a very good release and really praised her when this happend, and really let her think about it. As soon as I think she is ready, I'll ask her to drop her other foot down by asking her to back up...and she immediately hops right back in! There is no stopping her by force of course. We could do this over and over and over and she would not drop her other foot down let alone back out.
I have a lot of patience and have trained all of my other horses myself, and they are all easy loaders/unloaders. This is my first draft and rescue and I am just at a loss of what to do. I keep thinking to myself as much as I hate it that I may have to get more forceful with her (although I don't know what that would involve...it is impossible to push her around). I have been working extensively on her ground manners and yeilding to me, but she is still pushy and quite stubborn. Ideally I'd like to do trailer work with her every day but can't. Plus if I can't get a positive result one time, how is she ever going to figure out what to do?!
I know this was long, I'm so sorry for that but felt it necessary to explain in detail the issue I'm having. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for listening!