Join Date: May 2009
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I like the butt rope method for young and inexperienced horses, but I definitely agree that with horses who are flat out terrified, it can actually cause a lot more problems. We tried it on an Arab mare rehab we had, and same thing happened...she'd coax forward fine, get her front end in the trailer, and then go absolutely spastic, slam her head into the roof and flip out backwards. We actually ended up having to use "force" because even if you coaxed her in with grain, the minute she got her head in, she'd freak out and rear. We ended up using a butt rope, plus two leadropes threaded through the front and out the escape door. On the count of three, everyone would heave as hard as they could and she was small enough, we managed to fluidly "toss" her inside. Now, I'd never reccommend this to anyone, the only reason it worked was because once she was physically inside, she realized she was ok. We only used this method because we had to make her stop hitting her head and scaring herself. For her, it worked. But it's dangerous as all heck because if you don't get it perfectly, you're in for a lot of trouble. After a few times of using this leverage to get her inside without her hitting her head, she would load no problem. Again, she was a very small horse. I'd never try it with a bigger horse.
Anyway, I do personally like the food method. I mean, in that sense, everything we make a horse do is force. We don't exactly give them choices. If you don't listen, I'll make you work. If you don't like the trailer, you won't eat. Obviously if this method absolutely wasn't working, I'd never let a horse starve. But we used this method on a yearling colt, and within half a day Shay-las mom made us remove the trailer from the paddock because he kept her up all night jumping in and out (he thought it was a game). He learned to love being in the trailer. Heck, in his case, I don't think we even needed to put food inside, he was so curious he would have started playing anyway!
For this horse, you'll definitely need to make the trailer as positive as possible. Even little things like setting a pan of oats right at the doors so he can stand outside and eat. Just to reinforce the idea that standing by the trailer is a fun thing. Work him around the trailer, ride him around the trailer, do your best to make it an object of his daily life. Also, TONS of groundwork. Get him REALLY listening to you in the halter, and listening to voice commands. Build that foundation of trust. It may take awhile, but worth it in the end.
I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.