Loading a skittish horse

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Loading a skittish horse

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    09-11-2011, 06:00 PM
Loading a skittish horse

Hi, I'm new here. I've been without a horse for about 15 yrs. Two months ago, I bought a 4yr old QH mare. At 2yrs old, she was sent to a "trainer" for a month, then put out to pasture. Hasn't been touched for the last 2 yrs....She's very skittish, but getting better with a ton of TLC, rides well once I'm on her but if she's not tied up when I mount, she will back up until she hits a fence, then panics. Tied up, she stands quiet, I lean over and unsnap the lead rope and she's fine. It's taken these last 2 months to get her to allow me to place the bridle over her ears, or even the reins over her head. I can rub her ears all day long, but panics if bridle or reins go up over her head. I think they roped her and beat the he!! Out of her. She use to panic when I brought out the saddle pad!!!

Anyway.... she's doing real well, except we can not get her in the horse trailer... I've tried feeding her in there... she just won't eat... My dad and I finally "forced" her in, no beating, he had the rope thru the side of the trailer pulling her, and I had my shoulder in her rear and pushed. She finally went in. We closed it up, I gave her grain and hay, fed her treats, told her what a good girl she was, let her eat in there about 30 min. Or so. When I went to let her out. I went in, she was sweatting profusely, but eating, I gave her more treats, told her what a good girl she was, and proceeded to back her out.... She got one hind foot out, and when she had to step down, she paniced, and jumped back in. Took over 30 minutes to get her out.

After that she got aggressive and tried kicking me when I went to catch her, even when put in a small pen to catch her, where she had stood still with ears perked to get her treat when I caught her. She started turning her behind to me, ears back and tried kicking! She's finally over that, but how am I going to get her in the trailer without traumatizing her again?

Thanks for your input. The neighbor says I can borrow his horse to load first (4 horse trailer), and see if I can coax her in that way.

Hopefully ya'll know some easier tricks. She's pretty hard headed!
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    09-11-2011, 07:27 PM
Green Broke
Gee every thing you mentioned sounds just like my current horse, about 3 months ago,
First, stop giving her treats, horses arnt dogs and do not respond to treats. They think they took the food from you and they are the boss.
Also stop trying to not traumatzie your horse, traumatize the crap out of her, the more you traumatize her the more it will take to get traumatized. You need to do alot of ground work, Start with stand like a statue, then teach backing up, then send her left, send her right. It takes time but those are the basics you have to have down before you can start anything else. Order the DVD, "Lead Line Leadership" by Julie Goodnight. Turned my horse from a nervous wreck 2 hours to load basket case, to a decent trail horse in about 2 months.
    09-11-2011, 07:31 PM
Green Broke
Oh if your horse was a little more experienced, I would say the backing on mounting is a painful saddle. They are basically trying to back out from under it. I'm going to go out on a limb here but that horse in the picture is NOT a quarter horse, and if you are riding her with a quarter horse saddle I can see why she is running backwards when you mount. Look at her withers, She needs a high gullet or gaited horse saddle.
    09-11-2011, 08:08 PM
She's put on a some weight and filled out alot since we've gotten her. Don't think she had all the groceries she needed when young. She's only about 15 hands. According to her papers, with picture, she's registered QH, but I know those can be forged. She does real well with ground work, loves to be ridden, when I'm on her she'll do almost anything for me, and loves to keep going. This pic is from today, she's finally getting that QH butt on her.

I guess we can keep "forcing" her in the trailer when we need to go somewhere. Have some rides in a few months I'd like to go on, when we're both in better shape.
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    09-11-2011, 10:45 PM
Green Broke
May still be a saddle fit issue, get some obstacles in you round pen, and send her around and over things, basically she should go where you point, don't lead her, stop at the log and make her go over, then start with the trailer, just have to keep working with her,
    09-12-2011, 09:59 AM
Welcome to the Forum, nuisance!

Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard - make the trailer a great place to be, and make the area outside the trailer a place where she's going to work. I use NH-style lunging to accomplish this and have had success with several problem loaders.

Open the trailer up as much as possible - the bigger and brighter it looks, the less scary and claustrophobic it is for your mare. Start by just leading her up to the trailer; don't look at her, just walk purposefully forward like you know that she's just going to step right aboard. Up and In.

If she doesn't step on, allow her to get as close as she wants (assuming that she truly is frightened of the experience and not just "saying no") and sniff the floor, ramp, etc. As long as her attention is on the trailer and she's obviously thinking it through, let her be to relax and think. When her attention wanders away from the trailer, push her out onto a circle and lunge her. Make sure you have enough line that she has room to move and the circle isn't too small - I use about a 15-20 foot line. Do lots of transitions on that circle, both changes of gait and of direction. The name of the game is to get her feet moving with energy.

When she's responsive and thinking about what you're asking, go back to the trailer - don't stop between the circle and the trailer, just smoothly take that energy toward the trailer. If she hops on, great! If not, allow her to rest as close to the trailer as she'll get for as long as she’s thinking about the trailer. When she chooses to leave the trailer, push her out onto the circle again.

When she’s resting, make sure that your body language is neutral. Allow her to make the choice to either load or “flee,” and let her make the connection between rest and thinking about the trailer, and between that choice to leave and getting more work. She needs to learn how to load mentally as well as physically. I’ve used grain to get horses into trailers before, but I don’t like to – the horse doesn’t learn anything. The only time I go for grain is when I must get the horse in the box to go home, yesterday.

One final thought – loading is only an extension of other leading activities. If your horse is truly proficient at leading, you can take her anywhere on foot without hesitation or being dragged, and you can control her body from the ground, trailer loading shouldn’t be a problem. Never underestimate the value of going away from the trailer and polishing on basic leadline skills.

Good luck!
    09-12-2011, 10:40 AM
Just a word of caution. While mounting a tied horse seems to work for the OP I would not recommend it.
    09-12-2011, 12:15 PM
Originally Posted by natisha    
just a word of caution. While mounting a tied horse seems to work for the op I would not recommend it.
i've been working her on and off being tied. Will stop her at the place I saddle her and get off, she use to go backwards as fast as she can when dismounting also, but now she has no problems with it. But, after the first time mounting, she is fine standing still without being tied while mounting.
    09-12-2011, 01:32 PM
Sounds like a saddle pain issue to me.

She's filling in nicely.
    09-12-2011, 01:40 PM
Originally Posted by baileyjo    
sounds like a saddle pain issue to me.

She's filling in nicely.

I have 3 different saddles.... Have tried all 3 of them. 1 is an arabian tree, used extra saddle pads on there, other 2 have qh trees.

She backs up before I even get my foot up to put in stirrup... Could she be remembering the pain from 2 yrs ago? She gives me no indication of pain now.

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