Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Alberta, Canada
This is going to sound like more work, and I honestly didn't wanna do it at first but now im so glad I did. Bear with me as I try to explain.
I learned it from studying Pat Parelli though you don't have to! The principals are sound and not his alone.
What it sounds like you need to do is build her confidence back up again. Alot of horses won't necessaily respond to grain if they're afraid & even if they do in the past, it's not a good idea because there will come a point when you don't have grain & the horse may not load because of it.
So, if you have a trailer on hand, I would spend some time getting her to go in & out of it without leaving the yard. I did it will a 2-horse straight load & both my girls caught on rather quick.
Basically, you don't lead the horse inside. To build their confidence they have to go in on their own.
If you have a long line (12 feet plus) and a short whip (around 4 feet or so), get her going in a circle around you like longeing. Do it in both directions and as she's moving, gravitate closer the the trailer (the doors are open at this point) See if she will just go in on the move, but if she balks, let her relax and then take her away again and do circles. This will teach her that the trailer is a place for rest, not work.
After a little of this, guide her to the door (on the line, not by her head) and ecourage her from behind with the whip. Remember EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS!
The hardest part about this exercise is knowing exactly when to add pressure & when to release it. The release of pressure is like a reward for horses. If she is showing curiosity in the trailer, let her. Don't keep trying to force her in until she's visibly lost interest. Sniffing the floor & stretching her neck inside is curiosity. Flipping her ears back, turning her head to look around outside or staring off into space is not curiosity & you have to get her listening again.
After a minute & she's still checking it out, give her a little more encouragement from behind. If she backs up, increase the pressure until she steps to the door again & then relax. If she puts her front feet in & looks like she might want to come back out, pull her out right away. This way YOU are making the decision for her to come out. Then do it again.
This may take awhile. It took me over half an hour with my Arab mare who was really decent at loading, but would only go in if someone was infront & someone was behind to smack her on the bum, which made loading alone a chore.
Don't be discouraged though. Just take a deep breath & continue.
If she does go in, give her a second & make her come right back out. Walk her off, pet her, give her a treat & then start circling again & do it all over. Just because the horse does it once does not mean they will want to do it again! The 2nd time is quite often trickier than the first because they know what to expect but just be patient & she will go in again.
I didn't stop my first session until my mares both went in twice in a row without a fuss.
Increase the time in the trailer (sometimes putting grain inside works as a reward instead of a bribe), close the doors, rattle them & then let her back out. You want her to know that the trailer doesn't mean work or bad things.
Now, with my horses all I have to do is point, maybe raise my hand to give encouragement and they walk right into their little straight load stalls without hesitation.
It does sound like alot of work but it is worth it to have a horse with confidence, not just one who goes in because they think they'll get food, because the food wont always be there.
"If a horse fails to do something that is because he was not trained to do it. If a horse fails to do something properly that is because he was not trained properly." www.wildestheartart.com
Last edited by lilruffian; 08-23-2011 at 01:04 PM.