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HollyBubbles 11-08-2011 02:53 AM

Horse will not back off float!
A while ago I posted on here about how Mitch would not back off a horse float.. When I first got him he would refuse to back up at all, pushing against you and the chest bar with all his weight if you asked him backwards..
We ended up turning him around and hauling him out of the float (thankfully it was plenty wide enough, but it was not my float and I can't rely on turning him around every time.)

After this we worked extensively from the ground on backing up, he now knows this very well so we borrowed the neighbourse float (very wide) and I walked him up to the ramp, then backed him away, then got his front hooves on the ramp, then backed off etc so he knew how to get out before we got in there.

So now we're inside the float: Mitch will comfortably back up inside the float up until his back hooves have to get onto the ramp, at which point he panics and rushes forwards again. We had to have breaks every 10 minutes because his heart rate was so high I thought he might drop in there(but he didn't). We spent over 2 hours inside that float going backwards and shooting forwards before I managed to suprise him into backing off(very forcefully and I was exhausted afterwards), however he didnt back off fully, he got halfway down the ramp and spun around and come out sideways instead. So we tried again after cooling off a bit.

This time all he will do is go sideways and up against the walls, he will still back up but still as soon as he hits the ramp he goes forwards. I had 2 people with me, one on both sides to make sure he wouldnt go off the ramp. We tried having two lunge lines attatched to him and pulling him backwards, as well as my brother pushing on his chest.... Fail... Still can't get him out and he is just getting more worked up at this point. So I back him up to where he is comfortable and we stand there a while so he calms down, knowing that he did what he was asked to an extent.

I took him to a show the next day and just attatched a lunge line to him and hauled him out forwards with no struggle, and did the same when we got home. But I know I can't rely on always having a float wide enough to turn around it, he's not a small horse. So any suggestions to help here?
We have tried with treats and feed and everything that I can think of, it just seems to be that he panics on having to back down the actual ramp, which is not a steep one at all.

Or do I just give up with this and make sure I buy a wide float or an angle loader?

Saddlebag 11-08-2011 09:17 AM

You need to go back to teaching step by step how to back off the float, starting at the bottom edge of the ramp. Altho you did this work, it needs to be repeated many times. I think he has a huge fear of what might attack him as he exposes his butt to the world outside as the float is blocking part of his view. Any time you have small successes try offering a treat. If he gets part way in and wants to rush backward, go back to where he is comfortable and work from there. He hears things we don't and altho we know there's nothing out there he thinks otherwise. He actually feels safer in the float if he can turn around and look out first. If he gets panicy, no patting or treats, only for accomplishment. Patting at the wrong time is seen as a reward by him. As I reread your post, is the ramp moving when he starts to back off? If so he may feel he could step off into a deep abyss. I had an arab that had to physically check the trailer out. He'd look around and bang on the floor. If he didn't like it, he wouldn't load. If it met with his satisfaction he'd load like a charm. In one trailer a floorboard was weak. We discovered this after he absolutely refused to load.

Horsesdontlie 11-08-2011 10:43 AM

I would work on backing up outside the trailer. Work on getting a great back up in the arena, between barrels, over ground poles, back into the entrance of an arena, back into a stall. Get your horse backing up through anything, then readdress the trailer backing up. They have no idea how far the drop off is after they feel no trailer behind them, get him to trust you with backing up anywhere.

At one point I had a friend who had a horse that wouldn't back up in a trailer and this is what she did. That horse had to back up around, through and over anything she could find. A month later the horse was backing up fine out of the trailer.

Cherie 11-08-2011 10:48 AM

We have dealt with many horses like this over the years. It is a very common problem. Unfortunately, when you ask a horse to back and you give up and let him turn around, he gets very spoiled quite quickly. Some horses will fight tooth and nail for the right to turn around. I have had them throw themselves down, beat their heads on the top of the trailer and have even had them paw, bite and outright attack the handler that kept insisting on making them back off of the trailer. They can go into total 'self-destruct' mode. It can get really ugly with some of these horses.

I am also afraid that the standard 'go one step forward and two steps back' while half in and half out of the trailer will NEVER work on some horses. [Been there -- done that -- have the tee shirt to prove it.]

We have always been able to teach even these hard cases to back off a trailer -- both with and without ramps -- but I have not found a way that works without exerting a lot of pressure and making the horse really uncomfortable when he lunges forward (which these kinds of problem horses almost always do.) These horse will fold their necks up until their chin touched their chest and just barge forward like a bulldozer. You also want to keep in mind that these spoiled horses can get mad enough to attack a handler.

I always use a head protector so a horse cannot hit the top of his head hard enough to hurt himself. I also use good leg wraps and over-reach boots.

They do not fall over dead when they get this mad and excited. They can take a LOT more than that. Letting one rest during the process is just another 'win' for the horse. They get to rest when they complete the task asked of them.

The first method I will use is to take two handlers with good, strong lead-ropes that are comfortable to handle and strong enough to wrap around a post at the back of the trailer or run through a tie loop on the outside of the trailer. Some horses are so strong that it would take a Sumo Wrestler to out-pull them. We take the horse's head slightly to one side (easy to do), anchor that rope around something (not tie it solid) and pull on the other rope forcing the horse to back a step or two. The horse gives himself relief when he backs up and puts slack in the ropes. Then we repeat the process. This will get him back about 2 feet each time and he can reward himself with the slack every time he steps back. You move his head before you make him move his feet. When he gets to the point where he has to put his back feet on the ramp (or step them down to the ground on trailers without a ramp), you want the rope dallied where he cannot go back forward -- because he will try. Then, the person on the horse's left steps to his head and finishes backing him out while the person on the horse's right makes sure he cannot jump back into the trailer.

It is not over after just the first successful backing out session. You should reload the horse and back him out several times until he is comfortable with it and shows no resistance. to it. I have done it 20 times or more on some horses because they would 'dummy up' and refuse as soon as there was only one person there or would do the same thing the next time. If the horse is not backing willingly on a loose lead-rope, you have only won the battle but not the war. You are not through.

I have had a couple of horses that were spoiled enough to keep taking two people and a LOT of pressure. I have kept the second person to keep them from running over me and then I took a piece of twisted up baling wire and spanked their chest until they backed up on a loose lead. If they tuck their chin, are reluctant or slow to step back or keep trying to turn around, they are NOT FIXED! You have to keep it up until they back out on a light lead with no pressure at all.

I do not know why some horses with fight so hard to continue doing it 'their way' and why they make such a big deal out of it. I just know some horses do. Some make the same big deal out of not cantering when asked and will stop at almost nothing to keep from doing what is asked. I do know that there a enough horses that take disobeying a request by an owner this seriously and they are the ones that I am trying to avoid when I tell people that you cannot ask for something that you cannot or will not make happen.

kait18 11-08-2011 10:55 AM

not to make things more difficult but could he not like the ramp??? i know afew horses that just couldn't get over the ramp feeling but were great with a step load.
goodluck though.. i hope you can get him over that ...keep your patience :)

HollyBubbles 11-08-2011 04:32 PM

Saddlebag: I did offer treats once he did what was asked, and no the ramp doesn't move as he puts weight on it, its always firmly on the ground(I love that float haha)

Horsesdontlie: I have been doing that for a month or so now, but it still hasn't worked.. I'm thinking of getting him to back through puddles and down very small hills to simulate backing off a ramp.. If it is safe to do so.

Cherie: We turned him around the first day we got him because we couldn't get him to back up at all, so atleast we have made a small amont of progress, and at the show I just couldn't be bothered with the stress of it, being our first outing also, but both times I had him in the float while training him with it, I did manage to back him out, it took a lot of force and a long time but we got there.
The reason I did the backing away from the trailer etc is he seems to be a horse that learns from seeing things be done, might sound wierd and you might not agree but he just seems that way so I was hoping it would help.

I only let him rest when he had backed up as far as he was comfortable, I didn't let him rest if he was up against the chest bar again.

I think I'll try that method, Mitch is the sort of horse to relent when he gets sick of repeating the process, so far anyway.

Kait18: I'm not sure, he's been trucked all his life so I know that's part of the problem. I think it's the step to a lower level into "nothingness" that gets him, he tries to put his hoof down a few times but doesn't realise it has to go down further than it did before, which is when he panics and shoots forwards

Saddlebag 11-08-2011 04:56 PM

Another thought, have you tried backin him thro parallel poles on the ground. It teaches them to travel straight while backing. My shetland would not back out if there was a ramp, would not do it. Since it was a wooden ramp we backed up to, we just moved the trailer ahead and let her step out. She'd go in with the ramp so we just did it her way.

equiniphile 11-08-2011 05:05 PM

Molly has the same problem! She backs up fine on the ground, she loads great, but backing off....forget about it. I end up having to take the partition out so I can turn her around. I think her main problem is lack of a ramp; when she can't feel the trailer floor anymore she panics.

Cherie 11-08-2011 06:11 PM

It is not the ramp or the lack of a ramp. It is the fact that they make up their minds that they WILL NOT back off of a trailer. And, like I said before, all the backing on the ground and all of the backing when they are only part of way in a trailer does not seem to help. They just make up their minds that they are not going to back off and often times lunge forward right over the top of someone.

equiniphile 11-08-2011 06:15 PM

I don't think that's the case with Molly. We borrowed someone's gooseneck (with a ramp) recently when we were storing wood in ours, and she backed up cautiously but without much help from us. She backs up in our trailer until she feels her foot on the edge, and then she stops.

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