Two hours to load horse on trailer!
Well,l I got my new standardbred two weeks ago. He came up on a transport and when we went to pick him up in our float (think you guys call it a trailer?) he didnt walk straight on, which I thought he would, as Id been told how quiet he was etc. Anyhow, we got him on with someone on either side behind and a tap with a stick. I was also surprised how bad his groundwork is, he was all over the top of me.
I assumed this was because he had just done 4 days travel and who could blame him not wanting to get on a float. But today I had a lesson scheduled and same thing, no way he's going on the float. I had one helper to tap him from behind, but he straight away started twisting off to the other side. I have been working flat out and also trying to let him acclimatize to the heat so I havnt done any groundwork with him. The lesson was supposed to be the start of that. At one stage he ripped the leadrope out of my hand and ran back into his paddock. I went and got him and then started making him do groundwork in front of the float. Every now and then I took him to the float again. he gets as far as two feet on the ramp, then backs up. so I just kept making him back up, do circles etc (in the hot sun!) after about two hours he gave in and got on the float!! By then it was too late for my riding lesson so I drove him around the block, put him back in his paddock and told him he's a good boy.
Was I correct to keep going till he got on the float? (I just figured otherwise he'd won)
And what methods can I use now that I know its a problem? (I have to float him again tomorrow!)
I liked the idea that you worked him next to the trailer. I would have lunged him there back and forth near the entrance, only letting him rest when he was close/looking at the trailer. If he balked at going in, I'd lunge some more until he realized he could only rest standing in the trailer. The only thing I would have done different is I would have loaded him more than once. I would have kept loading him until he quietly walked on. (in the heat or not.) So congrats on keeping with it the first time around. I'm betting you still have a bit of trouble next time but with practice and perseverance, he'll be loading for you in no time. Just my .02 worth.
I imagine four days travel has soured him to the idea of travelling at all. So time to temporarily stop travelling him when you 'need' to, quit lessons for a couple of weeks. Make yourself a plan on how you are going to give him confidence in loading and travelling again. Make sure that when you start a session you have all the time in the world, so that you stay calm and achieve success. Don't worry, you will no doubt succeed but it is time to back off a bit and deal with this travelling problem as a lesson in itself.
Ps I think, that yes I too would have continued until I got him loaded, and done exactly as you did - short journey, then back into the paddock.
If this horse was recently on the track, don't expect him to have had any groundwork done. It is one thing loading a horse on a large airy float than a more confining one. Many that won't load into a two horse will often walk right on to a larger one. If you are familiar with groundwork training you may as well take the time do look after that before attempting to head off to the trainer's. The groundwork will help prepare him to load.
My mare was dangerous when loading.. My trainer taught me a trick. Chain under the lip on the upper teeth. Painful when she pulled.. I felt guilty, but now she happily loads herself.
She was being dangerous to me, and herself -- And what was I going to do, "I can't afford to board here any longer, but my horse doesn't want to leave, so yeah!" :P
he may start to think he has to work every time he sees the trailer. I would try having his favorite goodies inside, so he thinks good thoughts about it instead of bad. Are you able to bring the trailer inside his pen? or back it up to the gate. I use to do that and put food inside and let them investigate on thier own. go in and go out on their own. when it came time to go some where I had no issues.
Thanks everyone for quick replies.
He's not straight off the track, but he doesnt have good groundwork at all. I would have lunged him outside the float but Im now not even sure if he lunges well, so I didnt want to start another battle. Unfortunately, I do have to move him tomorrow, but Ive got all day, so now that I know its a problem I can spend all day peacefully with him, maybe put the float in his paddock, put his food in, just sit in there and read a book etc.
And I do like that idea of putting him in and out a few times.
It just took me by surprise today! It looks like the previous owners have not been entirely honest about the horse! I cant believe it!!! lol
Oh well, he's a lovely boy, just a bit of work needed..
It sounds like a confidence issue and being pushy and mean wont help it will just make him hate it even more.
What you did sounds right by sticking to it and not just dragging him into the trailer with ropes or anything that would cause pain. he needs to feel like you are not going to make him get in the trailer because then he will feel trapped. You want him to see the trailer as "no big deal" and that it doesnt mean anything so that he's willing to go in on his own.
Approach and retreat is always a good thing, as well as working him next to the open door but not asking him to go in. Soon he will start to think about the trailer and may even want to go in on his own.
If you bring him to the door and it looks like he is going to back off, make him back off but then ask him to go forward again. Sometimes approach and retreat can work wonders.
I would spend time getting him confident with loading before you plan on taking him anywhere.
Another way is to do what you did. If he wont go, take him away a little bit and make him do something else. The only way he might feel that he has won is if you stop everything and just put him away. Work him a bit and then take him back to the trailer and let him think about going in. Encourage him if you have to but you also want him to feel that the trailer is a good place of relaxation - a place he wants to be.
The fact that he ran back to his paddock & did not want to approach the trailer shows that he feels the trailer is not a good place to be. his pen is his comfort zone.
Yes, he may have been quite traumatized by his very long journey. Also, Im wondering if the transport guys weren't exactly gentle in their loading methods. They had 15 horses which they had to load/unlaod for breaks every day so Im guessing they didnt have too much patience...
I rearranged things so he doesnt have to move paddocks today and now Im gonna work on making the float/trailer a good place to be where all the yummy food is! He will have to float in about 5 weeks time but I think thats long enough to restore his confidence.
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