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- - Trailer Nightmare (http://www.horseforum.com/horse-training/trailer-nightmare-139661/)
Long story short. I have a mare in for training who wont trailer load in a straight.
Did a 30 minute session on her and had her loading and unloading reliably without issues. Owner comes in the next day and decides to work with her on her own and said she loaded fine and after 20 minutes of fighting her to back off she came and got me for help. Needless to say we eventaully got her backed off and I had to put a bit in her mouth.
Repeated the on and off 2 times. No issues. 3rd time she would not back off. after fighting with her for nearly 3 hours i had to remove the dividor and walk her off.
Anyone who has been there with an INCREDIBLY STUBBORN horse want to shed some light on this. Any tips other than hooking the dang horse up to a truck and forcering her off? LOL. (joke)
INcredibly frustrated with this horse.
Honestly, for the problem you had that day (already had a 20 min fight), you should have loaded/unloaded her once and then called it a day. If you over-do it, this is what happens. If you get a correct response, great! Quit.
And when she didn't want to come off, fighting with her for 3 hours is not making this experience any more pleasant for her. Just adding fuel to the fire.
How is she otherwise with ground manners? Does she lead well, stopping when you stop, backing when you ask, and stay out of your personal space? If you have any issues with general ground manners at all, those need to be addressed, because it's probably contributing to her issues with the trailer.
Can you lead her up so just one FRONT foot is in the trailer only? Then back her off. Do that several times until she is listening nicely to you and doing exactly what you ask. Then quit.
The next day, ask her to put both front feet into the trailer only. Then back off. Repeat. If you get a good response, great! Quit.
Maybe the next day repeat the same thing. Do just the front feet. If you get a good response the very first time, perfect! Quit.
Maybe a week later of getting perfect of just the front feet, try for 3 feet only. You should have control of all of her body at all times, placing it where you would like. When she's got 3 feet on, then back off. Get it good once, then quit. Perfect it over the course of a week.
When you've developed this perfect control over her over the course of weeks, then try to load her whole body. Since you've reinforced it this whole time, she should back off when all 4 feet have been loaded.
It sounds like this mare gets frustrated when asked to repeat things too many times, which is why I say if she does it right, even if its only the first time, QUIT. Reward her.
Also make sure you are pausing and being very obvious with what you want. Make her stand there quietly for a couple seconds with one foot in the trailer, before you ask her to back it off. Then stand right at the trailer door quietly. Don't ask her to put her foot back on, or to back away completely, right away.
I'm working on this technique right now with my yearling on my boarder's 3-horse slant with rear tack. I can load or unload each individual foot at MY pace. He'll stand there calmly waiting for his next cue. And I've only loaded him twice so far in it. We haven't gone for an actual drive yet (he's done long stock trailer rides before, so that probably won't be an issue), but I closed the butt bar and windows this second time. He did great. Nice and calm.
My 6-yr-old I had to do a slightly different method with, as he wouldn't load with me leading him. I used a lunging technique. So now all I have to do is lead him to the trailer door, throw the rope over his back, and tap his hip with my fingers. And he self-loads. He also backs out great, one step at a time.
I just recently purchased Clinton Anderson's DVD for trailer loading. I have yet to watch it. Maybe this weekend. If I find out anything exponentially new, I'll repost.
Why fight her? Pull the trailer into a pasture, park it and leave the door open. She'll back herself out eventually. Waste of your time and stress/negative trailer experience for the horse otherwise. I do like the one foot at a time suggestion- a great way to get positive, correct practice. Practice does not make perfect. It only makes what is practiced more permanent. So if you're practicing un/loading being a stressful failure, that's what you're going to get more of. The one foot at a time gets lots of good, successful repetitions at a level you know the mare can do well, reliably, and repeatedly.
ETA: I am guessing that the horse was not actually being stubborn and deliberately trying to displease you. She likely was nervous for some reason (maybe invisible horse eating monsters, who knows with horses!), got anxious about backing up and then got herself overwhelmed and just mentally shut down.
makes sense on the one foot at a time. SHe loads onto it fine. Ive always operated under the repetition method. I dont think a horse accuratly learns something unless done a million times. I do like to end on a good note every session obviously. Ive just never had a stubborn horse like this before. She came in as a very dangerous horse. When SHE decided she was done being ridden she would just stop... and refuse to move. if you annoyed her enough to move forward she woudl rear and buck. We fixed this issue after a few weeks, but it just seems like she keeps picking new things to be a b***h about. she doesnt get frustrated. Just stands there and refuses to move. Its her classic move if you will. NOW its just with the trailer.
She has EXCELLENT ground manners. Very respective of space etc. And she is very quiet under saddle. Its like she didnt win with the under saddle nightmare so she has found a new outlet for her stubborness.
My trainer had a horse that absolutely would not back off a trailer. She'd jump into any trailer but there was no getting her back off. She was a completely, bomb-proof, childsafe, saint of a horse so my trainer gave up after she stood in a trailer for over 48hrs refusing to get off and only hauled her in slant loads after that.
You'd think a horse would get desperate and back off, especially if everyone else is getting dinner but I guess some are more stubborn than desperate?
I guess I don't attribute horses enough ego to need to 'prove' a point by refusing to back off a trailer for extended periods of time- rather I assume there has to be some elemental reason they feel like they 'can't.' Fear, pain, etc.
Sharpie.. this mare shows no signs of distress when trying to back her off. She literally stands there like a GIANT paperweight... resting. she does not give crap what you want her to do and when you try to make her do it long enough she will get dangerous. This is not a normal horse.
Every other horse I've ever worked with made sense. They had a fear of backing off into the unknown.. etc etc. This mare is quite litterally just a giant BIA.
Just a thought, if you don't think that the cause is the "fear of the unknown", and she's just being stubborn by not wanting to back out, why not just make it uncomfortable to be in there?
Horses will try to get away from anything annoying. When working with a horse to go in, I will just start tapping their butt either with my hand, the end of a lead, or the tip of a lunge whip. Not hard at all, but just like someone tapping there foot when they get impatient. Eventually they move. What if you did that in reverse? Just start tapping her shoulder from across the divider. Plan on being in there awhile:)
When we used to have a straight load, this is how I taught my mare to back out. I would untie her from the trailer tie, open the door, & tap her on the shoulder, that's how she knew it was time to get out.
Just a thought. May work, may not.
What a stunning foal in your avatar, Ghostwind! :-)
My thoughts to your first post above were along the lines of what beau wrote, except for quitting for the day(necessarily - sounds like it was one of those days that wouldn't hurt to end tho). It is important to repeat lessons over & over to get them really understood, but the horse does need to be negatively reinforced for any 'Good' behaviour, which in this case, especially considering the long & stressful 'session', would be quitting everything for a stress free break. I don't think 'quitting' needs to mean forget it for the rest of the day - there's nothing to say you can't do 20 more 3 minute sessions if you've got the daylight, so long as there are stress free breaks in between. So for your first session, I reckon 30 mins is WAY too long, but you could have spent an hour, done 6 @ 5 minute sessions no worries, done something else easy & fun you've been working on in between.
I suspect you've mistaken 'calmness' for relaxed & not stressed. Considering the battle you had, I think it's very unlikely for it to be fear-free. She may be apparently 'calm' because she's actually 'shut down' mentally from too much stress, which would also explain the "when you try to make her do it long enough she will get dangerous." - does that feel like it's 'suddenly, out of the blue, for no reason'? What exactly is her bodylanguage in this situation? How's her breathing? Is her eye alert or does she seem 'sleepy'?
Remember I don't know about her handling, only what you've told here, so here's what I'm *guessing* happened...
You did the first(?) lesson on loading & all went well. I suspect that after half an hour, there may have been some bad, frustrated feeling that became associated too. Don't know whether the mare had a problem backing out at that point(many horses do), but she got through it.
So she's had one lesson with one person. She'll need repetitions to really learn it, and as horses don't generalise very well, esp with only a single lesson, she won't generalise that just because it was ok with you & in this situation it means it's OK & she should do it for anyone.
Next day, with a different person, possibly different methods, mannerisms, level of trust between horse & human, etc, it didn't work. Who knows whether the owner was abrupt & hussled her on with a lunge whip, whether the horse was punished for stepping back at the wrong time, took a wrong step & frightened herself about it... but she decided it wasn't safe to back out. Getting confrontational about it only caused her to resist further, stress more & 'shut down' to block out more stress.
So... going back to the basics in a non-confrontational way with beau's sort of approach should get her over her problems, but be aware now she's got them, it will probably take a bit of patience. I'd also ensure anyone else who wants to play with her while she's so green uses a similar approach.
....& can't help commenting on some other comments...
But Sharpie, while I think the leave them to it generally works, I have seen someone do precisely that only to come out find the horse still 'stuck' the next morning, because it was just too terrified to back up. I've also seen(well, heard the commotion from the front of the float, saw the result) a horse somehow rear up & turn around in a single float because he didn't think he could go backwards.... took a bit of chiro work to get him over that.
Missed the bit about stopping when being ridden. My first thought about that is same as Sharpie's too. But if not that, assuming her brain's functioning normally, I'd also be thinking there's a physical problem that hasn't remitted &/or it's all got too much for her, so she's got to the point of trying different behaviours, such as shutting down or exploding.
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