Sudden problem loading on trailer?!
Ok, so I started my mare under saddle, and then decided b/c she was so spooky to take her to a horse show to help desensitize her. So to help get her ready we trailered her to a friends house, who also has a green broke horse, so we could work with them together. She hadnt loaded onto a trailer since she was 4 months old (when I had got her), and she was used to being fed on that trailer with her mother. So we expectde a long hard time loading....No, she loaded with a little coaxing with a bucket of grain. Unloaded fine. Coggins test...loaded again with grain, unloaded fine.....Show, loaded with grain, unloaded fine....end of show....45 minuted trying to get her to load! 20 minutes trying to get her to unload. At the horse show, I had opened a side door on the horse trailer, and unloaded chairs. When it got dark, my friend opened the same door and she spooked and broke her halter. I dont even remember what happened the second time, but she spooked again and broke a second halter. (we put the tie down on wrong and it didnt release b/c of it)...When we went to load her and pulled the lead line, she sat back on it, so we got another line and two friends pulled it across her hind end, and she sat against it. She was rearing and so we gave up on that...then a lady came up and suggested us tryign the line across the butt....lol...So after awhile, grain wasnt working, so I decided to let the lead loose, and she ever so slowly got into the trailer as I shook a grain bucket. Unloading was fun too...She backed up got her back legs out, got scared and jumped back in...She wouldnt back up after that, so we tried turning her in the 4 horse trailer, with little room, and eventually she did make it out, but I was so scared she was going to get hurt. We have one more show coming up before summer is over, and I dont want to suffer this again...any tips?
Was it from her pulling back and feeling trapped that she felt that way again when the lead line was pulled?
Not unusual for young horses to go backwards on things they previously did well.
First thing I would do is load in another horse first. They'll often get right in as they see it really is all right.
Another thing to try is get them as far in the trailer as they'll go without backing out (had mixed results with this). Have someone take a whip and and just niggle there back ankle until they move that foot forward as slight pressure is maintained on the lead. Go to the other side and start working that ankle. Back and forth you go as they slowly move into the trailer.
What you don't want to do is get to the fighting stage, you've lost the round at that point. If it happens, back up, let everyone catch their breath and calm down. Then go back at it again.
Once you do get them loaded, go for a short trip around the block and let them back out. This gets them used to the idea that bad things don't come from trailering.
This is gonna 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 dont 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 dont 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.
There are several reasons why your horse could have suddenly developed problems loading; maybe it was because it was dark? That can change the way the trailer looks and could have spooked a horse that is still relatively young and inexperienced with loading. Anyway, lilruffian did a very good job of explaining the process of what I would do.
First, practice loading at home, when you don't have to go anywhere. That way, you will be more relaxed because you aren't worried about getting somewhere, and if it takes an hour, then it's not a problem. When you are working on loading, try not to get into a pushing/pulling match. Ask her to load, and if she tries, back off. If she backs up, don't try to pull on her or stop her from pulling back, go with her and keep the pressure on until she moves forward. Since you said she also had problems backing out, work on that before she gets fully into the trailer. Ask her to come half way in, then back out. Have her do that a few times, then go all the way in and back out after a few seconds. Gradually lengthen the time she spends in the trailer until she can stand relaxed for as long as you want and still back out when you ask her too. If at any point, she wants to back out, let her. Once she gets out, lunge her around and get her to move and change direction until she is starting to look for a break. Then, go right back in the trailer and let her rest.
When you do this, try to set her up for success. I like to do it after a workout, when she is not as fresh. Open up all the windows and make sure the trailer is well lit. Even if she goes right in, make sure you still have her load and unload several times easily for several days in a row. I don't like to use grain once I have trained my horse to load, just in case I forget the treats at home (heaven forbid!) :D
Thanks, to all of you! I dont mind work! I love working with them, and it sounds like a challenge to get her to load without someone even leading her in, but I'll try my best at this! She seems a little more spooky at night esp. near woods, so I guess that the shadow inside the door scared her as well! Should I try it during the day, then after a few good loads that way, late afternoon, then evening? That's my plan so far, lol...
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