Well welcome back OP!
I wrote up a trailer loading thread a few years ago (find it here
). It may be useful to you.
Present day: My best friend buys a nice 2 horse straight load that is a step up. I brought my horse out to pop him on just because. He went right on. He backed off after a few seconds. I thought it was odd and laughed it off and asked him back on. He came on again, but then shot back out without being asked. I was super confused as to why this was suddenly a problem. I decided to call it for the day, and come back the next day to really work on it when I had plenty of time and game plan.
Personally, I think you handled this okay. It's never a bad idea to think about the situation FIRST, and then access with a calm mind what needs to be done. But in the future, what I would suggest, is I probably would loaded him right away again, or at least the front feet, and made sure that **I** was the one to decide to unload those feet (not him). Doesn't matter if he only stood there for a fraction of a second before I sensed he was about to move; it's just as long as I have "made the first move" and actually asked him to do it before he did.
Day 1: Basically I asked him to get on with his front legs and then back off. He would. At first, he was choosing to back off on his own but would eventually just stand there halfway in.
Whether it is trailer loading or riding or anything --- NEVER allow the horse to be the one to make decisions. It should be the rider/handler that is asking the horse to do something; not the horse deciding to do things. And I don't mean that we should be this big forceful dominant mean rider/handler. It is the ultimate goal to create a horse that is willing and WANTS to do what we ask. But again, we still want the horse to always comply with what we are asking, and waiting on us
to let them know what the next step is.
I finally started asking him to get all the way in. He would, and would stand and sniff a bit and then off he'd run. Now, I should say whenever he backed off crazy or when I didn't tell him too, I would take him off and make him hustle around. Backing up, vigorous hind quarter yielding, generally making it uncomfortable for him to be outside of that trailer. He would continue to load, and after about an hour/90 mins- He was willing to come in, back a couple steps, come back in, wait a couple breaths and then back all the way off at my choosing. He did it three times and I called it quits. I should also say, by the end of this day, he was walking calmly back, rather than shooting back, so that's nice.
In my opinion, 90 minutes is way too long to be drilling him on this single topic. Way too long. A lot of horses would not tolerate this for that long and would completely blow up on you. Your horse sounds like a saint.
15 minutes is plenty to work on a specific item like this.
Secondly, I'm not a real big fan of "correcting" them by making them back all over the place. Yes, they can and will make mistakes during the training process, and you have to do what you need to do to correct it. But you also want to try to set the horse up for success as much as you can. So if it were my horse, I would have never loaded him all that way on that first day. I would have just focused on one front foot - maybe both front feet based on how they were doing. Just load and unload that one foot over and over, and if they did a great job several times right off the bat, heck, we might have achieved our goal for the day in 60 seconds. Great! They would be done and we would go do something else. Absolutely no need to drill them for 90 minutes.
Day 2 was a little better, but I keep trying to extend the time he has to stand in there before I back him off. Sometimes he seems keen to wait and I can get a minute or two before asking for a back (this only happened maybe twice today), other (most) times he'll wait maybe 15 seconds and want to back off. Even when he decides to back off, at least he is going slowly now. I try and ask him to step back in the trailer if he starts to back off, but once i pull his head a bit forward with the lead, he'll throw his head and he quickly backs off. Like once he's decided to leave, he's gone. But if I ask him myself in time, he's a real gentleman about it.
Again, he should not be the one to decide to back off!!! That is your decision, as the handler. And he should wait on you for that cue. That's why I think you are progressing too quickly, and skipping vital basic steps.
Currently, I am working him with a chain over his nose. I did it initially because with a lead rope, he'd shoot off and try and wander (while I was still standing in the trailer) so the chain allowed me to keep his head straight and gave me a bit of leverage. The barn owner says when he tries to back off, I should hold onto the rope and let the chain pinch him at least once before I release it. The problem with this is, when I allow the chain to put pressure on him, his head goes up. He's bonked himself twice on the forehead, thankfully not bad, but it makes me very uncomfortable. Sometime he will rear when he's back on the ground. He'll do this to some extent with the lead rope, but not nearly as bad as this (rearing, sudden head throws etc). I just don't want a vet bill as a result of this.
Lose the chain. Instead, slow down on your training because you are trying to progress too rapidly. The holes are emerging, and that's why you need the "band aid" fix of a chain to try to force control him.
Or should I try and "hold" him on the trailer with a chain? I'm a 20 yo girl, so I'm not likely going to win an arm wrestling contest with him.....
Even a body building would never win a contest with a 1,000 pound animal. If they don't want to listen to you, you will NEVER win a force contest.
He was a bit better today, so is this something that will just take a lot of practice and patience?
Yes, you need TIME and PATIENCE. And taking a read of my trailer loading thread will help! Please read it.
He has good ground manners normally, but it all seems to fly out the window when it comes to getting of that trailer.
Ultimately, trailer loading problems ARE ground work problems. Your holes are exposed when the trailer comes into the mix. Ground manners is about being able to move your horse's body and control their feet at all times, at all speeds, and in all situations --- even if there happens to be a trailer there.