Petrified of closed in spaces - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 04-07-2017, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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Petrified of closed in spaces

Well, the honeymoon is over! Hubby is questioning his decision to buy a horse. It took almost 45 minutes of coaxing, fighting, pleading and bribing to get his horse in the trailer to go to the vet for his shots and teeth float. During that time, Seven gouged his neck which didnt cut him, but it did take an inch wide chunk of hair off. Then he was almost all the way in, freaked out and fell, landing on his backside, scraping his hocks. I decided that I would just walk him to my work (the vets) and be done with the trailer. My work is only about 8 blocks.
For large animal procedures, we have a very large garage with 30 foot ceilings, and a set of stocks. The stocks are your standard horse or cow size. Seven, understandably, was reluctant to enter the garage. It smells funny, theres been blood, poo, vomit and a host of other body fluids in there over the last 50 years. Im sure that no amount of disinfecting can extinguish all those smells, especially to a prey animal. By the time we got both the horses in there, (Scout was there for moral support) my hubby was mentally and emotionally exhausted. He couldnt watch any more of the struggle, so he went home.
The battle continued as we tried to get Seven in the stocks. That was a no-go. Doctor gave him a little oral anti-anxiety medication, but it didnt help. I think he was too wound up. So we moved on to the real sedation for the teeth float. Apparently Seven has an aversion to needles too! I had to cover his eye, talk soft and cradle his head so we could get him sedated enough to get him into the outside stocks. He does seem to calm when I do all that. It breaks my heart when he looks at me with that 'help me' look in his eyes.
This whole battle took about 3 hours. Once he was sedated and in the stocks, the doctor was able to float his teeth. Its never been done and they were HORRIBLE! He also got a complete exam. Hes healthy, other than some mental hang ups regarding closed in spaces.
My husband has always questioned whether or not he has the mental capacity (or lack of (haha)) to have his own horse . He loves the idea of going places his UTV cant. And this horse is AMAZING on the trail! BUT, he doesnt want to be limited to the trails behind the house. We were discussing taking the horses to the mountains where we elk hunt, which is a 4 hour drive. This issue put a wrench in the works. Its not really an option for us to buy a bigger horse trailer. We have a 2 horse bumper pull trailer and its just not economically possible to buy something else. We overpaid for the trailer we have and probably wouldnt get back out of it what weve put into it.
I figure I will give him a few days to get over his heartbreak. I fully believe that certain people have "horse programming" in their brains. We understand that its not all sunshine and rainbows. There will be pain and heartache associated with horses. Its easy to see people enjoying riding and think that its always going to be like that. What we dont see is when their horse spooks at a shadow under a tree. Or when that phantom jumps out from behind that invisible thing and your horse dumps you on the trail, leaving you with a broken (insert body part here). My husband is struggling, like I have with the decision to get into horses.
So any ideas from the experts on how we can help Seven get over his fear of the trailer? Ive thought about asking my boss if I can try some Acepromazine (for the horse, lol, and maybe hubby!) I dont know if it will give him enough bravery to get in the trailer without realizing hes in there. One of the gals I work with gives an oral dose of injectable Ace for the trailer ride to competitions. My worry is that he will get in the trailer, then realize hes in there and panic. I certainly dont want to exacerbate is fears. Hes not afraid of the trailer itself; we tie him to it to tack up. It was the inside that bothered him. Even with the front doors opened and treats waiting for him up front.
Thanks for any input,
Alone-again on the trail, Lynn
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post #2 of 18 Old 04-07-2017, 02:19 PM
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First, your friend is taking a chance, injecting a horse with ACE, going to a competition, because drug tests could show him as being positive
Perhaps a one time solution, when you NEED to get a horse from point a to point b, but certainly NOT a permanent solution.

So, when you bought this horse, how did he load? Did he come with this problem, or did he develop it over time, riding in your trailer?
Unless ahorse has has a trailer wreak, I am strongly in the camp of those that believe a trailer loading issues is in fact a leading issue. Horses that give to pressure 100%, do not question as to where they will of will not lead.
If a horse has trouble balancing in a trailer, that will cause a phobia. Two horse trailers, often with dividers tot he flloor , plus no windows, can make any horse un easy
Never get in a battle with a horse at the actual obstacle, be it a trailer or otherwise-NEVER!
Take that horse away from the trailer and fix the true issue (not total respect in leading)
I will give you an example of application.
Quite a few years ago, we had tow mares in to be bred to our stud. When it was time to go home, the owner's son, who had an interview at a local college, came to pick them up .
They had obviously been trailered to get to our place, plus the one mare we had bred the year before.
I watched from the kitchen window, as those tow old gals took turns dragging that young man away from that trailer.
Finally, unable to watch any longer, I went out to help.
I took mare number one, who had been to our place before, away from that trailer first. I then attached a stud shank, run under the chin, and gave her a short lesson in 'leading with respect'
I then took stud shank off, put plain lead shank back on, and she loaded without a second thought. Ditto for mare number two.
besides showing< i have ridden many hunting trails out west, with hubby, who is atrophy hunter, Many of the horses we took out west for their first mountain rides, and that we raised, never were trailered before. All loaded fine.
Of course, did not have past 'baggage', in the horses we raised, but the solution still revolves around going back tot he true issue."The obstacle is not the obstacle"
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post #3 of 18 Old 04-07-2017, 03:10 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smilie View Post
First, your friend is taking a chance, injecting a horse with ACE, going to a competition, because drug tests could show him as being positive
Perhaps a one time solution, when you NEED to get a horse from point a to point b, but certainly NOT a permanent solution.
I agree, with both parts of this statement; she gives an oral dose, and I guess shes ok with taking a chance with drug testing. Shes a vet tech with about 30 years experience. And I agree this is a bandaid, not a repair of the issue.

So, when you bought this horse, how did he load? Did he come with this problem, or did he develop it over time, riding in your trailer?
Unless ahorse has has a trailer wreak, I am strongly in the camp of those that believe a trailer loading issues is in fact a leading issue. Horses that give to pressure 100%, do not question as to where they will of will not lead.
If a horse has trouble balancing in a trailer, that will cause a phobia. Two horse trailers, often with dividers tot he flloor , plus no windows, can make any horse un easy
Never get in a battle with a horse at the actual obstacle, be it a trailer or otherwise-NEVER!
Take that horse away from the trailer and fix the true issue (not total respect in leading)
I agree, with all parts of this statement; she gives an oral dose, and I guess shes ok with taking a chance with drug testing. Shes a vet tech with about 30 years experience. And I agree this is a bandaid, not a repair of the issue. Which is why Im seeking advice elsewhere.
I bought this horse from a neighbor up the street...no trailer needed. And Ive tried catching him(neighbor) at home to talk to him about how he got the horse to his place. He certainly didnt walk/ride him here from 20 miles away!
He does have a minor leading issue. He will walk up on whom ever is leading him. Weve been working with him and hes been responding well. And I understand that theres always going to be trust issues with a new horse. My horse, Scout, is very trusting! He goes wherever I lead him and never balks about it. Hes very calm, which is why he went with Seven to the vet.
One thing I will keep trying is getting Seven in the trailer little bits at a time. We did this yesterday and I thought we had the battle won. We have pressure on the lead to get his head in the door, then release pressure when hes there. Then a little pressure to get his front feet next to where he needs to step up, release pressure and let him stand there. Got his front feet in the trailer, release pressure.... Got one back foot in and it all went to hell. Im not giving up.

Thanks, Smilie!

Lynn

There's a right way, a wrong way, and Lynn's way!
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post #4 of 18 Old 04-07-2017, 03:58 PM
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Speaking as someone who successfully taught my trailer averse horse to load promptly, I will agree whole heartedly with Smilie -- loading is a leading (or really, a driving) issue. The trailer is incidental to the problem.

Sending into a trailer is much safer and easier than leading into a trailer.

This is what worked for me -- and I tried a lot of things that failed. First, if your horse does not know how to lunge, teach him how to do that. Then start lunging him over obstacles -- a pole on the ground, a tarp; start with something very easy and keep working on adding difficulty. You might need to use barrels or some other barrier to help your horse stay on the track at first. I use a flag for this, as you'll be working no more than 10 feet from your horse. What this does is teach *you* how to patiently encourage a horse to go forward, from behind, without letting him trample over you or pull your arm off evading on the other side.

The keys to success are: reward every single tiny bit of forward, even just leaning forward, by totally releasing the pressure and waiting for the horse to assimilate what just happened (take three deep slow breaths). When the horse goes in the wrong direction, correct! Correct just as hard as you need to get him going in the right direction. Then RELEASE THE PRESSURE. Horses don't learn by pressure, they learn by release of pressure. Timing is everything.

When you've mastered sending over obstacles, you can start with the trailer. Make sure there is something very tasty in there, and it is as light as you can make it (I open my escape doors). Make sure it is not going to rock.

Don't think about getting him in the trailer, think about him going forward. If he'll go forward and you can guide him with your flag, you have a horse who can be loaded.

This is the final piece. If he refuses, make him work. I just lunge my horse around at a trot in a small circle right in front of the trailer. After a few circles, I invite her to go into the trailer. No dice? She gets to keep trotting in a little circle. When the horse chooses to accept the direction to load, big release of pressure. At first, I would give the option of coming right out again. Staying in the trailer once loaded was another lesson.

It took awkward me a long time to figure out how to consistently load my horse. I'll tell you another thing: being very calm, feeling like you have all day to work on it, and would be happy to make an increment of progress and try again in a bit, will help you a great deal. If you feel you are losing your temper, quit right then. Go do something else. If your horse is getting panicky, find something you know he CAN do, do that, reward him, and quit. Horses only can think when they are calm.

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post #5 of 18 Old 04-07-2017, 04:07 PM
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I agree with Avna , that leading a horse into the trailer is not good for all types of trailers, and not a straight haul two horse., where the horse should learn to be sent in
I guess I think in terms of the trailer I now have, and even the stock trailer that I had before then
Mt trailer is a goose neck angle haul, no dividers. I tie my horses in (I have quick release panic snaps in the trailer)
Thus, I both know my horses, who don't pull back, nor try to leave until I un snap them and give the permission. Thus, since I need to walk in, in order take off their lead rope, and then fasten the panic snap hooked to that tie strap, driving in does not work for me, nor do I have a reason to
So, of course, use what works for your trailer, which I imagine has a but strap, which you can fasten, once the horse gets in, and then tie from the outside, or leave loose?
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post #6 of 18 Old 04-07-2017, 08:15 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys! I definitely have a zen-like aura about me when it comes to these situations, whether its a dog, cat, horse or chinchilla. I went into the situation calm and tried to project that calm during each and every attempt to get all the small pieces of the whole horse into the trailer at once. When the last 2 attempts fell apart, we went for a walk. The only one frustrated was my husband. And thats why he trailered the other horse to the clinic and I stayed with Seven.
My little trailer is probably your standard 2 horse. Its got the doors up in the manger, then on one side, has an escape door. Its not big enough for a horse to walk through, just a person. Then its got the divider in between that doesnt go clear to the floor. I made sure the doors were open, treats available and maintained a calm attitude.
I will start working with him, following your advise. This guy really doesnt get bothered by anything when were riding and with that he should take to new challenges fairly easy.
Our very last option will be acepromazine. I dont want to put a band aid over something we could potentially fix.

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post #7 of 18 Old 04-09-2017, 07:30 PM
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Agree with others, think its *mostly* a leading problem. But not only. Your horse also has to trust you, that where youre leading him is safe. (& do, as in needles etc)

Also agree i wouldnt do sedatives, unless its an emergency situation. I dont want a horse unsteady on his feet in a trailer either.

Im also surprised the horse had to be put in stocks just for dental work & shots. Maybe normal procedure for your vet. But considering his terror, i wouldnt have fought to force him, but left him out. You will have to do some desensitising there too, well prior to any necessity if your vet insists on the stocks.

When you try, and the horse is worried, if you push too far/fast, so he gets panicked and reactive, he not only learns that he can fight you and win, but more importantly IMO, his emotional response - panic - is confirmed, strengthened.

Remember, horses dont think/remember stuff rationally, but emotionally - trailer(garage, stocks, needles...) = worry = fighting = panic. Whatever fearful thing you get into a fight about, realise this will strengthen his fear & make him worse about it next time. Now thats been confirmed to him, it will be a task to change his *emotional association* with the trailer. You will now have to *prove* to him its not as bad as his experiences have taught him.

So dont fight him, do whatever necessary to minimise/avoid him feeling like that, getting any more 'practice' at being frightened of where you ask him to go. First thing (after getting him leading really well elsewhere) is to not start trailer lessons when you need to go somewhere. Aim to do lots of short, easy sessions beforehand. He should be comfortable going in & out, tied, with the doors shut eyc, before you actually go anywhere.

**BTW, NEVER have the front 'escape' door open when you are putting your horse in - seen some horrid wrecks when a scared horse tries to escape through it!!

Good idea to take it bit by bit, literally one step at a time if needed. I think where that went wrong was just asking for too much. Eg. Hes now very worried, but with pressure & release you convinced him to step on the ramp - great! Remember, as with people & fears, youre not going to feel ok about it if someone keeps trying to force more & more on you - eventually youll reach 'breaking point', the 'final straw'. So whatever youre working on, pay attention to where hes at emotionally and dont push him into real fear. Aim to 'stretch' his 'comfort zone' by 'pushing' only a bit at a time.

So back to the trailer... Start where he's comfortable, relaxed. Ask him to approach, lead/lunge over the tailgate or get him to walk right up to it, whatever. By that point, considering last lessons, he may be quite nervous - dont take him past that stage, wherever you find it. Take him away again, to somewhere he can relax, de-stress. Then do it again. And again... until he is fine about going that far, no big deal. Then start with asking for just one of 2 steps further before rewarding & taking him away. Etc.

Really helps if you can reward - give something Good, a treat etc, as well as removing the Bad - release pressure - when he does Right, to change his emotional associations. **But dont try to bribe him! That can actually strengthen his fear. And be careful not to reward if hes getting reactive.

I find 'desensitising' to confirmed fears is best done 'incidentally', as matter of fact and non-eventfully as possible. Eg. Id have the trailer close & 'play' with him near it, doing lots of stuff hes happy and relaxed about, and in between times, you just ask him to go to/in the trailer, before doing something else fun. Then back to the trailer, then onto something else... etc. In this way, you can spend a lot of time in one 'play time', do a lot of 'sessions' without stress blowing his mind... or wasting your time, taking forever.

Last edited by loosie; 04-09-2017 at 07:40 PM.
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post #8 of 18 Old 04-09-2017, 08:02 PM
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...and just read all avnas post (sorry, just scanned before & missed...

Only bit i disagree with there is 'working' the horse as punishment.

Firstly, i do my utmost to teach a horse to enjoy and *want* to 'work', so i dont ever want them to think of it as punishment.

Secondly, where the reason for the 'punishable offense' is fear, youre doing nothing to change the fear (tho you just might be confirming that resistance works, if you take the horse away when they resist - timing is everything) & just forcing the horse to choose the 'lesser evil' while keeping his adrenaline up too!

Instead, assuming we are working gradually enough to avoid serious fear (if you do find yourself 'past the point', just quit, take the horse away, de-stress before coming back more gradually), if the horse pulls back, refuses to come forward, just keep the pressure on his lead, dont give him any release. If he backs away, stay with him, keeping the pressure on, to make it uncomfortable until he stops, then at that *instant* release. Calmly lead him back...
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post #9 of 18 Old 04-09-2017, 08:12 PM
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I never get after a horse, near a trailer or any other obstacle.
I correct the true problem away from the trailer. The obstacle is not the Obstacle!

Any way you could just take that divider out for now, and see if that makes a difference?
Quite common,here, Loosie, for vets that do dentistry, to use stocks. A good idea is to walk a horse through those stocks several times, before putting that rope barrier up in front and back.
Mares being palpated , also are put in stocks
While that ' going with the hrose, as be backs from the trailer, then asking again, rinse and repeat, might work at times, but I have seen horses where the game goes on endlessly. Soon as the owner gets that hrose up tot hat trailer, the horse backs up, or goes to either side of the door.
I rather take the horse away from the trailer, and say, 'hey, when I ask you to go somewhere, it is non negotiable " I then again ask the hrose to load politely

Last edited by Smilie; 04-09-2017 at 08:18 PM.
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post #10 of 18 Old 04-09-2017, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by loosie View Post
...and just read all avnas post (sorry, just scanned before & missed...

Only bit i disagree with there is 'working' the horse as punishment.

Firstly, i do my utmost to teach a horse to enjoy and *want* to 'work', so i dont ever want them to think of it as punishment.

Secondly, where the reason for the 'punishable offense' is fear, youre doing nothing to change the fear (tho you just might be confirming that resistance works, if you take the horse away when they resist - timing is everything) & just forcing the horse to choose the 'lesser evil' while keeping his adrenaline up too!

Instead, assuming we are working gradually enough to avoid serious fear (if you do find yourself 'past the point', just quit, take the horse away, de-stress before coming back more gradually), if the horse pulls back, refuses to come forward, just keep the pressure on his lead, dont give him any release. If he backs away, stay with him, keeping the pressure on, to make it uncomfortable until he stops, then at that *instant* release. Calmly lead him back...
Agree with this post. In my case I had already spent about a month just desensitizing to the trailer -- she would go in freely when she felt like it, and was not afraid of it. She would balk when she felt like it too. My technique is really for a horse who is not afraid of the trailer, but just doesn't feel like going where sent or led. I don't think what I did would work with a fearful horse. Got to keep that calm mind in the horse as well as yourself.

I can't say I don't agree in principle with always making work fun, but in this case, I had to figure out a way to make it more uncomfortable (not awful, just less comfortable) to be disobedient than to be obedient. It also seemed to just loosen up her brain and get her thinking about different things.
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