Trailer loading - how to 'send' her in? - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Folly View Post

So now, tomorrow morning, it's going to be a beautiful day. And I'm finally doing this right. My only goal is to load and unload as many times as it takes, in a calm relaxed way, until it's boring to both of us. Advice?
My first piece of advice is that is a terrible goal.

..said in the nicest way possible. You sound somewhat inexperienced with trailer loading yourself (even though your horse may have been experienced in the past) and you've only loaded her twice in about 2 years. That is WAY too large of a goal for your first day. You have to take baby steps and set yourself up for success.

A much more realistic goal would be to load and unload her two front feet, in a calm and relaxed manner, on your first day.

Also ...... please don't spend 4 hours working on trailer loading. It is much better to spend 15 minutes working on it a day and accomplish small goals, than to over-stress your horse by drilling them on it.

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Originally Posted by Folly View Post
Is it possible she knows how to 'send' into the trailer? How do I cue this and what's the right way to bring this training to the surface if she has it?
Impossible to know, but it doesn't really matter because you can teach her.

I have a 3-horse slant trailer with a rear tack. My horses self-load AND self-unload (for whoever is in the back slant). I only set foot in the trailer to close/open the slant divider, and to guide out the horse not in the back slant so they do not try to turn around. Otherwise, I stay out of the trailer whenever possible. I don't tie my horses anymore because they are experienced travelers, and it enables them to put their head down to clear their airways if they choose.

I wrote this post a while back. It's a long read but I suggest you take a look.

TRAILER LOADING


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Originally Posted by Folly View Post
if not... I can just lead her in, but any advice on that? She follows me into the trailer on a lead just fine, but gets nervous when I hook her halter... and she really hates to have the slant gate closed on her.

How in the world does that work? I hook her up and then slide past her in that narrow slant? Hmmmmm
For safety reasons, NEVER tie the horse until the divider and door is closed behind them. If they decide to panic before you have things closed off behind you, I've seen some nasty accidents where a horse drops a back leg off the end of the trailer while tied. It is not a situation you want to get yourself into.

On the same token, untie them FIRST before you open the back door and divider.

Please do not crawl under the divider. Go through the window to tie / untie.

And I agree - when I'm putting a horse into that back slot, I am going to send them so I don't have to get squished in the corner. (Read my thread above on how to teach them to send). Essentially, you are training your horse so that you have 100% control of every foot and every step. If you can control their feet, you can send them anywhere --- even on a trailer.

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post #22 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 11:35 AM
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Great insight everybody. Wow, I think after reading this it's only reasonable to be cautious!


@DreamCatcher - Holy Cow! after you mentioned your 'accident' in July, I went back through your posts and read about it. Yikes! what a story. somehow I'd missed that. Are you OK now???? Dakota ties really well, so I don't expect that kind of problem. But wow.

Folly, I'm fine. I have a few lasting things that make me very cautious about loading and unloading right now, in fact I'm just not doing it. I've had some persistent headaches and a few memory lapses because of the injuries, so I'm being extra cautious right now and having someone else load and unload the horses into and out of the trailer.

The best advice you can get on this is, just be careful. Don't keep at it until one or both of you is frustrated, frightened or tense. I know you say she's nervous but mostly likely she's feeding off of your nerves, that's why I'm not loading or unloading anyone. I've been feeling very anxious about that and until I feel I can do it and not be anxious, then I'll have someone who isn't having issues do the loading and unloading.

I'm going to start working with Mort (this year's colt) and start teaching him about the trailer in the next couple of weeks. At first I will have my assistant do the teaching and then when I see that he's ok with going in and out, I will try loading and unloading him. We have all reached the conclusion that Twoey must have gotten stung because we (my trainer, hubby, Paige) haven't been able to reproduce her violent reaction in any trailer we've tried, not our slant, not an open stock, not a closed stock, not a straight, nothing. She goes in and out and rides like a champ. So, something must have stung her or something like that.

Like Smilie says, it's not the trailer and loading or unloading that's the problem, it's the leading. If they are willing to be lead, or sent, they'll go. It's usually the human who has issues, whether it's fear of close spaces, fear of being in a small space with a large animal, fear of the animal, fear of failing, whatever, the horse can smell it and will react to it. Start very small and reward anything she does that isn't trying to get away and give her a rest. You can work with her over a long span of time as long as you give her breaks and release from pressure (pressure defined as asking her over and over and over to go into the trailer). She takes one step forwars, stop, scritch, and praise. Another step forward, stop, scritch and praise. Two more steps forward, stop scritch and praise and give her a little treat. Gets 2 front feet in the trailer, praise, praise, praise. Back her out and walk away from the trailer. Let her hand graze for 5 mins, and then go back and ask. The main thing is, she doesn't give you a 'wrong' answer, so she never gets punished. She may not give you a 'right' answer but she gets a reward for trying every time she tries until it goes right.

I suspect that if you'll stand back by her withers, tap her behind her shoulder or alongside of her withers, you'll find she knows the cue to go forward. Once she does, and indicates a willingness to continue forward, then just keep encouraging her by tapping if she hesitates. It's not a matter of hitting, it's just a gentle tap that goes away when she steps forward and starts again if she hesitates or stops. That and lots of praise will get you where you want to go.
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post #23 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 12:54 PM
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My only advice (since others have done a good job here) is to not load and unload numerous times. Once she goes in well and stands for a bit, unload and relax. Quit on a positive note. It's a reward.
Over time you will become more comfortable with all of these horse procedures. Experience and all that!
Mainly, have fun!!!!!!! That is the whole point. : )
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post #24 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 03:39 PM Thread Starter
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OK I'm back with the update

I'll start here - thank you Dustbunny for the optimistic encouragement
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dustbunny View Post
My only advice (since others have done a good job here) is to not load and unload numerous times. Once she goes in well and stands for a bit, unload and relax. Quit on a positive note. It's a reward.
Over time you will become more comfortable with all of these horse procedures. Experience and all that!
Mainly, have fun!!!!!!! That is the whole point. : )
..... I DID have fun! I must say, I verrrry rarely find myself frustrated when I leave this horse. I almost always realize I have a silly grin on my face the whole drive home. Today wasn't any different. Was it perfect? Nooooo. But I expect it to only get better from here. And I would call it a success.

So, a quick rundown, at the risk of boring everyone..... Skipping a lot of course, because this all occurred over the course of several fairly relaxed hours...

1) I experimented for a while in the roundpen... using @loosie and @DreamCatcher Arabians suggestions (as best I understood...). Guess what - as suspected, she knows how to 'send'. Rusty.... but we worked on it - lead over withers, me pointing like an idiot... her looking at me with that confused look.... then 'tap.. tap.. tap..' w/ the stick behind her elbow. Bigger confused eyes..... then I reached up and took the lead hook and pushed away from me while tapping. She took a step - Stopped tapping and told her how brilliant she was Anyway, after about 3 minutes of that, she got what I was asking. So she knows the behavior... just probably had been asked a different way.

2) Next, led her to the trailer. She started getting worried. I tied her to the ring on the trailer, and spent a good half hour grooming until she got very relaxed.

3) Practiced 'sending' her towards the back of the trailer with the doors closed from about 6 feet back. no problem. Step step step.

4) Friend said it's time... Let's just do this. walked her away while friend opened the doors.

5) walked her back around tried to line her up. head up and very busy feet. so we just went slow. She walked in first time, but wasn't happy about it and immediately backed out. Anyway, this never got as good as I wanted it to be and she was still anxious and dancing a bit, but ultimately she did walk in and stand. Praise, and treats (don't judge me... I rarely give treats, but she's very food motivated and was being quite good).

6) Friend declares it time to load both horses and go for a drive. She wouldn't do that with her 2 year old she's working with, but she said Dakota knows how to do this and isn't overly worked up, so we just needed to do it.

7) Loaded her horse in the front, then mine in the back slant. She was still not happy about it, but I was able to send her in. never had to step into the trailer myself (YAY! That was a huge success in my book), latched the doors QUICKLY, hooked her up through the window (a little challenging - but we got it done). As hoped, she did load a little easier with another horse already in. Drove around for about 10 minutes, came back and unloaded uneventfully. She was VERY ready to get out, but backed out without doing anything stupid. and then stood calmly.

8) Hand grazed and relaxed for a while. She was not worked up afterwards at all. I could have hopped on and ridden with no concern.

Anyway, probably not exactly how you guys would have done it, but I think it will be better each time. She certainly wasn't traumatized by the experience. Thank you for talking me through scenarios. I know the recommendation was to not worry about fully loading her (just be happy with baby steps), but I did defer to my friend's judgement on that. She felt it was time; that we aren't training - just refreshing a memory of something she's very familiar with - so it was time to just get on with it. So we did. Had there been huge drama, we would have dialed it back and set the expectations lower.

I still dream of having my horse drop her head and walk in leisurely, and stand quietly. Hopefully we'll get there.
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I'm a mid-lifer finally making time for horses... Having a blast, but there's soooo much to learn -

Last edited by Folly; 08-25-2017 at 03:50 PM.
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post #25 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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- Dreamcatcher, I'm so sorry you're still having issues from your 'wreck'. You've had a couple of rough ones over the past year or so :(

I understand now why it's not good to go into the trailer. Thank you for walking me through alternatives. I think we'll get this figured out, and I'm more convinced than ever that I don't belong in there with a horse... I didn't realize there were alternatives.

I'm a mid-lifer finally making time for horses... Having a blast, but there's soooo much to learn -
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post #26 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 07:28 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by beau159 View Post
My first piece of advice is that is a terrible goal.

..said in the nicest way possible. You sound somewhat inexperienced with trailer loading yourself (even though your horse may have been experienced in the past) and you've only loaded her twice in about 2 years. That is WAY too large of a goal for your first day. You have to take baby steps and set yourself up for success.

A much more realistic goal would be to load and unload her two front feet, in a calm and relaxed manner, on your first day.

Also ...... please don't spend 4 hours working on trailer loading. It is much better to spend 15 minutes working on it a day and accomplish small goals, than to over-stress your horse by drilling them on it.
Impossible to know, but it doesn't really matter because you can teach her.
I have a 3-horse slant trailer with a rear tack. My horses self-load AND self-unload (for whoever is in the back slant). I only set foot in the trailer to close/open the slant divider, and to guide out the horse not in the back slant so they do not try to turn around. Otherwise, I stay out of the trailer whenever possible. I don't tie my horses anymore because they are experienced travelers, and it enables them to put their head down to clear their airways if they choose.

I wrote this post a while back. It's a long read but I suggest you take a look.

TRAILER LOADING

For safety reasons, NEVER tie the horse until the divider and door is closed behind them. If they decide to panic before you have things closed off behind you, I've seen some nasty accidents where a horse drops a back leg off the end of the trailer while tied. It is not a situation you want to get yourself into.

On the same token, untie them FIRST before you open the back door and divider.

Please do not crawl under the divider. Go through the window to tie / untie.

And I agree - when I'm putting a horse into that back slot, I am going to send them so I don't have to get squished in the corner. (Read my thread above on how to teach them to send). Essentially, you are training your horse so that you have 100% control of every foot and every step. If you can control their feet, you can send them anywhere --- even on a trailer.
Beau - this is a great post. Very affirming that I do not have to get myself in a corner (and that's the part that was making me nervous). And thank you so much for being so gentle with me

Sorry - I saw it after I got back from my morning 'session'. I'm getting ready to read the post you linked on training to trailer load. We did go further than your suggestion, obviously. But do rest assured it was not a four hour marathon session. Beginning to end was about 2 hours, with numerous breaks in between for nice things. When 'sent', she would either try to refuse and turn sideways, or just deal with it and step up and walk on in (no one foot or two foot etc... it was all or nothing). I did of course let her smell before asking her to enter the first time. in total, we had her fully in the trailer 4 times, and hooked in twice. She never relaxed about it, but there was no panic. just 'worry'. OK, off to read your trailer loading post..... Thank you!

I'm a mid-lifer finally making time for horses... Having a blast, but there's soooo much to learn -
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post #27 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 07:45 PM
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Some thoughts on your processes... Hope they help you better understand & analyse what exactly you're doing & why.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Folly View Post
lead over withers, me pointing like an idiot... her looking at me with that confused look.... then 'tap.. tap.. tap..' w/ the stick behind her elbow. Bigger confused eyes..... then I reached up and took the lead hook and pushed away from me while tapping. She took a step - Stopped tapping and told her how brilliant she was Anyway, after about 3 minutes of that, she got what I was asking. So she knows the behavior... just probably had been asked a different way.
Do keep in mind, horses don't 'know' something in a general sort of way like we can. They learn to associate a 'stimulus'(a cue in this case) to a behaviour, with instant consequences of it's action. So...

That the horse didn't immediately just go where you pointed, especially after you started tapping her on the girth line(behind the elbow?), she DIDN'T know what you wanted. But when you *directed* her with pressure on the halter, then *reinforced*(quit tapping her) the Right behaviour, she 'got' what you wanted, and with some repetition, started to learn it. So YOU taught her that, worked it out by yourself! Bravo!

To be particular, if you want her to walk forward, I would put forward pressure on the lead(direct) while putting some pressure out *behind* her, or tapping her tail. If you want her to turn her forehand away from you, you can push her face away from you(direct) as it sounds you did, and put the pressure at or in front of her girthline.

Quote:
2) Next, led her to the trailer. She started getting worried. I tied her to the ring on the trailer, and spent a good half hour grooming until she got very relaxed.
Remember, 'short & sweet' is far preferable to long sessions. If she was nervous just approaching the trailer, I would have approached... and then retreated, numerous times. As well as rewarding her with Good Stuff(perhaps grooming is particularly pleasant for her, perhaps there's something else...).

Quote:
5) walked her back around tried to line her up. head up and very busy feet. so we just went slow. She walked in first time, but wasn't happy about it and immediately backed out.
Baby steps is best. If you've acknowledged she's nervous even just approaching the float, I wouldn't rush to getting her to go straight in(regardless that her previous training has taught her to go in regardless of her fear), but would take her to whatever spot *she* could *comfortably* go, then 'retreat' again *before* she felt the need to do it herself. Remember, associations are EVERYTHING to a horse, so you DON'T want her to 'practice' more feeling worried when entering, or backing out of her own accord when she feels the need.

Quote:
Praise, and treats (don't judge me... I rarely give treats, but she's very food motivated and was being quite good).
Horses learn from *instant* association. Consequences need to be meaningful to them. So 'praise' for eg is innately meaningless *unless* it is associated with either a reward or cessation of something Bad(negative reinforcement. Whereas food is a 'primary reinforcer' - that is, it's innately a Good Thing, that can be used of itself, or paired with something like praise to associate those noises with Good Stuff. Just remember, careful to never inadvertently reinforce/reward Wrong behaviours with whatever you use.

Quote:
6) Friend declares it time to load both horses and go for a drive.
Your friend is going way too fast for this horse IME. You know you CAN get her to load. But I thought the aim of the session was to get her to load *confidently*.

Quote:
latched the doors QUICKLY, hooked her up through the window (a little challenging - but we got it done).
I disagree with whoever said don't tie them until tailgate is closed... or whatever. You FIRST need to ensure she is CONFIDENT being tied in there of course, but I'd absolutely tie(well, to start with, control her head with a very long rope, wouldn't hard tie her) before shutting her in. What if she panicked & reared & spun, got stuck over the divider or such?? If you have to latch the door 'QUICKLY', that is a sure sign you're doing too much for safety. Tying her through the window sounds just risky & awkward, with a fair chance of failure. Set yourself up for success every step of the way.

Quote:
I did defer to my friend's judgement on that. She felt it was time; that we aren't training - just refreshing a memory
You ARE INDEED training!! Whether or not she's done it many times before & was fine, EVERYTHING you do with her is either 'training' her to be better at it, or to be worse. And it sound like she WASN'T at all fine, so your task should have been to TRAIN her to become more comfortable, confident with it. The way it was done, she could well be worse next time.

Quote:
Had there been huge drama, we would have dialed it back and set the expectations lower.
Don't wait until 'dramas' happen, huge or otherwise! Strive to work in such a way as to avoid, or at least minimise their likelihood greatly!
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Last edited by loosie; 08-25-2017 at 08:00 PM.
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post #28 of 44 Old 08-25-2017, 08:44 PM
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Glad you had a positive session on loading, for the most part.
I just got back from a day ride with hubby, and took a picture of my trailer loading set up, where walking in, with horses you know, done correctly, is safe, using a trailer like mine
I often load both horses. I lead my horse in, tie her with the quick release, then lead second horse in, and repeat.
With two horses, there is no chance of a horse trying to back out, before un tied.
If I haul three, I have someone hold the door
When I un load, same deal. I take the horse closest tot he door out, while the other one remains standing tied, waiting patiently for his turn
When alone, I will tie that first horse un loaded tot eh outside of the trailer, then get number 3 horse
All this of course, takes horses that are 100% on standing tied solid
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post #29 of 44 Old 08-26-2017, 10:39 AM Thread Starter
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OK - I'm convinced. I owe it to my horse to make the trailer something she needn't fear, and it seems like a slower approach is the way to get there. I'm relieved to know she will honor my request to enter the trailer w/ send, even though she really does NOT want to. But I want it to be calm for both of us. (it's not just me making her nervous btw - the first time she was trailered since I've had her, I was not the one to load her... and the second time I wasn't even smart enough to know I should be nervous, so I was surprised she was as tense as she was... that time I just led her in and hooked the quick release and ducked out the door, since she was to be trailered alone to the vet and would get the 'front' slant position). It's challenging as a newish horse owner to balance my own instinct about what is best / everything I read / and advice from seasoned horse people in my world.

I've been seriously considering taking her to a trainer anyway (2 week session?). Not to 'fix' anything on her, but to take lessons with her and polish up some things. Cantering is a big wall for me... we walk/trot on trails... I've been learning to be more comfortable cantering on a lesson horse, but can't bring myself to do it with my horse out in a pasture (tried it a couple of times, but I tense up after a few strides... grateful my girl has a great 'whoa'); I will feel more comfortable learning in the 'safety' of an arena. I can add trailer loading to the list. The trainer I'll use went with me when I purchased her and gave her blessing, and has also used my mare in some lessons when one of hers was out of commission - so she knows her. The barn is where I boarded her for 6 months after I got her. And... I've often watched this trainer load and unload her own horses... and been awed at how peaceful the process is, even with young horses in-training.

Honestly - one of my holdups about going to the trainer is that it seems cruel to uproot my horse from her familiar home and take her away. She isn't buddy sour at all, but of course she likes her herd and knows her position. Is that even a consideration? Like I said, she spent 6 months at the barn, but that was a year ago.
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post #30 of 44 Old 08-26-2017, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Folly View Post

Honestly - one of my holdups about going to the trainer is that it seems cruel to uproot my horse from her familiar home and take her away. She isn't buddy sour at all, but of course she likes her herd and knows her position. Is that even a consideration? Like I said, she spent 6 months at the barn, but that was a year ago.
That really shouldn't even be on your radar. She needs to go places, see people and horses she doesn't know, learn new places and how to behave in all of them. It is how you make a seriously dependable horse. Send her out for 2 weeks, a month, 6 months, a year, it doesn't matter. She needs to be accepting of whatever you decide. She is here for YOUR entertainment and pleasure. My thinking goes along these lines: 90+% of the time they stand around in the pasture and eat and play and gossip. Every now and then, we ask them to take a rider around somewhere, ride in a trailer, stand in the ties, go in the show ring, whatever. Very rarely does it ever make up even 10% of their time. They can give us that much for the care we give them.
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