Why do horses and humans get into trouble. Because too often humans want to get it done right now. And they believe the horse just has to listen, refusing to trailer load is seen as something naughty so they want to discipline the horse for being disobedient. Or they believe that they can force the horse to do things. But being locked up in a small place like a trailer is something so unnatural for horses. It pays off in the end if you take the time to gradually let the horse getting used to it.
As prey animals horses go against pressure, even if the pressure is only set by our timeframe and lack of patience. I am not talking about punishment that is even worse that is pressure to the max. Prey animals need to feel they can flight away whenever they feel it is needed. If you implement this knowledge in your day to day relationship with your horse you will boost your relationship, and gain lots of trust from your equine.
With this knowledge, I prefer using positive reinforcement and a shaping plan, even if the plan is just in my head. Csiki traveled only two times now in the trailer and last time she refused to go in when we had to go home. I got my own trailer now so I decided to take a few steps back. And to train her as if she is green to trailer load.
Two days ago I could only get her a few seconds in before she decided she wanted to go out again. But if she would only get her front feet in I would also be fine with that. Reward every move into the right direction and then retreat. I think we got in and out more than 20 times. I never tried to hold her when she felt like stepping back out.
Giving the horses the possibility to move out when they want, gives the confidence to stay in. If humans just learn to understand that letting go of the control, is the way to keep their horses with them…. both mentally and physically.
If your horse is way to nervous to even get close to a trailer, you can practise walking over tarp or wood, and trough narrow spaces and first get comfortable with that. Before even approaching the trailer, be satisfied with small success. And leave it a positive note. If you write a shaping plan you can see the bigger plan and monitor your progression. Who cares if it takes you 20 days? Keeping on track through your shaping plan gives you the confidence that in the end you will reach your goal. If you calculate so many days your horse will feel relieved because there is no pressure. The absence of pressure is absolutely another key of good horsemanship.
Today Csiki loaded without hesitation I gave her delicious green gras and a bucket with bran and vitamins, while I closed the bar behind her. Making the claustrophobic space a positive one.
As soon as I walked out of sight she became nervous. So that will be the next I want to practise. Standing calm with me moving out of her eye sight. increasing the time she won’t see me.
Also very important to load from different places and on different times during the day. And closing the ramp and after that the front door. I practise every day, and when she is fine and calm I will take her for a slow and short ride. Csiki will dictate the speed we will be progressing. But my main goal is to keep things positive. I value patience as an other major key in good horsemanship.
Time is our friend, and taking the slow way avoids risking big training mistakes. Once they have learned something they will never forget. The good as well as the bad.
Let the horse be with you!