Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When They Don't Want To Load

Dixie is such a good buddy to have while teaching a horse to trailer load! Yesterday, I had to load a young, almost 5 year old, filly, who hasn’t been loaded into a horse trailer since she was 6 months old. Did I mention she was orphaned before 6 months old? Did I mention she hasn’t lived with horses since, and didn’t know her owner wasn’t a horse? Did I mention how pushy she was?

First impressions were very good. Well built, ears perked, a pretty filly. Stood quiet for the owner, a middle age gentleman. And gentle was his middle name. He loves this little mare. She was orphaned , and when another person didn’t take her, he felt sorry for her, and he brought her home. He cared for her, and he loved her. And she grew and filled out. And she became a brat when she had to do anything that wasn’t her idea. So he called me, and he wanted her to trained, so he could ride her.

When I showed up to get her, because he didn’t have a trailer, I was prepared. I took an old mare along to be in the trailer so the young filly didn’t have to be scared. I knew it would be easier for her to have another horse in the trailer when we started moving. I took a rope halter, and an extra lunge rope, and another extra lunge rope. I took patience, and time, and a mindset that I would not get upset. I was lucky that I had an owner that loved his horse, but did not get in the way, yet stepped in at the last minute to save the day!!!

Hubby parked the trailer as I went over the training contract with the owner, get phone numbers and info that I needed. Hubby had the trailer backed up to a grassy area. Owner went for the horse and she was at the gate.

She was very apprehensive approaching the trailer, even when she saw another horse in the trailer. She was scared of the trailer, and I could tell she was full of energy, so without a round pen to free lunge her and to set up dominance, I did the next best thing and lunged her down.

About every 10 minutes, I brought her to the trailer to load, and she refused. I do the “John Lyons tap, tap, tap” on the butt. She kicked out at every tap. Back to work time and lunging, so she knew kicking out wasn’t acceptable. We worked on the lunge line, loping and trotting. Boy, does she have a great lope, and a personality to go with it. Back to the trailer to rest and load. Every time she refused, back to the lunging. Every time she tried, we waited. And asked. And asked again. Every now and then, she kicked out, with a powerful side kick! Every time she did that, we went back to work.

I believe in a few of the John Lyons tips. Tap on the butt for forward movement. Kill for 3 seconds when they are bad. And I tapped, but I didn’t have to try to “kill”. I tapped, and tapped harder, and she kicked out, big time! Powerful kicks. I made sure to keep myself, the owner, and hubby out of the way of those hind legs.

The filly went from scared to defiant during the first ½ hour. During the 2nd half hour, she was just bad. Trying to turn different ways on the lunge line. Trying to get her head away from me. Trying to run me over as we approached the trailer. Trying her best to evade the trailer. The third ½ hour, she was just plain mad! You could see it in her eyes. You could see it in her body language. Yes, we have been working an hour and a half, calmly. And I knew she was getting physically and mentally tired. And that turned into madness.

I told the guys that I felt like we were in a month’s training. The first week is ok, just building up endurance and teaching the basics. The 2nd week, we go to work and get a little tired. The 3rd week, the horse figures out that we are working, and he/she doesn’t like it, and starts to rebel. So we are in week 3. But hang on, be patient, week 4 will be here and over, sooner than later, I hoped.

The temper tantrums subsided, getting less and less. She came up to the trailer and just stopped. Her eyes were no longer scared, or angry. She tried to lift a leg, but she just wasn’t going in to the trailer. At least, the kicks were getting less and less.

At this time, we had a rope halter on her and a long line going through the D by the tie strap of the inside of the trailer. We wanted her to stay at the trailer. She was wore out from working earlier. Now it was still up to her to get in, but we were keeping her pointed at the trailer. Hubby had the rope behind her legs (I know, I know…old ways, but sometimes old ways work and this was the time I had to go back to it. This young filly fought coming to the trailer and when I asked her to go in, then back to work mode for an hour and a half. We were just done and so was her mind.)

The owner wasn’t upset, but he said a few times, “(horse’s name), please get into the trailer. Come on, you can do it”. This actually made me chuckle inside. He really cares for this horse. The owner got another rope and he and hubby held it behind her, and tried applying pressure behind her legs, maybe trying to force her/maybe trying to get her to take those first steps. And she did once, with 1 leg, but it came right back out. (I know, old ways again, but we had to teach her forward and to step up. I wasn’t comfortable reaching down and putting her leg into the trailer. And I wanted the decision to lift her leg, her idea.

And this was one time I listened, really listened to the owner, and his advice. He had asked earlier, about an hour earlier, if he could try to lead the horse inside. But I didn’t want him hurt and it was my trailer, so I was thinking, no, too much risk. Then about this time, where the horse was just standing, he asked if he could put some alfalfa in the trailer. And I said sure, it couldn’t hurt anything. Her attitude had improved, as we were nearing the end of week 4 training mentality.

I could have kept asking her to work, then come to the trailer to load, but I really do think it would have just kept this filly mad. I needed her to know that yes, this is work, no, you don’t have to be mad, but yes, it’s time to get into the trailer.

Now this was the amazing part. That young filly turned and watched that owner walk away, and kept watching until he returned. Both hubby and I thought the same thing, it was like watching a dog watching for his owner. It was amazing to see the difference in the horse’s personality change. When the owner is around, it isn’t like the horse is worse, like some horses. She’s quiet, but bully and wants her own way. But when the owner left and came back, that horse dropped her head and you could see the calmness.

The owner put the hay in the trailer, and the horse really tried hard to reach with her neck and you could see her legs trying to step up. Finally the owner asked again if he could try leading her in. I said sure, just stand off to this near side so she has room if she jumps. I’m sure you all can guess what happened. With her standing calm and stretching out her neck to the little bit of hay in her owner’s hand, she put her 2 front feet in. She stood quietly, moved her back feet some, and with a little pushing on her body, (well a lot, and we closed one door most of the way, so she could tell she was almost in), she stepped up in beside her owner. And she remained quiet! That was a great sign. We tied her with the lead rope, left her to eat some hay from the feeder, stepped out and closed the door.

No stomping, no kicking. Absolutely quiet. And she rode home quiet next to Dixie and settled in quiet in her outside pen. She is definitely a people horse, but she needs to learn she is a horse. Even though Day 1 took over 2 hours, she did it, we did it. That was like Day 1, 2 and 3 wrapped into one, with the trailer ride.

So now on to the rest of the week, free lunging and setting up dominance like I like to. Hubby wants to try trailer loading again. Soon, but not too soon. I’m going to work on her mind first. Then we’ll do the work and ask. Refuse, go back to work, then come back and ask.

Any time we go close to her pen, she is right there, waiting for human contact. I’m really hoping she starts to act like a horse as she sees the horses beside her.

1 comment:

Rising Rainbow said...

I've been dealing with a horse that has been "indulged" for two years. It's just a whole other mindset when they've been allowed to call the shots.


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