Sunday, June 28, 2009


Yesterday was a terrible day. I had it all planned - I would take Sam out to Bluewater for a lovely trail ride for something other than flatwork.

I back the car up to the float first go! This is big for me! I packed the car caught Sam and then the fun and games started. Sam is always a pain to load but usually I have him on within 5min. Nope we had a lot of arguments. Generally I just stay on the ramp. looking where I want him to go, asking with the lead rope - not tightly just gentle pressure forward, I might use the end of the lead rope behind me for extra umph to go forward. I got him on after a while but then he wouldn't stay in there long even for me to put the back bar across. This I wasn't overly concerned about I want him loading with no problem. After I had him on and off a few times we had a break, I let him have a pick.

I then asked again and that is when the rearing started. I used even less pressure on his halter thinking maybe I have been using too much but I have a 'u' in the lead rope and just ask by putting my hand with the lead rope in it towards the float and saying 'walk on'. He would rear again, big ones, occasionally pulling me side ways.

I don't think he is afraid on the float. I can get him with both front feet on the ramp and he will go to sleep. When he is in the float he doesn't seem tense to stand in there. He snuffles me and is happy for me to rub him all over. I was able to walk out the front door around the float and back in up the ramp. He backs out quietly - sometimes too slow - he is one leg at a time man. I really do believe he is trying to evade getting on the float.

When he is on I am able to back him up a step or too and then ask him to walk forward again. If I think he is about to back off and not stop I really try to get in first so it seems like it is what I asked for.

I finally had him off and on 3 times quickly and then I put him back in the paddock. This was after working with him for an hour and a half. I was exhausted and starting to feel angry so that is why I put him away and left.

I came back in the afternoon and hooked up the float, bought it out and set it up. Caught Sam and I could tell he was tense. From his paddock he can see me drive in and hooking up the float. I gave him a good scratch and rub all over then started to lead him over to the float. About 20m away he started the rearing again. I made him walk straight past the float and around it a few times. Then I asked him to load, rearing, backing up and just general head shaking, pawing, grinding of teeth. Between 4.46pm and 5.04pm (I kept an eye on my watch) I had him on and off 3 times. So this is a major improvement put I don't want to go through this all the time!

OK so here is what I am thinking. His ground work is not good enough - He isn't yielding/giving to pressure enough. This is showing in his flatwork with moving off the leg. Sometimes in my parelli work when I send him back it can take a bit of asking to come back to me - the YO YO game.

What can I do?!!!!!

He really is calm and happy next to the float, for me to be in float or on the ramp. Is he testing me or is he generally afraid?


Kate said...

Is this new or his usual way of acting? Is your float a ramp or step-up? Some of the horses that have trouble loading are actually afraid of getting off the trailer - not getting on - and this makes it hard to load them as they are anticipating the pain of having to get off - my mare was like this. A horse with hind end pain - back, stifles or hocks - may have difficulty backing off a step up trailer. His big reaction - particularly the head-shaking and tooth grinding - and nervousness make me think this could be what is going on. You might want to have a chiropractor look at him. Has he had a recent bad experience in the float? - hitting his head, etc. Your idea of doing more groundwork is a good one - you're right to focus on making sure your go forward and giving to pressure cues are well-established.

I've been asked by one of my readers to do a post on my experiences with loading Lily - two feet in and no further - and Maisie, who had some fear issues relating to backing out of the trailer. The method I was taught requires an assistant - one who will follow your directions and not just harass/beat on the horse - which would only confirm his concerns and make loading a Big Deal. I've got two horses leaving on a trip tomorrow, and I'll try to post sometime later this week. But big caution - what works for me may not work for you and trailer loading can be a dangerous business, so be very careful - a horse that is upset enough to rear - I don't think it's just stubbornness based on your description - can hurt you.

Nina said...

Thanks Kate. When we started it was his usual way of acting. When he started to rear was when things changed.

It is a ramp that he has never seemed to have problems with before.

Backing up is something that he has always had difficulty with due to the two locking stifles. I have always taken any backing or even turning slowly and let him do it at his own pace due to this.

Normally my other half is with me for moral support and to put the rump bar across. I find Scott a good person to have around as he is a very calm person and I think this helps me and Sam relax.

When I get to Wagga I will be having a chiro look at him. I have looked everywhere in Townsville for a Chiro, massage, bowen therapy anything. I have asked around, other horsey people, put signs up in saddlery stores, asked the vets and nobody can recommend anyone. This is another reason why I am so happy to move.

I would love to hear your two person method.

Yes I will agree he has had a bad experience in the past but we have loaded and floated twice since then. He doesn't show any signs of discomfort when he is on or when he is backing off. I will also get professional help when in Wagga I think.

Marissa said...

In order to teach Tucker that the trailer is not a scary place, I just fed him his dinner on there for a few weeks. He was only a yearling and I was preparing him for a three hour trip to his new home, so I wanted him to be comfortable. Although he was terrified of the tin-can-on-wheels at first, he now loads on and off like a pro, seven years later. Maybe try associating dinner time with Sam's float? They are highly motivated by food, after all. The key is though, to make sure that while he can sniff and see the grain all he wants while on the ramp, he can't actually have it until he is standing quietly fully inside the trailer. Otherwise, he'll figure out that a foot or two on the ramp will get him fed. Just my solution, for what it's worth. Getting these guys to cooperate with shipping can be a real exercise in frustration. Good luck!