Saturday, June 27, 2009

All four feet in the trailer!

Panama got all four feet in the trailer today. It was a complete accident, but I think it was a breakthrough nonetheless.

He was a bit hesitant to get in at first today, but after several tries he did get two feet in and eat his grain in the trailer. He was obviously feeling more confident, because he was no longer backing all the way out between bites — after several bites, he'd back up until he front feet were inches from the edge but still in the trailer, and then he'd come forward again for more.

Anyway, he was almost done with his grain when something happened to startle him. I think the horse next door (who was standing at the fence ten feet away, watching us) might have rattled the fence or something. Or Panama could have brushed up against the butt chain, where it was dangling against the wall.

In any case, he pranced for a moment, and then for some reason decided he couldn't back out, so he launched his back feet into the trailer. I say launched because it happened very suddenly — I was totally taken off guard! He immediately went back to eating his grain, though he had his rump tucked so far underneath him that his back was humped. I wanted to pet him as praise, but he was wound so tightly I was afraid my touch would freak him out even more. So I settled for verbally praising him over and over — though I'm not sure that helped, either, as my voice was somewhat high-pitched with excitement.

After about 30 seconds of standing in the trailer, Panama backed out in a hurry. He was a bit nervous about getting back in again to finish off his grain, so I moved the dish to the ground where he could see it better, and settled for just getting two feet in again. I didn't want to end on a note of panic, so my goal was to remind him that he's been comfortable with two feet at a time.

I'm so excited about the progress we made today, and I'm hoping to revisit the trailer issue tomorrow!



At June 27, 2009 at 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How nice that he's teaching himself to load, and can work through any anxieties!

At June 27, 2009 at 7:38 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Hey, I deserve some credit here! LOL! :-D

(Though I'm admittedly very proud of him for getting all the way in the trailer on his own, no matter how accidental it was.)

Of course, it's taken a handful of times feeding him his grain in the trailer to get him to this point. I've been taking this approach rather than "teaching him" to load because we've tried that with him before, and it didn't work. I believe it's because he needs to learn to be more comfortable in the trailer -- hence the grain.

Unfortunately, the trailer belongs to my trainer and I need to give it back soon -- perhaps even in the next few days. It sucks because I think we're so close -- and I'm afraid he'll forget if I don't keep practicing with him. Clearly I need a trailer of my own -- but that requires something to pull it with, too!

At June 27, 2009 at 8:18 PM, Blogger Reddunappy said...

Sounds like some good progress, they dont forget, so maybe it will be easier down the road(after you have to give the tailer back)

I dont have a problem with any of mine loading up, but Emma wont back out, she has to turn around, there is no way to push a 1200lb horse out of a trailer LOL LOL I have a 4 horse slant so there is plenty of room, but I couldnt put her in a straight haul.

At June 28, 2009 at 1:48 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Oh yeah, they definitely don't forget -- which is why this is such a problem to begin with. I'm sure he remembers his first trailer ride, which resulted in injuries to his back feet and the death of his mom.

This is a really small, two stall, straight load trailer, so no room for him to turn around. I've loaded him into trailers that are big enough for me to lead him right into the stall, then go out the door or slip under the partition. He does much better if he can just follow me in. With this trailer, I have to stand in the other stall and convince him to get in on his own, which is making it considerably harder. However it was the only trailer I had access to that I could borrow.

At June 28, 2009 at 1:50 AM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Oh, and the partition doesn't swing to the side either. So another reason why this trailer is making it harder. But I figure, if I can get him comfortable with this one, then he'll be able to load onto virtually any trailer, right?

At June 28, 2009 at 8:36 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I know how exciting it is and what a relief it is to make some progress with trailer loading. I'm completely baffled by Gabbrielle. She went right in and out as a yearling, but now the only way I can get her into a trailer is by standing in the trailer and pulling on a rope around her butt. All the techniques I've studied at clinics and in books and have been taught by trainers don't work with her. She's not scared of the trailer either. She's very calm about it. I just wish she'd go in without me having to set up such an elaborate contraption. It's too time consuming.

At June 28, 2009 at 12:33 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

NM, do you think it's because she was smaller as a yearling, so the trailer appeared bigger to her? I know the confined space is supposed to be the biggest deal for the horse.

I tried the rope around Panama's butt the last time we moved him, and he lost his marbles. It took me completely off guard, because I've used that approach before (for a different purpose) and he was fine with having a rope around his butt. I guess it's different when I'm trying to force him to enter the horse-eating trailer?

Anyway, I hope you'll post with some pictures the next time you practice with Gabbrielle. I'm interested in hearing other people's stories about trailer loading, since it's such a big deal for me and Panama.


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