Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Making up lost ground

Today we had a setback with the trailer loading practice. It was disappointing, especially after how well Panama did on Sunday.

It started out just fine. I set the grain on the shelf, just as before, and Panama stepped into the trailer right away. He ate several bites and backed down again.

He did this two or three times. The last time, though, the wind blew the door on his side toward him. I'm not sure how far closed it went but I think it might have brushed his rump and legs. Suddenly he was in an absolute panic to back out of the trailer. He got out and ran about 15 feet away, and stood there staring at me and the trailer accusingly.

I'm sure he was thinking, See, I told you that thing was dangerous.

After that we wouldn't eat his grain off the shelf anymore. He stepped in with two feet a couple of times, but not far enough to get to the grain. Every time he looked around him uncertainly and then backed out again.

I felt terrible for not realizing that the wind was blowing hard enough to move those doors. They don't exactly swing easily. But regardless of whether it was my fault, I now had another phobia to contend with: a newfound fear of swinging doors.

I tried so hard to get Panama back into the trailer, and he really tried too — he really wanted that grain, but every time I thought he was going to try to make a play for it again, one of the doors would move and he would bounce away like a rabbit. I then tried tying one back, but of course the damage had already been done. It's not like I can explain to him that the doors don't move when they're tied.

Finally I decided to work on desensitizing him to the doors. While I was trying to get him into the trailer, he kept smelling them, pushing them with his nose to get them to swing, etc. Once he and I played several rounds of a game where we were each on opposite sides of the door, taking turns pushing it back and forth. He was obviously concerned about them but still very curious, so I decided he was trying to tell me that he needed more work in that area first.

So I gave in and put his grain on the floor of the trailer, where he could reach it with out stepping into the trailer. While he ate, I sat on the edge of the trailer deck in the other stall and lazily swung the door back and forth. At first he'd bolt every time, then look at me and see I was (apparently) relaxed and daydreaming (I was making a point to avoid eye contact), and come back to his grain. Gradually his spooks subsided to a little jump-and-check-Mom's-face. He's not completely over it, but by the time he was done with his grain he was much less concerned about me swinging the door back and forth.

I think next time I need to stand him in front of the trailer and practice swinging the door so that it actually touches him. That exercise is going to be much more difficult but he has to get over his fear of the doors before I can make any more progress with him in the trailer.



At June 16, 2009 at 9:18 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That was a setback, but given time, horses can get over these things. The last time I worked on trailer loading Gabbrielle, the neighbor's boarders started driving their pickup truck in circles to drag the paddock, honking each time their horses got in the way of the truck. They coincidentally timed their honks for right when Gabbrielle was about to step into the trailer. She'd hear the honk, and jump backwards. I made a couple of other attempts to continue the trailer loading, but those annoying boarders always showed up right then and started their honking, so I gave up. When I don't practice trailer loading, they don't drag the paddock. Go figure. If I could trailer her to someplace else to do her trailer loading practice, I would, but that is rather contradictory since you first have to train the horse to get in the trailer before taking it somewhere else.

At June 16, 2009 at 10:39 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Good grief, NM, every time I hear a story about your neighbors I start thinking about taking a road trip for the sole purpose of bitching them out. At least I know the wind wasn't out to get me.

At least, I don't think was...

At June 17, 2009 at 4:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The old "three steps forward, two steps back" - just starting over will work (eventually). Good luck - you'll get there!

I agree about NuzzMuzz's neighbors - I think they must be possessed, or something! If they were my neighbors, I think I might have done something very bad to them by now!

At June 18, 2009 at 8:02 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, thanks, today we worked on it some more and it went much better. Blogger is not letting me post right now, but as soon as it does you can read about it in more detail. :o)


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