Monday, June 15, 2009

Trailer loading practice

I mentioned last night that yesterday after my horseback ride, I practiced loading Panama into the trailer.

It has been a while since we've worked on the whole trailer loading thing. The last time, Panama pulled the trailer off the block, and I hadn't done anything with it — including putting the trailer back on the block — since.

But yesterday I decided to go ahead and do it, probably inspired by Lisa's comments. I jacked the trailer up, wedged a cinder block under the hitch, and used that to support the trailer while I jacked the wheel back down and slid the block underneath. It didn't take all that long, and I'm ashamed it's taken me six months to do.

Then I went ahead and cleaned out the trailer. It has tons of old hay in it, which my trainer advised me to clean out when she loaned me the trailer, but which I hadn't done yet. It was pretty gross.

Luckily, the horses hadn't had their grain yet, so I had the perfect incentive. I grained the other two horses, and then walked across both pastures holding Panama's grain bowl, and him dancing impatiently alongside me the entire time. When we got to the trailer, he stopped up short, like, Oh. I opened the doors, put his grain bowl on the shelf, and then came back out to halter him.

Despite everything that he went through moving to this place, and despite dragging the trailer by accident back in January, Panama was a pretty good sport about having to eat his grain in the trailer. He somehow managed not to get all four feet in, though. The most we got was three.

He started off slow: step up with one foot, step back down, step up with two feet, step back down, etc. It took several minutes for him to work up the courage to reach his grain at all. When he finally got to it, he literally stuffed his mouth with grain and then backed out of the trailer to chew it. But by the time he finished his grain, he was standing there for several bites at a time, and only backing out for a moment when he needed a break from standing on his tip toes.

Because that's what he did to get to his grain — he stood on his tip toes. He would get his front feet in the trailer, and then strrrretch so that he could get his nose into his grain bowl without putting both back feet into the trailer. (Once he did bring one back foot in, but only once.) This was quite a challenge — and quite a comical sight — for a horse that is just 14 hands tall and wears a 64 inch blanket!

I think we'll have to use grain to get him into the trailer a few more times, and then I'll start training him to load up without the grain. I just want to first get him to the point where he's comfortable eating his grain in the trailer — with all four feet in there with him!



At June 15, 2009 at 4:28 PM, Blogger jane augenstein said...

Good for you!!! Cleaned the trailer and got Panama to go in. Good boy!!!
I don't give Gilly anything until after he has loaded several times well. We use Parelli's sending game to get in the trailer. It works for me, he is getting better every time we work on it and maybe next week we will got for a "ride". Slow and easy is the best way for me and him to work on scary things like this. I want it to stick well in his head that going for a ride is a good thing!! :-)
~Jane and Gilly~

At June 15, 2009 at 4:45 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Jane, I normally don't believe in bribing with food at all. I don't give treats when I work with Panama -- in fact, the only time he gets them is when I groom him. It's part of our routine then.

But in this case, I decided that because of his history with trailers, it was more important for him to learn to be comfortable just being in the trailer. Once he realizes that the trailer isn't always a horrible place, I'll start practicing loading without the bribe. :o)

At June 15, 2009 at 6:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like he's getting more comfortable - food has its uses! Three feet in at this point sounds pretty good to me. Some day I'll have to tell the story of my Lily and two feet in (but no more!) and how we got past that.

At June 15, 2009 at 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way - thanks for commenting!

At June 18, 2009 at 8:04 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, it was 3 feet only once -- usually it was just 2. I'd love to hear the story about Lily -- is it on your blog?


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