Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The farrier and the trailer: A big day!

Panama had a big day today: He had both a visit from the farrier, and a session of loading practice in the trailer.

The farrier visit went great, as usual. Panama is totally unconcerned by the farrier now, which is huge considering how fearful he was of farriers after he was twitched by an impatient farrier as a yearling. (That was while he was on my in-laws' property. If I had care of him at the time it never would have happened!)

Today my farrier also did the barn owner's horse, and the alpha gelding (whose care the barn owner is in charge of arranging). I held both horses. The alpha gelding was remarkably well behaved, which I think might have something to do with the attention and handling I've been giving him lately. The mare also did well, particularly considering the last time she got her feet done, the farrier the BO had been using took too much sole off, and she was lame for days afterward.

After a lengthy chat with the farrier, a friend came over to help me with trailer loading practice. I still need someone on the ground to help remind Panama to keep his feet moving. He is still fine with putting two feet on, but at the start of every session he balks at first and has to have that little nudge to get him going again.

Today I started trying a bit more aggressively to get him on a bit farther. For the most part this meant encouraging him to step farther on with his front feet (instead of keeping them near the edge), or taking another step with his back feet once he got his front feet on (in preparation for getting all the way on). We also had to work some more on backing off calmly, as he starts bolting backward again when he senses that he's under pressure to do more than he's comfortable with.

He did get all the way on once. I'm not sure exactly how it happened — my friend waved the plastic bag (we used it again today for a little bit) just right, and he just hopped all the way on. He stood there looking all around, and I fed him a couple of treats. I could tell he wanted to keep looking around, but I also could tell that he was tense and afraid to move, so I decided to back him off before he made a move to rush off.

Panama is confident about backing in general, but today it became clear to me that he's worried about backing over the edge of the trailer. When he backed off the trailer he was standing on his tippy toes in the back, taking quick little steps, clearly feeling for the edge. When I get him up there again, we'll go a bit more slowly. I was thinking that I'll teach him a signal that lets him know when he's at the ledge, so that he doesn't have to worry so much about where he's putting his feet.

I am going to wait until he's more comfortable in the trailer before I try turning him around to unload head-first. Right now I'm not so sure he can handle turning around inside the trailer. There's a panel that rattles quite a bit and makes him nervous, and I'm afraid of him freaking out mid-turn and hurting one of us.

Anyway, even though I didn't get him all the way on the trailer after that once, I still feel we made good progress today!



At July 21, 2009 at 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be careful about turning him around and letting him unload front first - in fact if I were you (which I'm not) I wouldn't have him unload front first - many trailers do not accommodate that and he (or you) could be injured as he turns around. He'll get the hang of backing off - it's a weird feeling for a horse to step off backward over the overhang, but most get the feel for it after a little practice. That tiptoe stuff is pretty common as the horse gets used to it.

But then unsolicited advice is worth what you paid for it!

At July 21, 2009 at 10:55 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, I actually agree. I had originally planned to try it, but when I had him in the trailer next to me today, I realized I was not at all comfortable with the thought of turning him around in there. Perhaps that will change when he gets more comfortable loading and unloading, but at that point, I won't need to unload him head-first!


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