Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting ready for the trailer

The worst part about moving Panama to a new barn is trailering him. Last time we moved, a year ago yesterday actually, was a rather bad experience for him. Although I've had some small success practicing with a stock trailer since, the boarders who owned the trailer moved their horses, so we weren't able to keep practicing.

The owner of the new place will be moving Panama on her three-horse slant-load stock trailer, which should be big enough (hopefully) to keep from intimidating him too much. She might also bring her horse, in the hopes that he'll load better if another horse is already on board. However, my trainer and I are going to practice a little in the meantime with her mom's little two-horse trailer, the one Panama won't get onto for just me — hopefully he'll do a little better for her.

After riding for a while today, I thought I'd make use of the practice bridge to work on backing over a lip. The last time I got him onto the other boarders' stock trailer, he tiptoed and rushed it backing off, so I thought it might reassure him if he knows I'll warn him when he's at the edge. It sounds silly, I'm sure, but it'll be interesting to see if it will help.

So today I walked him up the bridge, stopped him at the top, and then backed him down — over and over. There's a little drop between the end of the bridge and the ground, but not much, so I thought it would be a good non-scary way to start. I wanted to focus on teaching Panama the cues, so I said, "Step up," every time I wanted him to step up onto the bridge, and "Step down," every time his next step backward would take him off the edge. I said it in a sing-songy way, so that my voice rose when I said up, and went down when I said down.

When we backed we took it one step at a time, so that I had time to cue him for that first step down. Although he obviously doesn't know why this is important yet, by the end he seemed to be stepping more confidently over the edge. Of course, this is a drop of only a couple inches, and I don't have anything to practice with that would be a better simulation. Still, I'll do this with him a few more times before the practice session with my trainer. I don't know if it will help with getting him onto the trailer, as I think there are other issues that make him balk, but at least it might make unloading a little more comfortable for him.



At October 4, 2009 at 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the time when they won't get on the trailer, it's because they're worried they won't be able to get off the trailer - at least that's how it was with Maisie. Good luck with your trailer training!

At October 4, 2009 at 1:14 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, I'm sure you're right and that's often the case. With Panama, though, he has a traumatic history with trailers, and I think that probably has a lot to do with why it's so difficult with him. Mainly I'm hoping that by working on the backing and teaching him a cue for stepping down, I can relieve one worry and perhaps build his faith in me, so that we can focus the rest of our training on helping him to understand he's not going to get hurt again by getting on a trailer.


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