You walk your horse to ramp, walk in and before you know it you've ricocheted off the end of the lead rope.
You walked on the ramp but your horse slammed on the brakes as if hitting a glass wall at the foot of the ramp.
He's refusing to load! A circle around, another attempt; he's refusing point blank to even put a foot on the ramp.
Tired, hungry, now feeling a little embarrassed and desperately thinking of ideas.
'Stubborn' and 'pig-headed' fleet through your mind, maybe even a little anger surges as you mutter, "just move!".
But that's not going to help get him loaded, in fact those thoughts might make matters worse as they tempt you to pull harder on the lead rope; he plants more firmly, or put a couple of sharp tugs on the lead rope; he reels backwards with his head in the air.
You're running out of ideas.
Through Their Eyes Travelling our horses in trailers, or lorries, seems simple, but how often do we stop to consider it from the horse's point of view.
Why would a horse refuse to load? We're asking them to go in to a confined space and possibly be isolated from other horses.
Previous experience may have been unpleasant (e.
rough journey or going for painful vet treatments).
Think about standing for a whole train journey without holding on; it's just as hard work for horses.
After exertion in a lesson (you want to get the most out of the instructor who is only there once a year), or at an event, he's tired and another journey might be physically daunting.
Imagine being taken on a mystery tour not knowing where you are going and what will happen.
It might be fun, it might not be, you just don't know.
The uncertainty of not knowing can be stressful.
You know home, a deep bed and a good feed awaits, but your horse won't know that, not for sure.
What's the Plan? You might never know the complete answer to why the horse refused to load, but you still need to ask the questions.
What you do know for sure is that you need to get the horse on the trailer to get home.
You need a training plan.
More specifically, you need a training plan that will teach the horse to willingly and enthusiastically trailer load when asked and that will keep you both calm and focused.
It's important to note here that motivation to do something is not the same as motivation to avoid the consequences of not doing it.
To ensure willingness and enthusiasm (desirable emotional response) to do what is asked the rules of positive reinforcement need to be applied.
For this clicker training can be a useful approach.
There are 3 key steps to creating a successful positive reinforcement training (clicker training) plan;
- Step 1; Decide what you DO want from your horse
- Step 2; Create a training plan
- Step 3; Do the Training! Think about, decide and focus on what you want and, very importantly, how you want the horse to feel about doing it; willingly and enthusiastically trailer load when asked.
Don't ask for more than is already on offer.
The smaller the pieces you reinforce the more likely it becomes that your horse will be successful.
Letting him be right and to choose to participate is a big part of building enthusiasm.
He just stopped bracing against you, click and treat.
Now he's stretching his neck forward, click and treat.
Can he walk away from the trailer, come back round and do that again, click and treat.
Small steps towards the end goal will ensure a higher success rate in getting your horse loaded as well as help to ensure a positive emotional outcome for you and your horse.