Young Horse Education - Tara Prepares for Trailer Loading [Slideshow]
Just imagine your horse needs to go to the vet due to an emergency. Your horse is in pain, you are stressed, nerves are blank, and you never loaded your horse into the trailer! On top, it has to happen NOW. It might work out just fine, but chances are big that it won’t. It happened to me in the past, that’s why I teach all my horses to load easily and without stress early on.
As the trailer is the ultimate squeeze, I like to do some little preparations. If Tara can trust me with easier things, the trailer will be less of an issue.
These are my preparatory exercises:
- walk through a squeeze I built with a tarp
- stop in the squeeze and relax
- walk over the noisy bridge - trust strange surfaces
- learn to sort out the feet on the pedestal
Tara is very curious and trusting, ready to explore new things. On Tara’s side is Youshka, she is the lead mare in Tara’s herd. I will take advantage of Youshka’s good trailer loading skills and use her as a role model for Tara. Horses learn easily by imitating their older and trusted herd members, especially when they are still young or inexperienced.
First task: Walk over the bridge. The ramp of the trailer will make noise, and some horses are really afraid to step on something different than mother earth. Youshka goes first and is showing how it is done. Until now, Tara has never walked over the long side of the bridge.
Tara first tried to squeeze between me and the bridge, but soon she got curious and started to explore. You can still see her little excitement by her open nostrils, wide open eyes and the pointy ears. All I had to do was to keep her nose pointing straight at the bridge and wait.. The nose directs the thoughts.
Slowly she got curious enough to follow Youska step by step.
And also from her other side. Tara is a bit more sceptical this time, she is testing the solidity of the bridge. Nothing worse than stepping on something and breaking in!
Here you can see how she is tight in her body, arching it towards me and the ears tilted sideways and ready to jump off. So I go even slower, step by step, no rush to make sure she has time to think about every step.
She is carefully checking out how to place her feet when stepping off. I already met horses who didn’t want to load because they didn’t know how to get out of the trailer!
Next task is a squeeze between the tarp and the fence of the arena. Youshka is showing Tara that even hanging tarps don’t bite.
Are you sure, Youshka? Ears pricked, nostrils wide open and long neck, Tara is not really sure about it but curious.
Again, all I have to do is wait and Tara gets curious enough to carefully touch the tarp. But with an extra long neck and nose.
I think with young horses we often want to actually do and teach to much stuff, rather that just allowing it to happen. A lot of defensive behaviour just comes up, because we think we have to urge the horse, we have to make it happen. Most of time time all it needs is a little moment of patience from our side. And I am not talking about 10 mins of waiting now, mostly all it takes are 20 seconds! Isn’t it interesting that often we don’t manage to be patient for 20 seconds but happy to fight and discuss with our horses for next 10 minutes as a result (or even for the next few hours)?
Now we have to pass it. The trailer is the ultimate squeeze - both sides, front and back, top and bottom. Youshka is going first, and Tara is following the good example without that I even have to do anything.
Now Tara on her own: She is being a really great girl. Young horses learn so easily, they have such an open mind. They didn’t make any funny experiences yet, especially not the one of an excited human who is afraid that it won’t work! Remember, horses don’t just imitate actions, the mostly imitate emotions!
Now the pedestal! I want her to be confident placing her feet on different surfaces. Again, I just wait and keep her nose straight.
Nose, neck, maybe the feet! Here is one foot.
She doesn’t look so confident on how to put her feet.
Well, she seems to have the idea of walking over - I decide to let her make the experience. She has to learn about sorting her legs.
Little mishaps like this are not a problem at all, they just help the horse to learn.
So we do it again. This time she remembers that walking over is not so practical and it is easier to just put the front feet.
Good girl Tara! She is doing so great with all that stuff and I didn’t do a lot with her up to now. Now she is ready to go and see the trailer!
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