I really need some help in this area. My MFT, (Missouri Fox Trotter ~ Marv note) Misty just turned 5 and I'm her first 'real' rider - we are doing really good with just about everything (save for a few spooky rocks on trail rides) except loading.
From what I can piece together about her history - she left the first home (where she was bred) fine - 2nd home when the girl decided she couldn't ride her (too high spirited) they came to pick her up at night during a storm and when she started to get in lightning struck and she went nuts and they couldn't get her in. They came back the next day and finally got her in. She was sold to another girl whom I bought her from. When we loaded her - she reared and also went nuts - finally got her in with a butt rope and lots of rearing and she did injure herself, but not too bad.
ok, so then I get her home, I call a trainer (right...long story) but he did get her in his stock trailer in about 5 min - he used a lunge line to touch her hip and as soon as she walked forward he removed it...she ended up going in and out in and out no problem. During the month at his place, I took my trailer down so he could put her in there (don't think he did), but when I went to pick her up, I tried to load her in my trailer - she wouldn't budge until I used the same technique with the whip.
Got her home...she came up with strangles the same week and so I didn't work her much the following 3 wks...after she got ok, I started working with her and tried to load her - she got in once...the next time I tried to get her in, she put her front feet in, backed up and refused to get in from there. I've tried the whip thing, but when she even sees it she starts tossing her head, flaring her nostrils and dancing - if I get near her with it, she lunges forward and I'm afraid I'll get trampled... I've tried just tying her to the trailer and leaving her - she paws a hole in the ground - I even sold my 2 horse and bought a 3 horse slant...well, I can get her as far as her head inside...but no further.
Loading problems can be kind of tricky. There can be any number of reasons as to why a horse won't load. Without me being there to see the problem as it's happening, all I can do is jabber and see if perhaps we can hit on something that helps you.
Sometimes loading problems are caused by people leading a horse into the trailer and by their body position, actually blocking the horse from getting in. Sometimes the trailer floor is too high which may require a hop rather than a step to get in and the horse lacks the momentum or inclination to make the hop. Sometimes the trailer is too short and the horse is reluctant to get in all the way for fear of hitting the front of the trailer. Sometimes a horse may have a physical problem (thoracic or lumbar vertebrae out of whack) that causes it pain when its body is angled up (or down doing other things). Sometimes it is uncertainty. Sometimes it is the horse's lack of respect for the handler's wishes.
The lack of respect for the handler's wishes is the thing I'd eliminate first. Primarily because it's easy to do and you'll need the horse's respect while you are looking for other reasons it won't load.
As I have said so many times on this website and on the phone and at clinics and on farm calls, "You have to establish the maximum communication and connection with your horse so that each of you can get the most possible from your relationship - and the best way I have found to RAPIDLY develop maximum communication and connection is by doing the bonder."
The bonder is the foundation on which you build all your problem solving and your training. Properly completed, the bonder establishes an intense connection between you and your horse. Once put through the bonder, the horse accepts you as being the leader. The leader is the one who calls all the shots. A leader leads. A leader directs. A leader controls.
Once put through the bonder, the horse says, "You are in control." At the end of the bonder the horse will be standing beside you awaiting your direction. You are in control in the center of the enclosure. Walk toward the edge, the horse follows. You are no longer in control in the center, you are in control at the edge. In other words, you have moved the control.
Spend a little time practicing moving the control. Vary the speed of the moving to get a feel for how the horse responds. You'll have to be aware of the horse at all times to be sure you just don't move too fast or abruptly and end up leaving the horse (losing control). It also helps to be thinking in your mind, "Follow me," "Stand here," and so on.
To get the horse into the trailer, assuming respect issues were the only reason the horse wouldn't load, you merely move the control into the trailer. The key is patience. You move the control toward the goal until the horse says "Having second thoughts here."
At that point you stop and think, "You agreed to allow me to lead, follow me," and then you edge closer to the goal.
If the trailer is backed up to the bonding enclosure or parked in an area it is best to try loading without a halter or leadline on the horse. It may take you a while because you'll have to be concentrating on maintaining and moving your control, but you do that once or twice and your loading problem is pretty well licked.
If you are unable to work in a contained area you can put the halter and leadline on the horse in the manner seen in the pictures at http://MarvWalker.com/suzy.htm as a safety measure. Do not lead the horse but be sure you are able to grab the leadline if the horse begins to move away. The pictures on this page also demonstrate moving the control.
In my experience, horses, for the greater part, are very forgiving and a couple of "abuse" actions, or a nearby lightning strike where a charge is not transmitted to the horse, seldom have a long-term effect. Before I became a smarter and more aware horse person I did some pretty rough things to horses and they never held it against me or acted like it affected them to any great degree. I usually always discount past history UNLESS it was a repeated practice where the horse becomes "trained" to react in a specific manner. In those cases we change the training and the horse reacts differently.
Many problems are set up by the handler's mindset. "Oh no, I have to load him in the trailer...he *ALWAYS* loads difficult!" I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have gone in with horses who hate men, go berserk when they see a whip, saddle, or stove-up old cereal cowboys and have the horse give no indication of a problem.
Taking a horse to a trainer, for the most part, is a waste of money UNLESS *you* are worked with as well. You have to learn what it is the trainer does to get the horse to perform the action. I almost always turn down requests for me to ride horses at the clinics because I'm not there to show *I* can do something with the horse but to help the owner or handler do something with the horse.
Do I think the vast majority of trainers only do the minimum with the horse and all the while keeping it in the barn while charging training fees? A high percentage, Ohhhhhhh yes. Doing the horse math alone will come up with that answer. Do I think all of them are rip-off artists? Of course not. It is the owner's responsibility to insure the trainer is giving what he's being paid for.
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