I know there are a great deal of trailer loading issues which is why I am writing this blog. A great deal of the time issues at the trailer start way before the trailer.
I received a call from one of the boarders, at the barn, about how their horse would not load into their trailer. They spent most of the morning (Saturday) and ended up giving up the situation. I met them at the barn this afternoon. She told me her horse was 20 years old and had not really had a problem in the past and she could not understand what had went wrong. She said it hadn’t been perfect but he had always loaded. We talked and then she said she had always had another horse in the trailer and now she was loading him by himself. This is a very important point as most people don’t think too much about such a change for a horse. In the past he was most likely not all that comfortable with loading but having the other horse in the trailer helped him. Now she is seeing what he has really thought about the trailer.
I was standing fairly far away from the trailer when I met her and her horse. I saw the interaction between her and her horse and I knew at that point that the issues were going to be challenging. Her horse’s thoughts were not even on the property. I did get my rope halter on him and he was very concerned and lost. My first thought was sadness for a horse to be feeling like this at his age. We had a lot of distractions around us that caused him more anxiety. To him…I wasn’t even in his thoughts or in his planet. I was just trying to block his thoughts…which took quite a bit. All I could think about was how I was going to help direct his thoughts into a small space (such as the trailer) considering he was totally off the property mentally.
He was totally trying to lead me and direct my feet. I spent over half the time just working on directing his thoughts forwards and backwards which was very difficult for him. The next step was directing his thoughts right and left…to him this was not going to happen. During all of this…he did a great deal of licking and chewing and letting out some big sighs and lowered his head. Sometimes he didn’t stay long in the comfort zone…but I was glad he did enter the comfort zone.
After about an hour he did enter the trailer…but his mind didn’t stay long in the trailer. Over the next 30 minutes he did enter the trailer several times. I was able to ask him to step back a step and follow my feel to step forward without him leaving the trailer. He and I ended on that note. I led him back to his stall and he was in a hurry so he and I worked on the leading situation again. Once we entered the barn he was really wanting into his stall with his food..so he and I worked a little on that too. He finally stayed with me relaxed and sighed. I asked him to enter his stall and to stay with me while I was removing his halter.
To me…there were a great number of issues with this horse and that the trailer situation was just a small part of it! Remember everything matters to your horse..so pay close attention to your horse’s thoughts way before trailer loading or anything else your horse might have an issue with. The owner and I are going to get together next weekend as I would love for her horse to feel totally comfortable in the trailer. Today was just a big step for her horse.