Saturday, July 3, 2010

Trauma-Free Trailer Training

Judge's ear melanoma has gone weird, so the vet wants to remove it and send it in for histopathology. As long as he's taking that one, he's going to remove the other melanoma on Judge's tail as well. That necessitates trailering Judge to the vet clinic about 30-odd miles away.

Judge has only been trailered once, when he was moved to where he's living now from the place where he was born. That was several years ago. Since I like to stack the deck for success whenever possible, we spent the day today doing Trailer Loading 101.

We pulled my trailer into a safely-fenced area so I could use free-shaping to get Judge calmly loading himself. I brought some of my other horses in as well, since loading like ladies and gentlemen is an essential skill. Milton The EvilPony™ is a trailer loading champ and could come in handy to give an uncertain horse a lead. Funny how even the worst little snot around has something he does really well.

By clicking and rewarding the slightest effort made in a positive direction, Judge was soon loading himself with no physical coercion at all. No halter, no lead rope, no drama.

It really helps to have a trailer that's big and airy enough for the horses to feel comfortable. Judge is a solid 16 hands, and in my 7'8" tall, extra wide trailer he has plenty of room.

Sarge was especially fun to work with. In about ten minutes, he would load himself when I told him, "Load up." He would stand in his proper spot, then turn around when asked, walk to the top of the ramp, wait until I told him it was okay, then walk down the ramp and stop at the bottom. Then I had to put him back out with the other horses because he kept loading and unloading himself and getting in the way.

Hopefully Judge will have smooth, stress-free trips to and from the vet, with Milton along for company. Once he gets there, well, I don't expect that part to be so pleasant.

Maybe I'm weird, but I enjoy playing with my horses, seeing how each one learns and the different activities they like over others, and learning how their minds work far more than riding them.


Greyhawk said...

A beautiful post, Hecate. I really enjoyed it.

JD said...

Good luck, hope it all works out well.