Trailers are the worst, you guys.
|even if they hold cookies, they may also hold monsters|
With a predicted high of almost 70* today which meant for sure all the ice on the parking lot would be melted, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to work on trailer loading with Dopes.
When I picked him up at the track, his trainer told me he'd never been on my type of trailer before (a straight load two horse with a ramp), but he walked on with a little coaxing and trailered the twenty minutes to my barn without apparent issue. When I went to get him off, he was reluctant to back. He eventually crept backwards, but once his hind feet hit the ramp he launched himself out.
Fortunately, my trailer is extra tall (bought for the giant Bobby Magee) and Opie is extra short so no heads were harmed in the making of bringing Opie home, and once off the trailer he immediately came to a halt, but I knew for sure this was going to have to be addressed.
I love trailering out to the park for trail rides, and I love showing when I have the opportunity--both things I do alone. One of my goals for the year is making Opie a one man show trailer friendly citizen, and being hesitant to load or bolting off the trailer do not lend themselves to that.
|there's been construction going on at the neighbor's house right|
on the other side of the arena--way more interesting than the trailer!
Armed with pockets full of peppermints and a chain shank and longe whip just outside the trailer should I need to go to either of them, I brought Opie over to check out his ride. There was much snorting and side eye being thrown around at first.
|"da fuq is this game?"|
I started off by just walking him forward to see what I was working with. He followed me willingly until his front foot stepped on the ramp which shifted a bit as it wasn't completely on level ground and he tried to make a run backwards. I instantly sat on the lead rope to stop him (and was smartly wearing gloves as well), and we had a Mexican standoff wherein Opie may look like a donkey, but Carly Always Wins. As soon as he took a step forward I released the pressure and shoved a cookie down his throat.
He tried wiggling sideways as his next evasive maneuver, so I finally grabbed the longe whip for an arm extension to ask his butt to come forward instead of over there somewhere. Whip in hand, he got the hint and without even having to tap him with it he followed me right on. I shoved MOAR COOKIES in his face, heaped the praise on him, and asked him to back.
He started to step onto the ramp a couple of times, chickened out, tried to go over me instead, got smacked in the chest for that, and finally committed. It wasn't the launch of his first experience, but it was pretty frantic. I doled out another cookie and took him for a walk to have a graze and take a breath.
|it was mostly snorting at more things than grazing.|
After he'd calmed down a bit, we repeated the whole shebang. He walked right back on without hesitation (with whip in hand), stood more quietly this time, and then backed with a little more thought to his feet. It was still quick, and he was still throwing his head up, but it was on a slack lead and he didn't look quite so bug-eyed about it.
Another cookie, another walk and graze, and back to the trailer.
I didn't have any expectations or plans beyond just getting him to walk on and off with me with neither of us dying this first session, but since he was being so good about getting on I decided to see if I could get him to walk on by himself. I've been subtly sending him forward away from me in every day things since he got here. Send him into his stall, into the wash rack, his pasture, the mounting block, etc. That sounds easy, but he was super confused about what the fuck I wanted from him when I first started and would balk and stare at me. He's a pro at it now, and I sent him into the trailer as if we did it all the time. He strolled right on up and stood while I latched the butt bar and put up the ramp.
|locked (in) and loaded|
I came around to the front to stuff cookies into him and try to reassure him he wasn't going to die.
|"PRETTY SURE I NEED MORE COOKIES."|
|"PRETTY SURE WEAVING IS THE BEST ANSWER HERE."|
He started weaving almost immediately, but I made him stand on there for a couple minutes anyway. He didn't try to make a run for it while I dropped the ramp and butt bar (PSA: Tying is the last thing I do when loading and untying is the first when unloading. Do not break your horse's neck by having them tied at incorrect times. That makes me nervous about the death box as well.), and waited while I came to the front to ask him to back.
Third time was the charm as he still threw up his head, but he stepped back without trying to come forward first and kept to the ramp all the way down.
|arthur volunteered to help by laying across the ramp and lending|
moral support, but i shooed him away and found him ready to captain
the ship should he be needed.
I let him be done there and stuck him back in his stall to finish his breakfast hay before I made him do real work.
|t-shirt weather in february! opie is thrilled!|
We'll obviously do a few more sessions before show season starts up (as always, check out the tentative schedule on the side bar), but I think this was a great start. I wasn't sure just how much of a mess he was going to be, but he exceeded expectations. Cookies for everyone!