Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ho Back

And no, we're not holding up a line of hot walkers here.

I'm curious to see if anyone can throw out some trailer loading advice--or more specifically trailer unloading advice.

As I've known since day one of Opie, exiting the trailer has been a source of great anxiety for him. His go-to is to fly out as quickly as possible, head in the air, anything behind him be damned. He's excellent to get on the trailer. He'll follow you right up, and we ended this morning with him self-loading again and standing still while I banged the butt bar loudly behind him. But the second I ask him to take a step back, it escalates to boom, gone like the wind.

In our last practice session before today, I was able to keep pressure on the lead rope and get him to back out slower--not calmly and thinking about where each foot was, but slow enough that I consider it backing out instead of running out in a blind panic. I didn't do anything different than normal that day so I'm not sure why he was feeling more confident.

This morning I was able to get him stopped halfway down the ramp. Once his hind legs hit solid ground, he stopped with his front legs still on the ramp and stayed there until I asked him to slowly back the rest of the way down.

He genuinely seems anxious about the whole thing. I don't think there's any part of him that's doing it because he's trying to be bad or sassy or ill-mannered. He gets on the trailer, eats his candy while looking out the window, and then the second he thinks I'm about to ask him to back he starts trembling.

I reward him for any small backwards shift where he lets me immediately stop him, but once that back foot leaves the inside of the trailer, he's gone. The drop from the trailer to the ramp is minimal. My ramp is solid, the hinges are solid, and I'm on as level ground as he's ever going to get.

I can live with a quick exit being his thing, but I'm honestly concerned for his safety with how frantic he is right now. I don't want him to fall down, and he has zero regard to bashing his hind end into the butt bar--while it's padded, it's by no means "horses like to maim themselves on perfectly innocuous things" proof.

So, any ideas?

20 comments:

  1. My assistant trainer has a thoroughbred who does that, we've got it 85% better these days but by no means is it totally cured. We mostly spent a lot of time practicing cha-cha steps everywhere, on hills, through puddles, inside the big trailer, one step forward, one step back, until the response to halter pressure is more autonomic response than thought.

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  2. My last TB was high-dollar spoiled brat that had only ever traveled on fancy horse vans. Since they're never backed off a van, it took him a while to figure out backing off of my 2 horse. Since he does load willingly, maybe try not to make a big deal out of it for a little bit and see if he improves with time? And hopefully doesn't maim you or himself in the process...

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  3. ugh no advice here. Carlos was a hot mess for the trailer and Ramone we'd get to unload himself because he was literally a moron. He always went in a slant load though so it was easy to throw a rope over his shoulders and get out of his way.

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  4. most of my experience working on trailer loading/unloading was with a step up, so idk if any of it translates. but we worked on the forward and back simultaneously. one step forward, one back. up. down. back. forth. so that it was never like, "get in the trailer, get out of the trailer" but instead was "move forward and move backward as i ask." and that way they kinda would learn both the step up and the step down at the same time. the guy i worked with would have me test how well things were going by putting the horse half on, then asking it to back off again. or having it back half way off, but then step back forward on again. plus like kate said, we also did a lot of work with forward/back separate from the trailer too.

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    Replies
    1. I was going to suggest this too- it works for ramps too

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    2. I have the same advice. Also, can you move the divider over to have him turn around and walk out? That might help get you through and maybe help lessen his anxiety about exiting the trailer enough that it will help with eventually backing off?

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  5. No chance of being able to move things around so he can turn and walk forwards to get out? That's my brilliant idea. I'm sure you haven't thought of it before, LOL

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  6. No help here but damn Opie. Chill out. Have you tried a step trailer to see if it’s a ramp thing?

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  7. Lol my horse was sold to me with the warning "he runs people over when he gets off the trailer." So, needless to say, I'm following. I like Emma's idea. Does he do it walking off forward? Will he back out of other strange narrow openings? (Stall openings, barn doors?)

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  8. How is his backing in other places? Will he back off politely if he's not all the way on the trailer yet?

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  9. One step at a time, literally. One foot on, then back down. Do the same foot a dozen times in a session, then quit when he finds it boring. Next session, do half a dozen times with the same foot, add the second foot a few times, and then finish with just one foot. Add a foot only when he is confident and never add nore than one foot per session. If he gets antsy or nervous, go back to previous step.

    Nice and easy will build his confidence.
    It might take a month of mini sessions but will pay in dividends for years.
    Keep us posted.

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  10. For a while Val got anxious about loading and backing off of my two horse (ramp). I took him to my trainer's three horse slant, left all the doors open and led him through it a million times - til he was so bored. Next try on the two horse he loaded and unloaded great - almost like he'd forgotten why he was freaking out before lol. Good luck!

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  11. Poor guy! Would it be possible to back him up into the trailer? Doing that in itself has about zero usefulness because he obviously would never travel that way, but I wonder if being able to see the ramp and everything out in front of him (including you) would compute that this is a safe thing whether he's being asked to walk forward up/down, or back up/down.
    Honestly like other suggestions here better, but heyy, it's an idea lol. Hope you're able to soothe his poor anxious baby brain!

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  12. Rio used to back out quickly too. The more he traveled the better he was about it though. What really cured it was his getting epm, but I don't recommend that route.

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  13. I think just time and I like the idea of "cha cha cha" steps. I will say that years ago I worked for a Saddlebred trainer. There was a mare who did this and it drove everyone crazy. He got tired of it, and one day backed the trailer up to the edge of a lake. Mare flew out the back end like she always did ... right into the fucking lake. She never did it again. But, I would not recommend. lol

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  14. Piggybacking off Emma above, if he seems afraid of the drop off/the ramp sloping away, I've had good results practicing the forward/back x infinity on hills, and with ramps and arena bridges (?). I don't know what the name for them is, I'm thinking of the wooden bridges they use as an obstacle in western classes. Or even a driveway curb, if you can do it safely. Just so he can establish that he won't die if he backs up and the ground falls away from him a bit.

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  15. Courage did this. He was careful about it--he never ran over anyone or escalated and he stopped promptly when all his feet were on the ground. I found that if I tried to work with him on it, he got sour really fast and then just didn't want to get on either. I ended up just letting him get off his way and calling it good enough.

    Not sure I recommend that route but it worked for us lol.

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  16. Other people have suggested something like this, but one of the best things I ever installed for Tristan was a command to specifically move one step at a time. He is trickier to get on a trailer than off, so it's come more in handy for that, but there's no reason it couldn't be generalized. That, combined with a really good WHOA and STAND will give you the tools you need, but after that I think it's just a whole lot of lather, rinse, repeat.

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  17. Grateful for this post and the comments! Q is more controlled that Opie but she's still a bit panicked coming off. She really doesn't like having her hind end (business area for a mare) exposed without being able to see threats. Nerrrrrvous nelly!

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  18. My only suggestion was going to be what Jacylyn gave. Put a bridge or plywood, etc on the ground at the top of a hill/slope and get him to step off it and down the slope. Maybe back him down hills a lot. Not a lot of help here, good luck!

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