|i feel like these pictures give a good sense of what a shorty opie is|
It took awhile to get back to work with the trailer as my truck was at home partially disassembled waiting for parts to arrive and Labor to be done with his day job. It needed a little TLC this year to pass inspection. Nothing big or mechanically terrifying fortunately, but we did put a new bumper on and a couple of minor fixes while Hubby had the back end open which took some time on an old, rusty truck.
In the meantime, I formed a plan for Opie based off of the feedback I received. It mostly revolved around getting him to move one foot at a time and then stopping. No more "One step, THE WORLD IS ENDING FLAIL EVERYWHERE RUN FAST."
We practiced in the aisle, the ring, and his stall. On flat ground he was fine. He thought things through and listened to the new game with his usual Will Learn for Cookies attitude. When I took the game to his stall, it was a whole different result.
|casually glaring at me|
His stall dips down slightly to walk into it. It's covered in mats and is maybe an inch slope. This mimicked the trailer ramp situation perfectly--so perfectly that the second his hind foot stepped down he went flying backwards the rest of the way into the stall and then stared at me like I'd just chased him off a cliff. I was actually excited about this as it gave us a safe, easy place to practice every day while the truck was getting put back together.
Fortunately Opie is extremely food motivated. There's nothing this kid won't do for the chance at a cookie, and he remembers his cookie sessions very well. As in, he still tries to jump jumps in the ring while I'm on the ground if I get him anywhere near their vicinity because of that one time I led him over some scary fill in-hand and he got cookies. (I should also point out that I have a universal "Bite me and die" rule for all horses so no, he's not a nippy prick.)
A few giant carrots stuffed into my pocket and away we went, up and down and back and forth in the stall over and over again. One step at a time. After a couple sessions he grasped the fact that all he had to do was take one step, stop, and a cookie was produced. Best game ever!
Last weekend my truck was ready to go again and we swung into the barn on the way to Lowe's for a practice session.
|never any issues with getting on!|
Opie and his two friends were in their field having a snorting dinosaur fest at...probably air molecules again, I don't know. There was literally nothing out there out of the ordinary. Opie was a little distracted to start as we were parked in front of his field, but I started the game with stepping just his front feet on the ramp and then one step back at a time. He finally tuned in once he realized what we were doing, but having his hind feet on the ground and front feet on the ramp has never been an issue. He was only freaking out getting his back feet out of the trailer and onto the ramp.
The only way to address that was to get him all the way on the trailer and start the backing process there.
He started off the first couple of times reverting right back to the problem: the second his hind feet stepped out he went jetting backwards frantically, fuck you and your cookies.
Back on the trailer, try again. And again. Finally the cookies started to work on his brain and he was able to step out of the trailer and stop at the top of the ramp. Any further steps and he was outta there though.
Part of me thought about calling it quits there as it was some progress. However, I could see the little wheels in his brain turning. I felt like he was close to getting it. He was wanting to listen, he was just fighting his instinct to runfastbackwards instead.
I had used up an entire bag of peppermints and two mondo sized carrots so I had to raid my trailer for the bag of cookies stashed in there (where we're off to at the end of the above video). Restocked, we tried again.
And that is exactly how I want that to go. Thinking horse, loose lead, no dramatics.
Having a solid equine citizen is where it's at for me. That's really my number one goal at all times. I don't want to deal with drama, or bad manners, or insecurity. I want a horse I can pull out and do anything with at any time. I think that's achievable for any horse if you're willing to put the time in, and honestly I don't buy into the excuse of "My horse is never going to be able to do that." I'm in now way, shape, or form a pro. I don't have any experience beyond basic problem solving--and clearly sometimes I even need to get outside help for that!
Train your horses, people. I promise you'll thank yourself later.