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Trailer Training for JR

The goal is to send JR into the trailer and back him out.  JR’s is a normal claustrophobic horse whose goal is to do anything to avoid getting in an enclosed hole.   I opened all the windows so it is as light as it can be inside.

JR is small enough right now, that I could put a rope on his rear end and pull him in using the halter rope and the rear rope.  Think about how much fun this would be for me when he attains the thousand pound weight!  First, I would be in the trailer where he could leap on me.  That isn’t an exciting thought.  I want to be able to send JR into the trailer, and I want to be outside of the trailer when I do it!   It’s much safer.

Take what is needed and break it down into little steps.  JR needs to follow the feel of the rope. I need to use tension on the rope and point it to the trailer door.   JR needs to follow the rope and jump in the trailer.  JR needs to find comfort.  Comfort for JR is getting to stand quietly or having Susan stand quietly and not hassle JR.

Comfort is:

  1. Standing at the trailer door
  2. Standing at the trailer door with head inside the trailer
  3. Pawing the trailer floor
  4. Stepping up with one or two into the trailer
  5. Getting all four feet in the trailer.

We start following the feel of the rope anywhere else but at the trailer door.  JR learns to move his feet and follow the rope, which leads him into a circle game.   Once he starts to go where the rope leads him, the rope goes slack.  The release is what teaches.

I face JR. One foot steps to 10:00.  My hand lifts and puts tension on the rope.   I swish the rope behind his back end.  I keep taking these steps until he moves forward.  My hands instantly release the tension of the rope.  If JR slows down or stops, I take the same action.  He soon learns that it is much easier just to keep going.

When I want him to go the other way, I take my step towards 1:00.  I am also looking at where I want him to go…not glaring at him.

When we have gotten this concept, with lots of rubbing in between, we start the squeeze game. This is JR looking for the hole and going through it.  I send JR through tight spaces…like between the car and the trash can…between my body and the fence…between the tree and the trash can…anywhere there is small spaces.   JR learns that he can go through small spaces and that is the answer.

When we are through with all this, the trailer is the next step.  I do everything I can to make trailer loading seem like a good deal. I put food in the trailer.   First, I let him eat the food at the trailer door.  Then I move it in.   He knows it’s there.

I stand by the door and tell him to follow the feel of the rope into the trailer.   HA!  JR is having none of this.  He wants nothing to do with the trailer door. OK, I tell him. Go circle away from the trailer.  Whoops, the trailer is in the way.  I now require him to circle back and end up at the trailer door.  JR is having none of this, he keeps the feel on the rope while he backs away.  I back with him, until he goes forward.  I let the rope go slack.  We walk back over to the trailer and I send him to the door.

After about 15 minutes, JR learns that comfort is at the trailer door.  He stands there with his head in the trailer.  He gets rewarded.  I do nothing.   After a nice long while (two minutes), I back him and send him around to the trailer body again.  We turn and go to the trailer door.  He has now figured out that sticking his head in the trailer door is the answer.

The next step is to get him to put a foot on the trailer floor.  He finds out that sticking his head in the trailer door is not the answer.  About 10 minutes later, he paws the trailer floor.  Instantly, I stop urging him in with the feel of the rope.   Everything stops and he gets comfort.  We repeat this a couple more times.

Now he must find that the answer is putting one of his feet in the trailer and stepping up.  We do the same thing.  He looks at me, saying, "I’m getting tired of running back and forth between the trailer door and the body.  I know what you want, but I’m just not ready yet. Fine!  I’ll just put one foot up there and step up!  Wow!  That must have been what Mom wanted! She’s letting me rest again!"

JR is catching on to the game now.  The next step is two feet in the trailer.   He does one foot and gets comfort.  After a couple of more circles, he puts two feet in the trailer and stands there.  He decides the trailer isn’t that scary.

BIG SUCCESS! JR puts all four feet in the trailer!  He stays.  He gets to rest.  I have him back out.  Not only must he learn to get into the trailer, he must learn to get out!  This worked really well.  He managed to back out of the trailer without scaring himself.  The next time he goes in, he gets in far enough that he eats about half of his food.  I have him back out again and we have a rubbing session.  He’s proud of himself.

I decide to quit while the going was good. Hmmm, he still has food in there.   I’ll just hop in and get it. WAIT! He’s following me in!  I scramble back and he goes to the food pan.  I decide just to hang out in the trailer with JR.   I sit on the bale of hay in the first stall.  JR turns around to look out the trailer door while he is munching.  It’s very pleasant inside the trailer.

He’s done now.  He has turned around and is looking at the trailer door and drop off.  I’m looking at his hind end.  JR is nervous about going out of the trailer headfirst.  I decide that he won’t kick me, so I get behind him and tap his rear.  JR gulps and jumps out.  What a brave boy he is!  He gets lots more rubs and then he gets to go back to the pasture and find his "other"herd.

JR is all ready to arrive at Pine Dell in the trailer next Saturday for his first workshop. Unfortunately, Velvet and I fell during a group lesson.  I break the small non-weight bearing bone (fibula) in my leg.  JR’s clinic goes on without him, while I cope with crutches, cane and currently, just the soft removable cast!


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