After Petey’s recent trailering injury, it became obvious that not only do we need to work at getting him to load calmly, we need to get him more comfortable with being on the trailer as well. Looking back at his trailer travels, he hasn’t ridden as peacefully as I would have liked. There is much more work that we need to do around loading and being on the trailer. Of course, the foundation has to be how he gets on the bus in the first place. And, that is where we’re starting.
It has worked well after our 3 clinic adventures to take a few days off afterward. When we had gotten to a place where we were ready to practice together productively after cowboy clinic #2, I headed out to the trailer with feed tub and grain again. I set the reward in the trailer and went to get my big brown horse.
Petey went with me, right into the trailer. I was surprised about this, as we had help from Phil to get him on the trailer for the bus trip home from the clinic. Because he had cut himself on the last voyage, I asked for help getting him on the trailer to come home. I didn’t want to make things more challenging than they needed to be. It had gone incredibly easily, as most things do when Phil is there. Then, it all made more sense. After Petey had two mouthfuls of grain, his head suddenly flew up and he scrambled backwards out of the trailer. Of course, I didn’t try to stop him. All I did was help him get reorganized and aimed at the big opening in the trailer. And, I waited. And, I waited. Petey would move a couple times, and I would help him get reorganized and aimed again in loading position. And, I waited.
Eventually, Petey stepped his front feet on the ramp. He paused there. So did I. I inhaled and let my exhale take any energy that wasn’t necessary for calm with it. And, I waited. With no urging from me, Petey got back on the trailer and finished the grain in his bucket. I really understood in that moment my best help to him was to wait and let him make his choice in his own time. Give him the space to explore and feel safe. Or whatever it is that he needs to feel to step all the way onto the trailer at this point.
We went away from the trailer and I groomed him. After his brushing, I brought him back to the trailer. I hadn’t put his whole snack into the bucket, so I went up the ramp and poured what was remaining into the feed tub. I moved out of the way and waited. After maybe 2 seconds, Petey put his front feet on the ramp of the trailer. After only a moment’s hesitation, he climbed the rest of the way on and calmly ate the rest of his grain. When he was done, I asked him to back down the ramp, and we were done for the day with that task. I am thinking that by making everything about the trailer a non-issue, we can increase the amount of time that Petey can comfortably be on the trailer. So far, this seems to be working and like a good idea. We will continue on this path until a more appealing option comes along. Of course, it has to appeal to both Petey and me. We’re in this together.