Thursday, September 22, 2016

22nd September, 2016 Equinox!

I seem to be inundated with loaders at the moment, well non-loaders when I first meet them. It's a good sign if it means that people are preparing months ahead for the Spring season rather than leaving it to the last minute, which is what usually happens. It does mean that there is plenty of opportunity to practice once their horse is flowing on and off, and for the horse and the owner to become really confident. I'm hoping that it's not a sign of more and more poor practises, or poor vehicles, or poor driving, setting more and more horses up to object to going onto their transport vehicles in the first place. I always ask for the full story before I begin and sometimes I'm called out at the end of a slow deterioration in the horse's willingness to load, and often I am called out when there has been some sort of disaster, occasionally brought out by outside intervention from people offering to 'help'. Owners are sometimes left reeling by the consequences of allowing outsiders to get involved.

Today we were meeting up with Veterinary Nurse, Nicole, and her gorgeous Thoroughbred x New Forest, Kenzie. With talent like this she is keen to be out and about. Kenzie has been a reluctant loader for a while but Nicole has been out and got herself a lovely box, with no tack lockers, and a 7.5 tonne rating. Despite the switch from trailer to horsebox, which most horses prefer, Kenzie has not been impressed. At a recent event someone offering to help took hold of him causing him to rear and go backwards off the ramp. Nicole was devastated and unsurprisingly a little anxious about allowing anyone else to work with him in the future.

I started by making friends and introducing clickered treats in my normal pattern. Like a lot of horses in this situation, Kenzie was happy to move his front feet but his back ones were firmly rooted to the ground.

With the panels up behind him, and only subtle pressure on his head, he began to load consistently. He was loaded ten times with the panels in place, standing quietly once he got in, and walking off gently with Nicole guiding his feet. In the past he has leapt the ramp but with the panels in place he learned to walk down step by step. Nicole and I agree that he would be better off with wooden struts across the ramp and rubber underneath rather than the slippery metal with carpet that is easy to tear. I have also suggested that the partitions be set at an angle towards the back of the horsebox so that Kenzie has more room when he is travelling and can balance himself more easily.

With me standing behind the partition, it was good to be able to record this from a different angle.

These two have a genuinely lovely relationship and Kenzie was particularly pleased to be rewarded for his efforts.

With the panels now opened up Kenzie continued to load and unload quietly and confidently.

Kenzie was taken for a walk or allowed to graze between unloadings so that Tracey and I could remove the panels two by two, and he continued to load and unload without rushing.

"Good news went in three times this morning😀" FW 23.9.16
Whilst it was fantastic to be able to make so much progress in one session, we may need a repeat visit if he says no on the next occasion and, in the future, his first journey may need to be to somewhere where I have the panels available. I am only willing to work with a horse in a way that I would with one of my own, and often say, "If this were my horse I would [say] stop at this point..." I like to leave the owner with the ability to practice between visits. Where a horse has had a terrible experience, or developed some dangerous strategies, everything has to be slowed right down and a number of visits may be needed. In recent weeks I have met one horse that has leapt over the front bar of his trailer, two that have bolted out of the front of their trailers, this one and another who are capable of leaping the ramp on the way out, plus this one and another that has reared and gone over backwards off the ramp.