Thursday, July 3, 2008

3rd July, 2008 Bellisimo

Note: Picture one - still some tension about being in the trailer - high head carriage, braced neck and ears and unblinking eye. Picture two - braced hind legs and wary of what's happening behind her (note how relaxed the owner is though); picture three ramp moving and horse watching.

Recently I have written two articles for the Listening Post on loading the first time loader and remedial loading. In both I emphasise the need to practice, practice, practice and to have a systematic careful approach which introduces the horse to each part of the trailer (in this case) bit by bit. I think of the horse as an engineer needing to know how every component of the trailer works. Our current loading horse, Bella, has been the perfect example of a horse that has needed everything explained as she goes. Each time we change one element she is extremely wary and yet after a few repetitions she has calmed down and accepted the change. Last night we were able to put the ramp up for the first time and although she jumped a little as the springs flexed, she didn't panic and stood quietly once it was up. The owner tells me that she has been offered all sorts of advice from different people who have never met the horse and seen just how nervous and reactive she is: oh, stick her in with a partition they say - hmmm, this is a horse that can fly out backwards when she wants to and gallop on the spot inside the trailer. Put her in with another horse, they add - I agree, but only when her behaviour is calm enough that she isn't going to put the horse's confidence and safety in jeopardy. Fortunately the owner in this case has been as cautious and careful as we are and between visits she has done every bit of homework we have suggested. Accordingly we will be able to put another horse in with her next time and with any luck she will be able to travel her by the end of the month.

On occasions, short cuts will work but I would much prefer to go through every step and if necessary to invent some smaller ones in order to make it easy for the horse to do the right thing.

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