The more things change, the more they stay the same.
First job this morning off to a loader or rather a non-loader to see if we could get him flowing on and off again. Apparently he's always been a bit intermittent but more recently has gone on strike completely. Unlike many of the horses I have worked with he was fine once in the trailer and didn't try to run out backwards or surge forwards when the front bar and ramp were down. However, the same core principals apply with all loaders. Keep calm, keep quiet, work kindly with your horse and the people around you, ask - don't tell, and reward for every offer or positive move the horse makes. Use minimal but effective kit - get rid of the huge wraparound boots, use a poll guard, and use only gentle pressure and release. I invariably couple this with clickered treats these days.
The biggest learning point of the session was just how easy it can be for someone to teach a horse to only move his front feet whilst his back legs are firmly planted about three miles away, anchored to terra firma, and how easy it is to teach a horse to find his own release by throwing his head up. By interrupting his patterns, being kind to him (and always on his side) and ignoring the stuff we didn't want, we got there bit by bit. By the end of the session he was going on and off very happily.
I've left his owners with advice to practice whenever they can and to turn him straight out after he has loaded beautifully and freely even just once. With practice ALL of the parties involved can lose the tension and fear, and in the case of the humans, ego, that all become tied up with loading a horse.
Email received 19.9.13:
"Thanks for your help on Monday. Hopefully your advice will pay dividends in all sorts of ways with B, helping us to understand his thoughts and feelings/instincts. I will let you know how things progress but we are already feeling much more positive, so hopefully we will keep this positive thinking going.......we tried boxing B again for the first time since your visit. He hesitated once and walked backwards, then walked straight in. He did it once more and we put him back out to graze......We are planning to box him on Saturday and take him up he woods for a ride, then box home (which is a normal activity for him)." SW