Guest blogger Lysette Marie joins forces with trailer loading expert Katie Richards to show us the best way to teach a horse to load into a trailer.
A few weeks ago, while on a trip to the UK, I was lucky enough to be able to watch my British friend Katie Richards teach a horse to load onto a trailer. It was a rainy afternoon, and I sat in the front seat of the car snapping photos of Katie working with the horse, while our friend Lysette Marie took detailed notes.
There are few things more distressing than several people trying to force a terrified horse onto a trailer using whips and ropes. THERE IS A BETTER WAY!
The best part of watching Katie teach a horse to load was her excellent narrative of what was happening literally at every step. Lysette has turned her notes into an excellent and informative description of Katie's kind, thoughtful and EFFECTIVE methods, and has kindly allowed me to publish them here on my blog.
"My Horse Won't Load"
by Lysette Marie
photos by Logan Darrow
No matter what discipline you ride, which breed of horse you deal with, chances are that you probably know of a horse that won’t load. Whatever the reasons behind this behavior, most horse owners will agree that this is a frustrating and somewhat enigmatic issue that has disrupted and sometimes even cancelled their plans. Note that I say ‘most’ horse owners; because believe it or not, there are some people out there who actively embrace this issue and glean a sense of enjoyment from solving it!
Katie Richards of Cornwall Performance Horsemanship is based in Penzance, Cornwall. She is a freelance horse trainer who has hosted her own horsemanship clinics and clinics for other trainers with a similar philosophy, such as Warwick Schiller.Katie says “The techniques I use help the horse to reach a point where he feels safe to think, not react.”. Being that trailer loading is her specialty, it was Katie I went to when I wanted to learn how to fix loading problems- this article is a depiction of what I learned from her one rainy afternoon.
Katie’s subject was Rocco, a very nicely put together 2yo Belgian WB X, who was due to be moved to a different stable that afternoon. After a brief groundwork session, it became clear that he was a well minded individual with whom his owner Fay Panter had done an excellent job, aside from a few small but significant issues, and it was those significant issues that were exacerbating his trailer loading problem.
Katie spent the first 20 minutes establishing the basics such as personal space and yielding to pressure ; this got Rocco’s brain engaged and taught him that whatever Katie was asking of him, he could find a ‘sweet spot’. This is because the ultimate aim was for him to view the trailer as the sweet spot, however this wouldn’t happen if Rocco didn’t realise he could search for a sweet spot in the first place. Once this was established, we brought the trailer into the equation…
As you can see, Rocco was initially suspicious yet curious. Though not convinced he could put his front feet on the ramp, his head was frequently lowered towards the ramp and he gave it a sniff. Katie stood still, allowing him to weigh everything up. When Katie adjusted her posture slightly, Rocco spooked at the noise her feet made on the ramp- her solution to this was to stamp and jump on the ramp until he became comfortable with it and realised it wasn’t going to kill him. This also meant that when he decided he was comfortable enough to place his own foot on the ramp, he wouldn’t be spooked by the noise and so he would be adequately prepared to take that next step.
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