These things can wiggle their way into your subconscious and make easy stuff so, so hard.
So I set to planning (something I LOVE to do) and tried to create for myself a step-by-step plan for safety, just to get me through the worst of it which to me was the idea of heading back to the same place so soon in the same trailer with the same horse.
|Standing still pre-lesson - too unsure to move|
First I parked the truck and trailer in my barn yard and started ground work with Savvy in the arena, just to relax us both and make sure she was listening and yielding well in all directions. Then I moved to loading her in the trailer with the idea being that the trailer would be her rest place from working. She is really good about going in, but wants to come out immediately and fast. I would let her come out, but without hesitation, just send her right back in. We did this over and over until finally she was willingly starting to spend more time standing still on her own. At this point, I started to ask for a back-up cue. I decided to use pulling gently on her tail along with the verbal cue of 'back'. She really started to get the hang of it after many, many repetitions.
This was going very well so the next step was to close the door, give her a minute and then at a moment that she is behaving well, open the door, make her wait and then give the backup cue.
After two days (of many hours spent) on this, she still wasn't at a place in my mind I would call safe. Sure, she was doing all the things I asked but even after all of the practice, she was still acting fearful despite me remaining calm, methodical and rewarding her with tons of praise and cookies for her efforts. But it was progress.
By the middle of Wednesday I decided to remove the centre divider. I knew I was being quite stubborn in my head about not doing this earlier. I really wanted her to learn the straight load because I liked the peace of mind of her not being able to leap around when I am driving (like she used to do in my previous stock trailer).
I am glad I did. She was immediately much calmer. I could load her in, close the door and then go up to the front and safely tie her. I was able to walk away and let her stand in the trailer like this with no fuss. Then off-loading was easier because I could put her lead rope on and unhook her from the front tie, then she could turn around and I could get hold of her lead rope by opening the top half of the back door. Then I could open the door and easily make her stand quietly and not come out until I asked her.
With all our practicing I noticed the rubber floor mats that came with the trailer were actually slippery for Savvy. They had horizontal lines in the rubber, that although great for sweeping them clean, made it easy for her hooves to slide. So, I grabbed my large mat out of the tack shed which had tiny bumps instead of lines in the rubber and this stopped her sliding completely.
There was nothing else I could do to prepare, I just now had to do it.
It all went perfectly well! Savvy surprisingly travelled pretty quiet and off-loaded really well. Teaching her the wait after I opened the back door still worked even with the excitement of being somewhere unfamiliar.
And the lesson was a blast! We toodled all over the place and introduced her to jumps with flower baskets. We 'jumped' (stepped over) cross rails and I was so pleased with Savvy's level-headedness throughout it all.
|Standing still post-lesson - too tired to move!|
Living the big life over tiny sticks