Sunday, November 2, 2014

trailer practice + schooling progress

A friend wants to join me for our weekly OF lessons with her leased green OTTB. She thinks the mare's ready to step up her training, and that regular travel will benefit her brain. I'd have to agree, as Isabel seems to enjoy our little routine. Plus it'd be great to have company :)

But first things first: does Special load? I am too new to trailering to comfortably take a horse anywhere without feeling confident about getting it back on the trailer at the end of the day. 

"no no, that's much too difficult. must nap instead" - special

So. Must investigate. 

Honestly, I expected the horse to be pretty good, considering most OTTBs have done their fair share of loading and unloading. And Special didn't disappoint. 

We spent about 20 min total using the method taught to me by the pro who got Isabel loading last spring. Ask for forward with rhythmic taps, and reward even the slightest lean. The trailer is almost incidentally in the way of forward progress. 

Izzy learning the ropes

My trailer is a step-up, so we get them used to getting off at the same time they learn to get on. "Two feet up: good girl! Now back out. Two feet off: well done, nice effort, go eat some grass. Rinse, repeat. Four feet up: yay, chill and eat some of that hay in there. Now back out, good good, ok let's do it again real quick and then get some moar grass. Good girl." Etc etc.

We'll have a few more quick practices until I can send her in from the ground. Right now she's on the passenger side so I can walk in with her. But she's bigger than Izzy, so we'll ultimately haul her on the driver's side. Still gotta make sure she's good with the butt bar and closing doors etc, and take a few quick trips around the field. 

If she's calm and will still hop back onto the trailer after all that, I'll be ready to deem her road-worthy. 

This might seem like overkill to some people. But I have zero interest in towing a horse that doesn't belong to me, only to run into problems off property. Zip zero. 

Anyways, after the short but sweet practice, my friend and I rode around for a little school. Isabel was a total rock star. She was in what my bio-mechanics trainer refers to as a 'learning frame of mind' and was simply ready to work. 

I combined approaches from C and Dan into: firm contact from shoulder through hand. My hands are extremely stabilized, but not tense or braced. Then push push push Isabel into it. 

At walk: we bring the pace wayyyy down, but maintain rhythm. At trot: regulate my seat to get an appropriate pace where Isabel is pushing from the hind end, but not running through my hands and wasting all that forward energy. But also not 'stuck' and stalling out.

We also did some 'leg yields' (if they can be called that yet) down the long sides at walk, with Isabel's nose to the rail. The goal was three good steps of cross over then either straight again or off onto a circle. C says moving your horse laterally is critical if you ever want to get beyond novice. Whether we even get to beginner novice or not, it's still good practice, and Izzy is figuring it out. 

By the end of the ride, Isabel actually had the faintest hint of foam around the bit - the first time ever outside of a lesson. Yay mare!! Werk that bit :)


  1. Yay Izzy being a great girl. Good on you helping a friend out with transporting her ottb, deff best to practice loading when traveling with other horses ☺

  2. I ALWAYS check for foam around the bit, ha! Seeing it there makes me happy!
    I don't think it's overkill, nothing worse than being stuck somewhere with a horse that won't load huh?!

    1. seriously! or trying to take a lesson or show with a horse that's all upset and frazzled from loading... no fun

  3. Nice work applying the tips from your trainers, and trailer training! Love the closeup pic - she has such a cute face!!

    1. aw thanks! we'll see if i can get the same results as the pro, but so far so good!

  4. I hate dealing with horses that don't load, and do it often, so go you for taking the time to make sure she's comfortable!

    1. yea, i don't have the patience to deal with it lol. would rather invest the time up front...