Anyway. Perhaps you recall a few weeks ago when I wrote about bringing in a horsemanship professional to help install a 'self load' button in Charlie. His basic assessment was: Yes, he loved Charlie. And Yes, he was floored to learn the horse was only 6 weeks off the track. And Yes, we're working with pretty good raw material in this sweet bay gelding.
But. And there's always a "but" .... But we had homework to do first. Namely, some standard ground work, with a little desensitization mixed in for good measure.
Jim wanted me focusing on desensitizing Charlie to the stick ball thingy so that I might ultimately use it as an extension of my arm to ask Charlie to move forward. Not sideways, not backwards, and definitely not climbing on top of me. Forward. Preferably without pinned ears, bared teeth, swishing tail, or bunny hops.
You might also see how this fundamental work easily builds into other exercises. Like learning to lunge. And like providing opportunities to "drive" Charlie over or through obstacles, as Jim recommended to simulate the trailer loading experience. Elisa Wallace also did something similar in a recent video with her new OTTB (starts at around 2:45 in the video).
So we have been practicing. Not as often as Jim would advocate (he would say that if you only have time to either ride or do ground work, but not both, choose ground work. Fair enough but... well... I wanna ride), but usually at least once a week.
And this weekend I had all the time in the world to work with Chuckles on all the things. We did our normal ground work routine in the indoor, and then I got bold and moved it outside to the trailer (which I had already hooked up). And whadya know, Charlie has graduated to basically Step 1 of actually learning to self load. Thank the heavens!!
|trailer = tasty snacks!|
At first, every step up effort is rewarded by promptly asking him to back off again and then stepping away for a brief bite of grass. Then you ask them to keep their front feet on the trailer riiiiiiight up until (but before) the moment they would start backing up themselves. Then again a little grass break.
Final tests at this stage are: Can the horse step up, then step back off, then step right back on again? Furthermore, can the horse start backing up, but then stop before they back all the way off and come forward again?
|soooo close lol|
But hopefully that's the next break through. It's just kinda hard for big man bc he can easily reach the hay without much effort while only being half way on the trailer lol. He's just giant and my trailer is tiny. He did get one hind foot up once or twice tho, a very good effort.
And we found a positive stopping place where he seemed comfortable with the exercise and expectations.
Next steps are practicing until we get all four up - and then repeating those same sub steps. Being able to get into and out of the trailer slowly, calmly, one foot at a time. Being able to back off but then walk right back in again. Then being able to back half way off, then come all the way back in again.
Intermingled with those check boxes is mixing standing inside the trailer (as I will do until he's consistently getting all the way in the trailer) with sending him into the trailer while I stand on the ground.
|eager to go somewhere to hack out for real!!|
And then: boom. We will be totally road worthy. A long, possibly over-complicated process. But it works, and in my experience does not leave potential training holes to be discovered at very inconvenient and inopportune moments. Theoretically at least lol.
Plus, I may be desperately missing my trainers and lessons and riding with friends elsewhere... but really, honestly, truly? We have all the time in the world and I have yet to regret being patient with anything trailer related.
Or. lol. Maybe I'll just buy a bigger trailer. Haha. Maybe.