Tuesday, October 18, 2016

fat man in a little.... trailer

Or. Um. Skinny TB in a stock trailer. Whatever, you know what I mean.

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!
Charlie just got right on along to where most horses I've worked with start: get both front feet up and down easily, calmly, one foot at a time (no rushing or jumping!), back and forth.

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
Charlie made good progress on all of those requirements. It's obviously not really the whole kit and caboodle yet - obviously bc the horse never actually got all the way on to the trailer.

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!!
The final puzzle pieces are to start practicing closing the doors and maybe go for a little ride (just around a field or something - just long enough for him to think we're on a trip, then stop and let him chill for a few). When the horse can still calmly get in and out like this, while being sent in from the ground, I'll transition him to the driver's side - where he will travel once we're actually on the road.

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.

50 comments:

  1. He's doing so well. A bigger trailer would be nice.

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  2. Plus he looks like he's desensitised to geese now! :)

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    1. Ha right? Geese = no problem. Reeeeally not sure he would feel the same about a kangaroo tho lol. Thank goodness we don't have that problem here!

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  3. Woohoo what a great guy!
    You guys'll be road ready before you know it & you will never regret taking the time to get this right and building the trust blocks at home in a safe environment before transferring elsewhere - but all this you already know 😇

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    1. Yep totally agreed. I'm honestly really happy with how quickly he catches on to concepts. My ground work skills aren't super well developed but so long as I focus on being really clear he seems to get it.

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  4. Bigger trailer. Perfect excuse for a shiny new toy.

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  5. I envy your access to the horse whisperer/groundwork guru. I will have to do this same work this spring with Crimson. For now, it is on hold. I did give up and sell my trailer yesterday. So, a bigger trailer is in the works down the road.

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    1. oooh that's exciting! and congrats on the sale - hopefully it paves the way for a bigger better trailer! it's just hard for these big guys, ya know? at least Charlie has spent a fair amount of time in and around trailers just through his career. all the same tho... we actually no longer have access to our horsemanship pro as he sustained a nasty leg injury so... my thoughts are with him in his recovery, but we're basically flying solo in this whole process now. hopefully i can stick to the program and make it work!

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  6. So close to Christmas, I am sure Santa could find room for a trailer for you. Ha! App hated our first trailer and loaded so much better when we got our 2nd, bigger one. Maybe Charlie can deserve something a little bigger :)

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    1. ha i'm not sure i can wait until christmas! unless charlie decides my tiny calico will do in the interim lol. and yea i would alllllmost say he deserves something a little bigger, except damn some of the things i have my eye on cost more than 5 charlies put together lol

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  7. Yay Charlie! It's hard with the big ones sometimes, especially in smaller trailers. But sounds like he is solidly progressing down the plan you laid out and you guys will be trailering to lessons before you know it!

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  8. I totally need to go back to basics with William. Yesterday he decided that he does not load (after loading like a champ since he arrived) and it was a long and unpleasant battle to convince him that saying no is not an option.

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    1. i definitely hear ya - that sounds like exactly the type of encounter i want to avoid entirely.

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  9. He does make that trailer look small, but I bet with his great attitude and the work you are doing, he will be fine in what ever you have! Although it is pretty easy for me to say buy Charlie all the things because he is adorable!

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    1. ha so adorable!! but yea i'm in agreement. i'm optimistic that he'll be confirmed enough to make do with my current trailer. all the same tho... it might not be a sustainable permanent solution, just for his own comfort. we'll see.

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  10. CHARLIE'S GETTIN ON THE BUS!! :D I think he needs a bigger, shinier, newer bus tho... ;)

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    1. lol a little birdie told me the same thing!!!

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  11. Tiny trailer or not I'm jealous of your trailer!

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    1. lol do you want to buy it? ;)

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    2. If I was closer and you know had something to pull it...I don't think Stinker would appreciate it if he had to pull the trailer

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    3. ha! and just to think, they used to be the ones pulling us!!

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  12. Your life with a large ottb will become much easier with a bigger trailer. I regret big time "forcing" Steady to ride in a trailer too small for him. We did get to a point where he would get on the trailer for me but he was always stressed and nervous. Up until the day I got a larger trailer. My problems were magically fixed. And my super high anxiety hauling a nervous horse went away. The ground work stuff is all great but if they feel claustraphobic they'll never be comfortable even if we can convince them to load into it. I know much easier to say considering I don't have to pay for said new trailer but I have been there. I didn't feel like I had the money to get a different trailer but like I said I regret not making getting a bigger trailer a bigger priority. That is only my experience so take with a grain of salt. BTW I spent over 3x's on trailer than all 6 horses I've ever bought combined...lol.

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    1. yea i tend to agree that it will be easier with a larger trailer from a few different angles. in my ideal world, that's the optimal solution. we'll just need to see how things shake out in the real world.

      also tho, luckily it sounds like Charlie's experiences so far are very different from Steady's. the whole purpose of the process above is to avoid ever needing to 'force' the question. i'm not doing anything important enough that he absolutely must get on the trailer right this instant (tho again, he got on pretty darn easily with two people when i brought him home). so we can take time. and he doesn't appear to be claustrophobic inside the trailer (did you watch the video?). the video pretty clearly shows a calm and relaxed horse. that's my ultimate goal, and that's where i will need him to be emotionally in order to deem him road worthy. perhaps we will get there faster with a bigger trailer, but i think this little calico will suit in the interim!

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    2. Not meaning to say I ever forced him in but that he never really loved getting in even though he would for me. I definitely hope Charlie takes to the small trailer better than steady.

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  13. Goodness gracious he's a massive beast, lol! Yay for Charlie tho.

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    1. lol right? honestly i'm kinda impressed / shocked that he hasn't bumped his head on the ceiling even once!

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  14. small or not, I still like your trailer! If it were just a little longer, it's what I'd like to upgrade to one of these days. In the mean time, my rickety old thing will just have to make due! But, Batty certainly likes his box stall trailer these days (sometimes you just need to change configuration for some of these crazy horses... or rather my idiot). Charlie's so close to getting on and he's so relaxed about it that even though it's small, he doesn't seem stressed at all about it. Too bad he can reach the hay so easily without hopping on completely!

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    1. well honestly the trailer is probably going to be hitting the market eventually one way or another (i'm working right now with the dealer to determine market value - if you're interested in actual specs lmk. it's fit most TBs pretty darn well, but it's the height that's the biggest problem for Charlie, not the length. anyway. email is fraidycat {dot} eventing at gmail if you're interested!)

      but also yea that relaxation is so key. i'm pretty sure he'll step right on up with the hinds in the next session or two, and we'll practice with some other stuff in the meantime. and i may or may not try to move the hay farther back in the trailer lol!

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  15. You can always have him run flintstone style with his hind legs sticking out.

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    1. OMFG. I'M GOING TO NEED THAT IN ILLUSTRATION FORM PLZ!!!!!

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  16. I need to do some trailer work with Candy, who is kind of a weirdo about getting in it. (What happened to OTTBs being super excellent at trailering?!)

    Gina used to be pretty bratty about trailering until I bought my current one, which is 7'6" tall. She isn't an enormous horse (she is like 16.1 or so), but the more spacious trailer really made her feel more comfortable, and now she's much more reliable. Moe thinks the trailer is THE BEST- he will whinny and pace while I hook it up, then load himself in and stand with his head out the door until I shut it. Moe knows the trailer is FUN and takes you to PLACES to have ADVENTURES!!!!!

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    1. yea i definitely think bigger will be better for Charlie too. for now tho, he's doing pretty well with this little one (amazingly hasn't hit his head ONCE, even coming off the trailer for the first time after the 2hr drive home!)

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  17. When we went trailer shopping, the hubby required an extra tall and wide trailer to make room for any possibility. I'm glad I listened! Charlie is doing great and whether or not you get a bigger trailer, the steps you are taking now will prevent the "oh crap, my horse won't load and we are hours from home" scenario.

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    1. that "Oh Crap" scenario is one my friends and i have watched play out again and again at almost every event. and every time we look at each other and agree that, yup, the process above might be arduous and feel unnecessarily cautious and conservative.... but. it works. so i am 100% fine with repeating the same process for Charlie (esp as the process doesn't change based on trailer type or size, he might just graduate faster with a bigger trailer)

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  18. I really don't ever regret doing ground work. I'm attempting to be more focused about it with Courage too. Glad Charles is making strides!

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    1. thanks - and i agree. it's very helpful for me too, just bc personally, familiarity breeds comfort and confidence for me. the more time i spend working with Charlie on these things, the better i get to know him and the better i understand him and how to best communicate with him.

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  19. Trailer work is so important! Go for you!

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  20. I think you are taking all of the right steps. If he can become comfortable riding in that trailer, then awesome! And whenever the time is right, you can get your bigger one and it won't be a big deal if he ever needs to ride on a smaller one again (hopefully).

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    1. yup agreed, i just want him to be comfortable with the process and expectations as they are. ideally i can make the situation easier for him... but i don't think the current trailer is unworkable!

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  21. I took a different approach to trailer training (I spent three months feeding Murray his bucket in various stages of loading on a safe and stationary trailer at our barn, started on the ramp and graduated to inside the trailer with the dividers closed) and now the kid practically PULLS YOU toward any trailer opening he sees. It's worth the time and the complications!!

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    1. that's definitely a method approved by the pro i used, tho he typically saves that step for horses who are struggling to settle on the trailer after going through the full training process. like Wick, for instance - he would get on fine and well enough but he wouldn't *stay* on, and no amount of hay or alfalfa would change that. so we started giving him some of his dinner in there and it worked like a charm!

      for a horse like isabel, the hay was enough - and charlie has so far been quite pleased with the hay (he is SUCH a food hound omg). however if i feel like we're getting stuck in the training process, it's definitely still an option to try feeding as added incentive.

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    2. For sure - I just meant that the time investment in trailer training (through whatever method) is worth it to have an easy loader!

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  22. This is why I'm limited to horses 15 hands and under when I go shopping again. Must fit into my trailer is a real requirement. Plus I like small horses so it's all good.

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    1. Yea.... I definitely wasn't thinking this far ahead when I bought the first trailer, that's for sure haha!

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  23. I definitely need to take a lead from you and do more of this kind of thing with Gman. He's relatively reliable, so I just haven't, but he doesn't self load like Qbert yet!

    Charles is such a doll.

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