Sunday, July 2, 2017

All the Drama

Emi and I had a two day JW clinic this weekend and I'm going to start with the bad. 

The first bad thing was loading on Saturday morning. Since Emi's been home I've been hauling her out usually 2-3 times per week to ride. She hasn't been very happy about it recently and I think that's two fold. The main reason is Roz screaming for her and relating to that I don't think she's been very happy hauling alone. Loading is something I practiced with her quite a bit as a youngster and at one point she loaded really well. In the past month she has started being a little more difficult to load. She's stopping at the step up to the trailer and questioning whether or not she actually needs to get in. A couple taps with the whip have fairly easily convinced her that yes, I do expect she get in. 

That was all fine and dandy until Saturday morning when I walked her up to the trailer. She turned her neck and trotted away from the trailer. Umm...that's NOT okay. I took her back to the trailer and she did it again, this time getting away from me (as I was dodging the trailer door and a wood pile off to the side of the trailer. Plan B: Where's my chain? I used to have two and I couldn't find either one. Plan C: I grabbed a lunge line and ran it up through the front of the trailer. I took her over to it and before I had a chance to hook her to it she took off again. At this point I was totally frustrated (alright lets be honest, I was frustrated after the first time), but I got her tied to the trailer and then hooked the lunge line on before I untied her. She tried leaving but with the leverage that I had she wasn't able to go anywhere. "Perfect" I thought as she climbed in, except she managed to turn her head as she was getting and ended up facing backwards after she got in. I had about a second to realize this was going to go well when she came charging back out. I held on and luckily she didn't get away. I got her lined out once more, kept more tension on the line as she was going in, and finally got her loaded and locked in with the divider. I'm sure it was somewhat comical to watch but it was definitely a nightmare for me. 

I got in the truck with my mind reeling. Emi has NEVER been that naughty before. On one hand I wanted to kill her and on the other I know she's experiencing very real anxiety to be that bad. I was frustrated with myself for letting it get that out of hand but I was so shocked by it I didn't resort to a good game plan quickly enough. Of course I spent the hour drive to the clinic replaying the drama. 

Luckily when we arrived at the clinic Emi seemed no worse for the wear and we had a good ride. On the way home I thought she'd probably load with out issue and I thought wrong. She took me trotting across the parking lot the first time I presented her to the trailer. Que tying her back up and grabbing the lunge line. The second time worked great and we made it home with out incident. 

This morning and the return trip home I went straight to the lunge line and there is no doubt in my mind that she would have left if I didn't have the lunge line on her. Ugh. Interestingly enough the only other horse I've had a similar problem with is Roz. When Emi was a baby he spent a period of time loading in the trailer and turning right back around and promptly dragging me back out. There's nothing like being helpless on the end of a lead-line.

I think for Emi since her first evasion of not going in really didn't work this is the next thing she could come up with. I mean, if you run away I can't make you get in. Haha. I do have a corner feeder in the trailer and have been putting a small amount of grain/treats in there every time I load her (for at least a couple of weeks). She also has hay. Roz has also stopped calling for her so that's helpful. Any suggestions? Has anyone else ever dealt with something like this?

This next week we have quite a bit of hauling to do. The horses are going to a friends house for a few days while the arena and paddock are being worked on. Since they are both going I'm planning to load Roz first and I suspect Emi will hop right in. Then on Sunday we have a league show to attend. Once we are done with that I think she can stay home for a month or so and the break will be good for her. One thing is for sure, the lung line is here to stay for a while. I'm not going to let her have any more chances to learn that if she doesn't want to load she only has to run away. 

The other sort of bad thing is that Emi has started to put her tongue over the bit. She did it both days. On Saturday it was at the very end of our ride and Sunday it was at the very start. Saturday when I got off it wasn't over the bit and I thought perhaps JW had been mistaken. Today I got off to fix her bridle and she fixed her tongue herself. JW didn't seem overly concerned but did suggest experimenting as we want her to have good bit habits. I have been planning to try a different bit on her so I ordered that tonight (she's in a basic eggbutt snaffle). I'm also going to put the flash on her. I don't plan to have it be super tight but hopefully it will encourage her to keep her mouth quiet. 

Back home with her BFF

20 comments:

  1. I found that drama all very stressful. Maybe she's figured out that getting on the trailer = work? Maybe load her up for dinner, then take her out? Or short trips? I think you are handling it well- it should work it's way out.

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    1. Experimented a bit today as I had to move the horses. Loaded Roz first and Emi hopped right on behind him. I think it's a herd issue.

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  2. It's funny that you write specifically about trailer loading starting after they've been great for a while and getting the tongue over the bit, both of which I've been through. I haven't written about him getting his tongue over the bit nearly as much as it's happened, but I will say it happened a lot when I had tension in my thighs driving him into my too-holding hands (and I am NOT saying that's what's happening to you two!). He always got it over when things got especially tough/stressful/tense for him. I know it was that, because since I rode Mr. P last month he hasn't even tried to get his tongue over the bit, and it was happening at least once a week before then.

    The trailer loading thing, Connor started to test his boundaries with it too. I don't know what the deal was. I just did it over and over a few times until he realized he was never not getting on it when I presented it to him, and he got over it.

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    1. Also: my trainer thinks that Connor has very short lips compared to where his bars are in his mouth, which makes it look like the bit is too tight when it's actually right where it should be in his mouth. If I leave "two wrinkles", it's hanging too low in his mouth and it's very easy for him to get it over. Food for thought, that could be a breed thing.

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    2. Oh, that's good info and I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one. I've never had a horse with an issue about the tongue before and I'd rather not start now. JW didn't seem super concerned and said she's really starting to establish a relationship with the bit now and that we want her to have good habits.

      I think that tension is her issue too. When it happened the second day she had gotten pretty spooked and was rocketing (as fast as a cob rockets) down the rail. Oh well, we have some experimenting to do now.

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  3. Teresa and Jen both covered what my suggestions for fixing trailering shenanigans. Especially with young ones, sometimes it's just testing boundaries.

    Cinna is still currently in a phase like that -- sometimes she loads right up and sometimes she throws a little tantrum first to see if you're really going to make her get on. Once she knows the answer is yes, usually she gives quickly and loads fine. When she got particularly bad, I spent about two hours one day just loading, letting her eat hay and treats, then unloading her again -- over and over.

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    1. It's just so weird that it came on so strongly and suddenly. This pony has been loaded since she was tiny and has always been so good! I think she's suddenly grown up and decided I'm a little bit stupid. Haha.

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  4. I certainly know how frustrating trailer loading stuff can be! I'm just starting to figure out what I need to do with Katai but I think it's different for each of them. Regarding the bit thing, Katai loves her Neue Schule and I've been using it since she was first started without incident. Other bits were too high for her pallet and made her uncomfortable but she loves this one. I just have her in an eggbutt snaffle as well but the mouthpiece is a smaller diameter. Not suggesting that you go out and buy a bit, just that this is what's worked great for us :)

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  5. I've had trailer loading drama a few times with both Tony and Lines. Different situations though. Tony's was because I started hauling him in a slant load and he legitimately thought he should be standing straight. The lunge line trick helped get me that little extra leverage to get his big butt hoisted in there. For Lines, it's more about not wanting to get in at all/a bit of travel anxiety. I usually load up my pocket with treats and use a chain with constant light pressure until he even thinks about leaning forward, then pressure's off. I usually have other people around though, so they can help tap him from behind.

    Tony's bit fussiness was solved (or at least it got a bit better) with a boucher and a flash or micklem bridle.

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  6. Penn came to me with a HUGE trailer problem. They drugged him to haul instead of fixing it, so when Event Trainer and I sat down to fix it, it was a bit ugly. Penn's answer was to rear, immediately. Except he has very poor balance, so there were a few times he slipped and fell on his side instead (he did not flip over).

    Basically, he had a choice: get on the trailer, or work. Rearing was part of the going backwards thing, so he needed to get forward, so he had one chance to walk right on. If he didn't, I would recollect him from wherever he ran off to, and send him forward like he was going to die on a small circle around me (trot on a 10-12m circle, so use a long lead rope or keep the lunge line short). As soon as he maintained forward on that circle, I would stop, get him next to me again, present the trailer again. Every time he said no, he had to work. I would mix changing directions on the small circle too if we had to carry on for a long time (the more he said no, the harder the circles got). Eventually he realized getting on the trailer was great- he could stand there and not work. We further cemented the trailer loading by being able to step him halfway on, get off, halfway on, get fully on, step half way off, get back on, etc. No treats or food motivation- they don't work consistently. Hay is ok course ok, because that is a normal part of trailering.

    I'm sure some will call me mean or excessive for this, but I had a horse who it took 3 people to load without drugs and he would rear and fly off backwards. Now I can load him by myself, first time every time, and he stays on while I get the butt bar situated.

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    1. Thanks for the tips. I completely agree that food isn't a good enough motivator and they MUST load when asked. Did he actually get away from you a few times? How many sessions did it take before Penn was loading reliably? Did he seem traumatized by the whole thing?

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    2. Sorry! Just saw your reply! He did get away from me a couple times. I mostly let him go to make sure he didn't hurt himself- it's the one place he has zero self-preservation because he's so fixated on getting away. He'd rear and pull himself off balance. Most of the time I tried to run with him as he flew backwards while calculating how much more pressure he could take on the line. We did use a chain for the running away- I needed it for a while to load him. I rarely had to use it, but it was a nice reminder. I also carried a dressage whip- a little flick behind me was enough of a reminder to keep coming forward.

      It was one major session, then numerous smaller sessions to reinforce the major session. He loads extremely reliably now- I load him from the offside with his lead rope around his neck. I walk partway on to the trailer with him, he goes to the front, I step back and swing the divider and put up the butt bar. He's only blasted through me a couple times, and it was early in our loading training. I'm hoping I can eventually just walk to the top of the ramp with him (it'd be convenient when we have a second horse with us), but we have a system that works now. He also stays on the trailer when unloading until I give him a pat on the butt, then he backs off quietly. But I had some trouble when we used a small slant recently- it was not inviting, no ramp, it messed with the patting his butt thing that I inadvertently trained him to do, he didn't like being squished in (which was another issue he had with my straight load and it's swinging divider), and he really didn't like it when I gave him the whole back of the trailer (I tried pinning the divider back because I thought he might like that more)... I actually had to revert back to circles in both directions on the driveway.

      If you're going to pick the fight, make sure you have plenty of time, and be able to turn your "die now" on and off immediately. Instant forgiveness is key. Don't let the fight get to the point where she's running away- if you go to load her and she hesitates and takes even a half step backwards, abandon loading and immediately push her forward again. She gets a chance to think about it when she's not backing up. Penn's major session lasted about a half hour.

      He's totally not traumatized. But his first education is why I think that's why we have diarrhea problems in the trailer. His first education made trailers nerve wracking, but he has gotten better. He doesn't seem stressed about them once he's in. Emi doesn't see to be stressed once she's in, she just found a door out from loading.

      If you have any questions, feel free to message me on fb :)

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  7. ugh that's so frustrating - she's such a clever little pony, it definitely sounds like she's trying to find ways to get out of it. i don't have any experience with babies, or with a horse who has learned to get away from me completely, so maybe the circumstances are a little different. i spent a lot of time tho on the ground away from the trailer reinforcing that "go forward" cue so that it was pretty well confirmed in the horse, and could then use that same cue with the trailer almost incidentally in front of them while they go forward. anyway good luck!

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  8. I'm sorry she's being so frustrating about right now. Maybe this is a teenager phase. I went through a lot of trouble with Nilla when she decided she didn't want to load anymore. The pulley worked until she decided to escalate. If she couldn't avoid getting on, she acted up once on. She broke her leg and then laid down and got cast. We bought a new trailer and now we have zero issues. She'll self load. I hope it doesn't come to that for you.

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    1. I think there are a lot of factors involved but teenager does seem to be part of it.

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  9. I'm glad you have a plan. :-) Even perfect ponies have to keep you on your toes.

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