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Being 100% ok in the trailer-a few questions
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Leah
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 Posted: Mon Aug 11th, 2008 11:28 am
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Dr Deb, have you found there is any difference in what kind of trailer a horse is 'more ok'?

More specifically, I have a now HUGE WB that simply will not fit in my slant load. He is also not yet ok with the confinement of the trailer-an issue I am addressing.

Is there any danger or issue with riding him in 2 stalls? In other words, letting him have the 2nd and 3rd stall in a 3-horse trailer.

My one concern is riding this way, he has some 'float' and I am not certain if he is more comfy having the 'support' of the wall like he would in a properly sized stall vs. the openness of a double.

He has to be tied because he actually CAN turn around in this set up but not without risk to him.

I know there are a MILLION opnions on this but I wanted to ask here since you always gives good reasoning behind your answers.

I personally am not as comfy with slants as I am with straights but that is what I currently have. Also, it should not be about me but my horse anyway!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Aug 12th, 2008 07:50 am
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Leca, of course it matters what kind of trailer you have.

1. There are quite a few trailers on the market that were obviously not designed by horses, and also not designed by any humans who knew anything about horses. These trailers are too small, too narrow, too low, have the escape hatch too big or in the wrong place, have sway characteristics that make it difficult for the horse to balance when the rig is moving, are made of crappy thin materials, etc.

2. Among trailers that are good equipment, you and the horse both have a right to express preferences. Like tack, the trailer must 'fit' the horse, i.e. if you have a bigger horse you may need a higher or wider trailer. If the horse has been hauled before, he may have strong preferences as to whether he needs to lean on a divider, ride at a slant, or ride loose.

3. Your feelings about this or that trailer, and about trailering in general, are going to have a big effect on how smoothly this aspect of your equestrian experience goes. If trailering scares you or worries you, you can switch trailers repeatedly and still nothing will work right. YOU have to be 100% OK before you can expect your horse to be. This means you have to be fully confident of your ability to load him, haul him, unload him, and load him up again smooth prompt and pleasant to go home -- no accelerated breathing or rise in the heart rate when you get around the trailer.

4. If you want your horse to haul well, then you have to teach him to haul well. This begins by being a thoughtful driver. The main mistake most people make is to go around corners at anything faster than a zero-G crawl. Anything faster 'whips' the trailer much more than you will be aware of in the cab. Ball-hitch trailers are the worst in this regard. The 'whipping' sensation is what teaches horses to scramble and/or kick.

5. If you want your horse to haul well, then you have to teach him to have manners when he's in the trailer. So you start off, and if you hear booming, crashing, or kicking back there, you go find a parking lot or a pasture and you go 15 mph in there, and when the noise starts, you slam on the brakes good and sharp. And you repeat this every time until it stops.

6. If you want your horse to haul well, you need to get him 100% OK before he is asked to load into the trailer. In this context, this primarily means that you have him to where he will go in a forward direction, every time, when prompted by the tail of the leadrope or other driving aid. He needs to longe with precision, attention, and obedience. You then have him in a mental state whereby he can be driven, from the rear, into the trailer. You drive him at a walk and there is no hurry or force in it, but he is obedient. You want him to LOAD in -- consciously -- not FLEE in -- unconsciously. You want him to have no idea and no desire to go anywhere but into the trailer, and then stand and rest when he gets in there.

7. If you want your horse to haul well, he needs to believe that the trailer is just about the best place on earth for him to be. This means you practice loading him, apart from any need to actually go anyplace, one thousand times before you actually do need to go someplace. And you practice UNloading him. Many horses that are bad loaders, are that way not because the trailer is dark or low or the other things you often hear, but because they do not back up well. It hurts their hamstring muscles to back up. These are the horses that fly out of the trailer backwards or flip over when they get out -- they do it because they don't know how to back up and it is uncomfortable for them. It therefore bothers them and scares them, thinking to themselves, "I've got into this narrow space where I can't turn around; how am I ever going to get out?" So you not only work with your horse on longeing before you load him, you also must have him very comfortable with backing -- I mean 10 or 12 smooth steps on the flat.

8. You never close the rear door when you're practicing loading and unloading. You load him up, and then when he's in there, rest and total peace is what happens to him. You can go in there and feed him out of your hand, or rub and pet him. He needs to do this without being tied. So you load him up and ask him to stand quietly in there, but you don't try to tie him. Then you unload him, take a few minutes' break, and then load him up again. The ultimate objective is to have him where you can drive him in there from the rear you throw the rope up over his back, and he'll stand there with one leg cocked and his neck stuck out and his ears in a V, like he's going to take a snooze. You want to get it so when you go by a row of open trailers that are parked in the back lot at a show, it's more trouble to keep him from loading in one than to load him in one. You want the horse to look at a trailer, just like he would look at the drum or the teeterboard, and say, "oh, yeah, I know what to do with that equipment. Can we play with this toy now?"

9. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a horse untied in a trailer, so long as he cannot jump out over the tailgate when you're rolling. You therefore must own a trailer that seals up all the way in back. You will also want to make certain that there are no projecting hinges, snaps, gate latches, or anything else he could cut his shoulders or butt on as he turns around, and that there's no way he can possibly get any part of himself under the manger. If your trailer has internal struts meant to support a center divider, you may or may not be able to let him loose for these reasons. If, because of the design of the trailer, he does still need to be tied, try to tie his head off to one side or the other rather than straight ahead, so that he can ride at somewhat of a slant -- it is easier for most horses to ride this way than fore-aft.

10. You can find out what his current "technique" for balancing himself in the trailer is by going for a ride with him in the trailer. Just watch he doesn't step on your feet. I guarantee you, by the way, that after this ride you're going to be a better driver, with much more sympathy to what the horse actually has to deal with back there.

Hope this addresses what you were intending to ask. -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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 Posted: Tue Aug 12th, 2008 10:56 am
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Yes, you addressed my questions perfectly.

Thank you...Milo and I have a few lessons now to enjoy!

christie
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 Posted: Wed Aug 13th, 2008 06:23 am
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Good question Leah, thanks for asking it!

And thanks for the answer too, Dr. D.

Leah
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 Posted: Wed Aug 13th, 2008 06:27 pm
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Dr Deb-I want to thank you once again for causing me to address our trailering issue through different eyes.

In 2 short days, I have made GREAT progress with Milo.

I decided that this was NOT about the trailer...it has nothing at all to do with the trailer!

What this is about gaining control of his feet...but his feet just happened to be outside of, around or in a trailer.

I focused on one step-controlling his footfall...lots of rest time, lots of reward, careful consideration of his 'ok-ness.'

I have not closed him in-I allowed him to choose to go in, stay or leave...but just repeated the go in and stay part as often as I needed until he made a change and showed he was ok inside.

That change in ME created a HUGE change in Milo.

When he realized he had a choice and his choice to remain IN the trailer brought release, the trailer became a VERY cool place!

Today he loaded in my straight load with the divider open, stayed inside while I walked around, checked in on him and then ASKED him to come out...he did so slowly and confidently.

I then focused on backing with relaxation-we just happened to back up the ramp and into the trailer! His expression was priceless! Total fascination and pride at his 'success'.

I ended the day with asking him to load with the divider fixed (like another horse was already in)...he marched in alone, me outside and waited inside, relaxed until I suggested he come out.

When the goal was understanding MY requests...simple requests to move this or or that, with the trailer just 'in the way,' everything about the progress changed.

Thank you for that reminder that my focus has to be clear, without the 'noise' of the goal of the trailer getting in the way.

My slant load trailer has been the bigger issue-it is currently getting some repairs and is off the property.

I will keep building on our steps with the straight load and then repeat the process with the slant.

I thought you and others might enjoy an update of our progress.

Jineen Walker
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 Posted: Thu Aug 14th, 2008 01:12 am
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Dr. Deb

Could you please explain what your point of view is and how you came to the conclusion in your answer #5 to Leah?
I absolutely agree, without question with all you have said except #5.

I have trained horses to load in just this way, but my opinion may differ from yours as to why the horse would start to make noise, and how to deal with it.

First off, loading, unloading and staying in a immobile trailer is a ton to deal with, but only part of the trailering experience.

Vibration, noise, heat from the floor, movement and length of time all factor in, and need to be considered in as much attention to the horses 100 percent okedness as any other of the steps.
It all has to be factored in very carefully or you will loose all the good you have previously developed.

Think of it this way-where is the horses birdy when he is stomping his feet, pawing or kicking? Not in the trailer. He is trying to flee, but can't!
Why spend all that time getting him ok when the trailer is quiet and not in motion and then slam him around when he is uncomfortable, hurt him and scare the daylights out of him?
The horses comfort, trust and understanding will all be gone. Stop or get him out before he needs to feel the need to flee!

Correct me if I'm seeing this wrong,
Thank you, Jineen






DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Aug 14th, 2008 07:10 am
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Jineen, the effect and the end results of doing what I have advised in no. 5 depends entirely upon your intentions.

It is no different with trailering than with anything else.

When you are working around your horse on the ground, and he shows indications that he's thinking of biting you, do you not "slam on the brakes" ENOUGH so that it stops it? Or do you just do nothing, thinking that if you say anything to him, you will "destroy all that trust that you have built up"?

You see -- this is exactly the same spot (you have told us) where you were confused before. You had been afraid you might be too rough, that you might go too far.

And it is precisely the person who is indeed having some trouble over this, who is going to be the first to assume that when I said "slam on the brakes good and sharp", that the intention was to knock the horse around.

The intention is, instead, to remind him that he might have more to take care of -- more job, more responsibility -- to ride in a trailer, so that he really does not have any time to be messing around with kicking. Anymore than he has time to be messing around with kicking or biting when he's being handled or ridden. The fact that he's back there in the trailer does not change this requirement one iota.

I probably should have specified that if the horse has any real reason to be making noise back there -- i.e. he's gotten his halter caught on something, a strap or bar has come loose and is swinging around, and so forth -- then of course you should stop the rig, crawl out of the cab and go back there and check and fix it as soon as possible.

But apart from that, what I am talking about is the very common situation where the horse kicks because he is bored, impatient, peevish, or angry. That part needs to be cleaned right out of there. Stopping from 10 or 15 mph is not going to slam him onto his head. What it will do is cause him to get his focus back into his feet. That's where it needs to be. So you are "handling" the horse from the cab just as you would handle him at the opposite end of a lead line.

Of course, if the person has thorougly carried out all the other suggestions about preparing a horse to ride well, then chances are low that you'll have to repeat a lesson from the cab that you have already practiced on the lead line. But you should not forget, or abdicate, the use of a tool which you know you can use judiciously and effectively. Because if the horse who kick-kick-kicks when he rides does not quit doing that, you're not only going to arrive with expensive damage to your equipment, he's going to arrive with a capped hock, a sore back, and sore stifles. So the penalties for not mannering the horse in the trailer are, in general, as high or higher than the penalties you might pay in the stall or the arena for not mannering the horse.

When a horse knows exactly where he stands, he'll be happy. So Jineen, don't be afraid that you're going to be too rough. I believe that you know how to be judicious and fair. Recognize that the fear of being rough is exactly the same as the DESIRE to be rough. Deep stuff. -- Dr. Deb

 

Brenton Ross Matthews
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 Posted: Thu Aug 14th, 2008 09:45 am
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Dr Deb, this post reminds me of two problem travellers I had when travelling with about 8 Polo Ponies in a tray top truck.

 I had two full bother geldings ,exceptional polo ponies ,very quiet, but annoying smart arses.

I travelled with the horses head to tail,no head dividers only rails between each horse but tied so they could not bite the horses alongside. This I did for many years with no problems till these two.

I would hear kicking in the back and quietly walked to the tailboard and saw both reaching with their fronts and hitting the back legs of the  horses alongside which caused them to kickout.

To fix this I put bridles on both and ran a ropes from the bit up to the highest hole in the weldmesh windows up to the rear view mirrow and when I heard kicking I would jerk on the ropes. They were smart enough to stop in a VERY short time and I had silence again on those LONG trips.

Many asked what the ropes were for--sending telegraph messages to the passengers

 Brenton

Last edited on Thu Aug 14th, 2008 09:46 am by Brenton Ross Matthews

leca
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 Posted: Fri Aug 15th, 2008 06:57 am
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I had a horse start kicking the gate out of my float the instant it started to move.  I got my harness driving whip (longer than a dressage one) and walked along behind the float as it moved off and every time he kicked... I thwacked over the top of the gate onto his rug.  Made a hell of a noise and by the time we had gone 100 metres at walking speed he had stopped kicking and has never kicked again

lighthorse
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 Posted: Fri Aug 15th, 2008 02:29 pm
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Once I had a filly ( three yrs old) with a fluttering birdie....impatient, wiggly in the trailer.  She was in a stock type trailer with no dividers.  She was tied next to a huge  palomino gelding named Trigger.  What a hero.  We had traveled under ten minutes, stopping to get fuel.   He got tired of her pretty fast.  He leaned in to her, pinning her to the side, then released her pretty quickly.  Man, she stood up there like a big girl, then and forever more!

Jineen Walker
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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 03:57 pm
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Hi Dr. Deb

Been thinking about this for a while, and you answered in another post "birdie flies out of the stall" the way I thought you would answer to about not being 100% ok in the trailer.

I don't see a difference in location, just that the horse isn't ok.
Using the trailer to shift the horses feet, a whip or line back to the driver, or flicking pebbles to stop cribbing is all behind the horses thought of doing something, and stopping an unwanted action that may lead to another way of the horse dealing with not being ok.
Whether or not the horse is bored, impatient or angry, if you get in there before they have to adjust themselves, then there is no need to catch up to them and stop unwanted behavior.

As for me being afraid, you answered that in the post bucking on canter departure, in your story of Milo.They loose faith in you. The opposite of partnership, opposite of what I am looking for.

Thanks, Jineen

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Oct 9th, 2008 06:29 pm
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Jineen, if they're not stomping around in there, then there's no need for you to slam on the brakes. You show them how, but you also sometimes have to show them how not -- "this will avail you not." Sometimes horses have to hit closed doors before they can find the open door. Then when they find it, they have selected it themselves and find themselves glad of it, even proud of it. This is the essence of what is meant by "coming into their own pressure." YOU have to set it up so that they do. Cheers -- Dr. Deb


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