Today was a very important lesson and practice for Louie- trailering. I convinced my crabby husband to come out in the frigid temps and help me and Louie practice loading into the horse trailer. So, equipped with a bucket and grain and the horse trailer, in which we could only get one back door open on because the other side was frozen shut, we set out to overcome this obstacle.
Attempt #1- I lead Louie and he approaches the trailer quite calmly, reaches for the grain once I am inside the trailer in front of him, postures his hind legs under himself, but gets stuck there. (He hasn't totally grasped the concept of picking up his front feet to step into the trailer) Hubby walks over and picks up a front foot and sets it in the trailer, and Louie continues right on in to get his grain. Good boy! We stand for a while as he eats, then I ask him to back and step down out of the trailer. Good boy once again, we praise and walk around and try again.
Attempt #2- same approach, this time hubby applies pressure to Louie's hindquarters when he gets stuck, Louie lifts his own front leg and hops right in.
Attempt #3- Same as attempt #2, but no success, so we try again.
Attempt #4- Hubby leads Louie up to the trailer while I shake his bucket of grain. Louie stops in front of the trailer, postures, but doesn't lift his front leg. Hubby lifts it for him and Louie hops right in.
Attempt #5- Hubby shakes the grain from the hay manger area of the trailer while I attempt to load him myself. I walk him up to the trailer, he stops (and so do I since I can't walk in the other side with it frozen shut), then since there is nobody inside the trailer to pull his leadrope, I try to encourage him, but end up lifting his leg into the trailer- and he hops right in. Good boy.
Well, I know he will load if we lift his leg for him, but why won't he do it himself on a regular basis? Is it that the trailer is too high (about 1.5 feet off the ground)? Does he need a ramp? Has he just not figured out all the steps yet and needs more practice? Or is he thinking he's training us to do the work for him? Perhaps it is too slippery (we do have some slick footing right now)? He does not express any fear or unwillingness, he just hits a mental roadblock, and stands there calmly like a helpless little puppy until somebody helps him along. He hauls tied in a single stall and unloads like a champ.
Well, surely more practice is in order, but it is reassuring to know that he will at least load willingly as long as there are two people. My goal, even if I have to continue to lift his front foot in the trailer for him as long as he lives, is to be able to load and trailer him myself, without the need for assistance, as that is the biggest inconvenience I've found in all of horse ownership- needing someone else to go along just to help get the horse in the trailer. Well he shows good potential and I believe he will be a 1-person trailering horse at some point, but for now, practice makes better!