Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pretty Please...........get on the trailer

When we first had Pippi join our lives, we made the decision to always treat her with kindness, patience and understanding. Harsh treatment was not an option, unless she was deliberately endangering us. That was sorely tested today.
We are working on trailer loading. She used to load super easy, but last year when some friends trailered us, their horse balked and became irate while being loaded into their trailer in the dark. Pippi saw his reaction, and ever since we have had issues. BIG issues, but true to Pippi she just plainly refuses. Stops and refuses to go any further.
Unfortunately we do not own our own trailer, and so have very few opportunities to practice trailer loading. But we do have a very small wash bay, at the barn where we board. So, in the last few weeks we have loaded into the shower, with pretty good results. The first time it took 40 minutes, before the carrots and constant sweet talk got her to decide to walk in. The third day it took less than on minute.

Today was our big chance to practice loading as some friends of ours were bringing their minis to our barn to practice in the arena. I was very excited to see what we could accomplish. I got her from the field where she was happily munching along, but she immediately came to me and greeted me by cocking her head to the side and seemingly asking "what are we doing today?" She was filthy, so I spent some time brushing her and letting her check out those scary little minis. Funny how horses just seem a little freaked by mini horses, but in Pippi's case there is a reason for that:
Yeah, the resemblance is uncanny, and enough to startle even the most level headed horse.

I finally walked around to where the trailer was parked, with my hoodie pocket filled with baby carrots. I told Pippi what we were doing and we walked toward the opening. She stopped a few steps from the opening, and I spoke softly to her and offered her a carrot each time she stepped forward. We then walked in a big circle and approached the trailer again. This time she walked closer before stopping, one step closer, one carrot and all of sudden she just walked in. Like out of nowhere, we were just standing in the trailer. She seemed as shocked as I was, but not at all freaked out. I gave her a carrot, petted her, told her she was a "good girl" and we just stood there for awhile. Then we turned around and walked slowly out of the trailer.

I felt so GOOD! My pride knew no bounds, and my daughter who was working with "mini Pip" was overjoyed. I was petting Pippi and she was bumping me with her muzzle, as though saying "oh come on....." Great moment. We had succeeded where so many had doubted us, and told me over and over again that "you just need for force her on the trailer." Well, we showed them! Hah!

Riding on a great wave, we had some grass, and then tried loading again. Wish we would not have done that! Should have stopped while the going was good. She was refusing again, and that is when a helpful person came along.
Admittedly I have only been in the horse world for 2 years, but I have met a lot of helpful people. Many are in fact helpful, but some are just arrogantly informing you of what you are doing wrong, trying to take over and belittling your efforts. This person was that kind of "helper." He scoffed at my efforts to reward Pippi's progress and told me that "you can't talk a horse into loading, you just have to show them." (he has had 29 horses, so he KNOWS!!) I asked him to please not touch my horse, which he promptly ignored and shoved Pippi forward by pushing her rear.
Now; I may not know a lot about horse care, I have not had 29 of them, but I do know a lot about Pippi. And what I have learned is that if you lay a hand on her and shove her toward something that scares her, she will just shove back. So the more he shoved, the more she backed up. I kept asking him to stop, but as a "horseman" he knew what he was doing I suppose, mostly he knew to ignore me. He kept slapping her rump and shoving her, and Pippi just kept backing up. I finally raised my voice, and he stopped with a glare at me, and another verbal lesson in the futility of my efforts.
Suffice it to say, after that Pippi refused to enter the trailer. We kept up the approach, reward, retreat for a long time, but finally had to quit as the trailer was leaving.
I keep reminding myself that she did enter the trailer once, but it still feels a little like failure. Wish we had been left alone..... Our friends say they will bring the trailer over for us to try again, and I know we will conquer this soon.
I think one of the lessons I need to learn is to have confidence in my training ways, and not let others intimidate me. I must learn to have a look of  "No worries, I got this!" so that others will hesitate to interfere when I am clearly doing what I intend to do. I love hearing advice, and about others experience, but I don't want to be bossed around. Do you know what I mean?

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