A barn friend and I are planning on hauling out to the GMHA Fall Foliage Ride this weekend. The last time Tristan got on a trailer was for his surgery, and the barn friend is leasing a new horse and had never seen him load. So I brought my truck out to the barn, hitched up the trailer, and we worked on loading with both of them.
Tristan is not great at loading. Over the years, he’s gotten much less dramatic, thankfully. Yesterday, he approached and backed off 3-4 times before finally walking on. I tend to take a very patient road with him and let him look as much as he wants. I never ask him to go forward until I see that he has softened a little bit. He only gets punished if he goes back, and then he gets shanked once or twice, hard, with the chain. Experience has taught me that if he gets away with backing up he will go from minor nuisance to full-blown dangerous in minutes, so I do not tolerate a single step back. Each of the times he “backed off” yesterday were him squirreling out to the side, and my choosing to turn and re-present rather than argue about lateral work. He only yanked back once, and regretted it.
Pawing, pawing, pawing…
We left them to settle in for just a few minutes, and I fed Tristan some treats. When I stepped away for a minute he commenced pawing, which is par for the course for him. When we’ve actually gone somewhere, he usually just chills once we’re there. God forbid, however, I load him to leave and then don’t pull away immediately. WHAM, WHAM, WHAM. I have done everything over the years to stop it and nothing has ever worked. Pawing is his annoyance behavior of first resort, whether he’s in a stall, in the wash rack, or on a trailer. It’s just part of him.
He backed off the trailer beautifully, again according to pattern: one hasty backup into the butt bar as soon as he hears me back there, I jab him in the but with a knuckle, and he steps up. Once I’m sure he’s settled, I drop the butt bar and pull on his tail and tell him “back.” He backs delicately down the ramp in mincing, careful steps, leaving me plenty of time to grab the lead rope I leave tossed over his neck.
I need to make a few purchases to update the first aid kit – instant ice bag and electrolyte paste, primarily – but other than that we should be good to go on Sunday!