Trailer Loading 101

For the past few nights after work, I’ve gone to the barn and worked on trailer loading with Baron. We opened up the round pen and backed the trailer in to make it a little easier to work with. I usually start out lungeing him for a few minutes to get him loosened up and relaxed and to get him to start focusing on me.

He has made a lot of progress in lunging. He will now lunge to both sides; when I first got him he would only run to the left. Racehorses run around the track to the left, so that explains that! Now he will go right or left, even though he prefers to go left. I free lunge him with no lead rope. I want to have control over his feet even without a lead rope in my hand. I want him to really tune in and watch my body language. I stand in the middle of the pen and point my arm in the direction I want him to go. I use big, obvious motions so he’s not confused about what I’m asking. He caught on really quickly to this. Now all I have to do is point my arm right or left and he takes off. I use one arm to point and one arm and hold the training stick in the other. I use the stick to control his speed. If he slows down before I ask, I wave the stick to hurry him up. I don’t have to touch him with it or even get near him. He knows the stick waving means to move his feet faster.

For trailer loading I am taking the most gentle, stress-free approach. I haven’t even used the training stick. All I’ve been doing is walking him up to the trailer and asking him to do exactly what we did with the tarp, sniff it and put his feet on it. The trailer has a ramp and so far I’ve gotten him to put two feet on the ramp. He will stick his neck inside the trailer but makes no effort to move his back feet. That’s fine with me; I am not looking for quick progress with this. I want him to go at his own pace and be completely relaxed so that trailer loading has no negative connotations for him. I can’t ride or take him anywhere for 6 weeks, so I have that much time to get him completely comfortable with the trailer. So far, so good!

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