So yesterday I mentioned a horse that had terrible trailer loading experience. He flipped over backwards and threw absolute fits. Today, I was asked to load him. Thankfully, the owner wasn’t actually going anywhere today, so I had all the time the horse needed. We spent 3 hours working on loading. I started with just getting him to take any step toward the trailer. But I always gave him the choice to retreat. By giving him a choice, I gained his trust that I wouldn’t force him to do anything he was afraid to do.
After a couple of hours of just proving to him he had a choice, he started to put one foot in the trailer. He did this for some time. Every time he started to think about backing up, I asked him to back up. My theory here was that he feels he needs to be dominant and look for danger because no human before had been particularly good at protecting him (they actually hurt him). So, I took on the role of protecting him. When he started to get scared, I pulled him back before he could, saying to him, “Hey I get it your scared, I’ll protect you.” This seemed to please him because he then started to put two feet in the trailer.
After some time, he just finally decided the trailer was ok and got all four feet in! We both got in and he ate some hay. I then asked him to back out. This trailer is a step down and he got nervous and shot backward almost hitting his head. I thought it might be better for him to turn around in the trailer instead of back out. I showed him how to do this and he was fine. We got in the trailer an additional 20 times or so. I also put him in, shut the divider, opened it, lead him out, back in shut divider and door. We then drove forward a little bit, went back and took him out. Then back in and out.
It was a great day. He leaves tomorrow, and I am hoping he loads better tomorrow because of his good experience today. We shall see.
It’s so sad to see a horse that feels that to survive, violence is his only recourse. This horse could be so sweet and gentle, but because he was mistreated and he lost all faith in any human, he goes through life expecting to be hurt. His only survival skill is to hurt humans first. Not a bad tactic.
Update: The horse loaded right in the trailer this morning with no issues. I hope his new owner will be patient and kind with him, giving him the time he needs to develop trust.