Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 73

Today we had another practice at trailer loading.  If you can call it that.  It's not like Little Love loaded into the trailer, that would have been a miracle.  I did learn a few things though.

1.  You have two goes at it, then it gets to be too much for Little Love and you will only go backwards from there (literally and figuratively)

2.  After about ten goes, I start getting angry which is not productive.  I also start using pressure, which is REALLY not productive (Little Love goes into fight mode).  So, have to keep tries at a minimum (two, says Little Love).

3.  We need to do this over and over and over again for the next umpteen weeks and there is still no guarrantee it will work, but at least we will have tried. 

4. I need to really examine my own attitude.

There was probably something else, too, but that was the gist of it. 

I swear the first time I walked her to the trailer and she actually walked up the ramp, I thought she would go in.  No, let me rephrase that.  I didn't think she would go in and therefore her walking so confidently up the ramp surprised me.  Which is when she stopped walking up the ramp.  Any connection there?  Right.  I need to start adjusting my thinking about this whole thing.  I want her to go in yet I obviously don't believe she will do it.  Not helpful.  I have decided to start imagining her walking into the trailer.  And I will continue imagining that until I believe in it.  Then, I'll send her that mental image (like a video). 

And what comes to the getting angry bit...  I was so disappointed in myself for that.  I mean, I KNOW it doesn't help and will only make her frantic.  Luckily, at some point I realized what was happening and just walked both of us away from the trailer and into the arena for a timeout.  We never went back to the trailer and it was just as well.  Little Love has always been a horse that does not like repetition.  This is one reason why she didn't make a particularly good dressage horse.  If you ask her to do something and she does it once (or feels like she has done her best trying it once) you may get a second chance to do it but after that she is so done.  And she lets you know. 

There are days when she feels more inclined to try again over and over, but most days she just gets pissed off.  Which I can understand.  I remember when I was learning French, I hated those grammar exercises where you just do the same thing over and over again.  Boring.  Makes you want to chuck the book out the window and go do something else.  So, I can relate. 

I think this is another one of those lessons in patience (Little Love's favorite lesson for me).  It's hard since I realize that trailering her may never be easy, yet I have to keep believing it will be possible.  I can't wrap my head around that, how to approach it with a neutral attitude but still have the strong belief that it will work. Sigh.  


  1. You'll get there with the trailering if you're not in a hurry. I'll be doing some trailer loading work myself with Drifter pretty soon - in April - and I'll let you know how it goes.

    Don't beat yourself up - you should give yourself credit for the fact that you realize you need to lead her with your thought and not let emotion enter into it - you're already ahead of the game.

  2. Don't beat yourself up about it, trailering is the Kryptonite of most horse owner's existence! If you want any tips and tricks, just let me know. However, with a horse like her, the most straight forward approach possible is probably best. Good luck!

  3. I should also start practising loading, there was a moment of hesitation last time we went to clinic with Olga. I've done all of the common mistakes while loading = in a hurry, no time to investigate the trailer first, in she goes and off we go.. :( So I am quite certain next time I will have to negotiate if we don't practice first.

    I will have to share this joke we have, about loading... The first time I was loading Olga, our driver (who I thought was also "gentle"!) suddenly stopped me when I was already leading Olga in to the trailer. "Gloves! You'll need to put your gloves on while loading for god's sake!" I was really perplexed because I thought she should have known I would never force Olga into the trailer. Nowadays we are always making jokes about remembering your gloves when doing things with your horse...

    I was thinking about your case, would it be easier for you to set a really easy goal, than to think you won't expect anything..? You know what I mean? Set a goal like for example that Lilo should place one foot on the ramp and that's it for that day, no repetitions.

  4. One of the greatest aspects and biggest flaws of the human mind is our ability to focus. When we get that "gut" feeling or " internal nudge", we often push it aside to make room for "logic" or "reality". What is amazing is these feelings or emotions are very exact guiding systems that have aided man in surviving over thousands of years and under great peril. Those guiding systems are always right, no matter what. Horses communicate with each other in this way, and offer the same format to humans, it is a one size fits all form of communication. When we are with our horses, we just need to "listen" to those messages when we get them and know that what they've said is always the truth. You're getting Little Love's messages loud and clear, K and you are listening. That is the beauty of watching this journey for you both. Little Love is blessed to have you for her caretaker, guardian, and friend.

  5. THANK YOU all for your encouragement. I needed it. Jenny, I like your idea of having smaller goals. Few years back I taught a small, fearful pony how to lift his front feet for trimming and it happened over a course of some weeks. My first goal was to have him look at me while I stood on the barn aisle and he was in his stall. That is how afraid he was. But, we achieved that goal the first day. So slowly, and with baby step goals, I managed to teach him to let me touch him and eventually also pick up his foot and hold it. I need to implement the same methodology to this trailer loading issue as well and not expect it to happen overnight.
    And yes, need to listen to my gut (and to Lilo) all the time, it just sometimes takes me a moment to realize that is happening and to "hear" the message.