A flip has seemed to have switched on in Little Love's head. That switch would be the "I'm no longer horrified of the trailer" switch. She went in again yesterday, confidently walking up the ramp, stopping inside to eat her grain and walked out. Today, when she saw me with the grain bucket, I had to hold her back! When I finally gave her permission, she ran into the trailer. What the heck? Is my horse hungry or has she overnight decided that the trailer is her friend? Could it really be that all those times when we practiced loading and I let her choose how far she wanted to go (even if it was just with the front feet on the ramp) actually helped her? Did this allow her to decide it was alright to go into the trailer? She never even went half way in before she backed off the loading ramp, and I let her back up every single time. We did a lot of backing up.
What I was doing goes against every single piece of loading advice I have ever gotten from the so called professionals. Well, apart from my friend Sam's adivce which was "place food in trailer, place trailer in fenced arena, let horses lose in arena, then sit and read book while they figure it out" haha - and just for the record - this worked! Perhaps there is something to learn about giving horses the choice. And I mean truly the choice.
Also, I have (finally) learned that with Little Love repetition is not always the key. She finds it extremely frustrating when she has to keep doing something over and over again, so usually I ask her to go into the trailer only once each time we practice loading. However, today when I was brushing and soaking her, she suddenly stepped out of the buckets and headed for the open trailer (she'd already been in 15 minutes earlier). My first instinct was to catch her, but then I though "what the heck, let's see what happens".
She walked up to the trailer, put her feet on the ramp and turned to look at me as if to say "can you lead me in please." So, I jumped onto the ramp and walked into the trailer. She followed. Luckily I had a carrot in my pocket, so I could give her the food reward she was obviously looking for!
I am quite shocked (albeit overjoyed) by this turn of events. Maybe Little Love understands we will be traveling to Finland in a few months and she really needs to practice loading? Whatever it is, this is a great development. I am carefully making plans for the next big step, which would be teaching her to stand in the trailer while we close it up. This has always been as big of an issue as the actual loading. She gets nervous with people around, because she knows those people are there to close the gate behind etc. So I'm thinking we could start by having someone stand (passively) inside the trailer, while she loads. Maybe later this person could just touch the back bar or move it, but not lock her in. Then later, when we lock her in from behind, she will still have access to the open door in the front. Baby steps is what we need to take as I don't want Little Love to get nervous or scared ever again in the trailer, if I can avoid it.