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Illinois Livestock Trail by UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION


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Horses > Behavior & Training

QUESTION
I'm trying to teach a horse to not rush backwards out of a 2 horse straight load trailer before I can get the butt bar up. Dean Scoggins writes that most training problems stem from a horse not giving to pressure. Could you give me some examples of how I can apply this theory to my problem? My horse will enter and stand in the trailer just fine, however, when I start closing it up that's when she rushes out.


ANSWER

Dr. Scoggins is currently unavailable to comment directly on your question. However, it sounds like your horse may need some work responding to pressure on the halter when you ask it to stand in the trailer. It seems that when your horse becomes afraid of something happening around it that it ignores pressure on the halter. Therefore, you need to work on getting your horse to respond to and move off of pressure when it is a uncomfortable situation. Much of this can be accomplished outside of the trailer, by establishing more trust and responsiveness while work over or through other potentially frightening maneuvers such as over a tarp, a bridge or plywood on the ground, or through a tight space. By working on these obstables and teaching your horse to come off of halter pressure in these situations it should transfer to your trailer loading problem.

It is never productive to get into a pulling contest with your horse. It is physically impossible for a person to hold a horse in place if the horse wants to leave. So rather than hanging onto the halter and trying to force the horse to stay put allow it to leave the obstable. Then make it unpleasant for the horse by asking it to back up much farther and faster than it had intended or work it quickly in tight circles either direction asking it to step its hindquarter away from you. Reward each small effort with stroking and rubbing and ask the horse to step off or away from the object before the horse decides to leave on its own. Gradually the horse will stand on/near the object for longer periods of time. Then work on asking the horse back half way off/or away from object (e.g. both hind feet off tarp with front feet still on tarp). Stop him 1/2 on and 1/2 off. Then ask him to step back on the object with all four feet. This is a more advanced request and teaches the horse that it isn't all or nothing (all in or all out/all all or all off).

Once the horse is very consistent over the obstables outside of the trailer move to working in the trailer. First, reestablish good loading and backing out manners. Load the horse, do not attempt to tie it or put up the butt bar. Simply ask him to stand quietly in the trailer. Then ask him to back out. If he rushes out reprimand him mildly by asking him to work in some tight circles just outside of the trailer. Then repeat until he will back out slowly.

Once he backs out in a slow, calm manner then work on the 1/2 in, 1/2 out exercise. Ask him to stop once his hind feet are out. Let him stand for a few seconds like that. Then ask him to continue to back out. If he ignores the halter pressure to stop 1/2 out, then discipline him harder when he completely exits the trailer. Once he will stop 1/2 way & then continue to back out change it up & ask him to step those hind feet back into the trailer. Also work on this with the front feet. Step front feet in & pause. Then step front feet out. Step front feet in & pause. Then continue on into trailer with hind feet. All of this gets the horse listening to you and waiting for you to tell it when and where to place each set of feet.

Once your horse is very responsive to these trailer loading exercises above, then you can work on putting up the butt bar. This will require 2 people and the person that has doing all of the previous halter training should stay on the halter end. Someone else can work on the butt bar. First work on getting your horse to stand in the trailer with someone standing in position to put up the butt bar. While that person is at the back of the trailer, ask the horse to back 1/2 way out of the trailer, then step back in. Repeat that until the horse is extremely compliant. Then have the 2nd person start to move the butt bar into position. Does the horse react to the sound of the butt bar moving? If so then you need to work on that until the horse does not react to the sound of the butt bar moving. Be sure that the 2nd person is standing off to the side during all of this. If the horse wants to step back, apply pressure on the halter and ask him to stay put. If the horse ignores the pressure & continues to rapidly exit the trailer release the pressure & discipline the horse once he is out of the trailer by asking him to back hard & fast, or working him in tight circles again. Remember that not only do you have to overcome the horses lack of response to the halter pressure, but horses are also extremely claustrophic.

As the horse learns to stand for the movement of the butt bar then progress to putting the butt bar up into position. Start with leaving it in place for only a few seconds and then removing it. Once you remove it, ask the horse to back out before he decides to back out on his own. Build on the length of time you can leave the bar up. Then work on asking him to stay standing in the trailer once you put the butt bar down. Also, work on backing 1/2 way up & then coming back into the trailer.

It is important that when putting the butt bar up it is done in a relaxed, slow, calm fashion, rather in a frantic, hurried way as that will often rattle a horse that is already uncertain.







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