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Ok…White Flag Waved. Advice Needed.

Trailer loading. I’m about to rip my hair out.

Eeyore loaded ok enough when I got him but then decided it was optional and became a royal pain about it. He wasn’t scared. He would walk right up to the ramp then cock a hind leg and stare at me with a definite “make me” look on his face.

More tail pics to break up my whiny text. He won’t ever be a slim man but he is getting more definition these days.

That’s when I put him into boot camp. I left the trailer hooked up for a week and every single night I’d load and unload him until he began walking right on and standing still to get the butt bar up and then remaining still until I told him he could back off.

Lesson learned.

Or so I thought.

Currently, he loads at home no issue. I walk him towards the ramp, tell him “walk on!”, throw the lead over his back and he marches right up and in without hesitation. It’s great.

Learning how to grab and go

My issue is on the other end. We go and ride, be that a lesson or on the trail like this week, and then I try to load him up to come home. He marches to the end of the ramp, cocks a hoof and rests with a distinct “make me” look on his face.

So then I have to open the front window, grab my dressage whip, thread the lunge out the window, attach the other out the open trailer back and to his halter.

Then I look at him, make the lunge line taut, give him the tiniest little breath of the whip on his butt and say “walk on!”

He sighs and marches right on no hesitation, waits for the butt bar to come up and then eats his hay. No issue. Not tense. Not scared.

Meet Pheonix. The cops brought him in to Dusty’s work to be euthanized but he talked them into signing him over instead. I’m currently working on bringing him home to join our family once he stops oozing and bleeding so much

It’s frustrating because I can’t work on this every day for a week straight. I can’t trailer him to some random place every night just to unload and load again. I don’t want to be that person who looks like a moron who didn’t train their horse to get on a trailer either.

I don’t know what to do. I thought it was maybe my driving. Maybe I’m so bad he doesn’t want to get back on at the end of it but I’ve really paid attention to it, read up on some facts (like never accelerate until the trailer is perfectly straight behind the truck after a corner or turn), and even did a test: put a coin on the center console and make sure it doesn’t slide in any direction during the drive. It didn’t. I’m not perfect but I do pay very close attention to going slow around corners, stopping slowly and in advance of any light and turns, and avoiding pot holes and bumps when able.

If it is my driving, I’m not sure who’s he would approve of.

Any advice? I know he won’t leave me stranded because as soon as I get my rig all situated he immediately caved and walks on. He isn’t stressed during travel either as he always unloads dry and calm. Other than more time I’m not sure what else to do here.

36 thoughts on “Ok…White Flag Waved. Advice Needed.”

  1. I assume the pup has demodex? Or mange of some sort? Can’t wait to see how he looks when he’s all better!!
    Ok Eeyore. What if you do some simple “pay attention” ground work prior to loading back up? Get him focused on you and doing what you want. And carry the lunge whip from the get go. Every once in a while June pulls this crap and this has worked for me!

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    1. Opie occasionally has the “I don’t wanna”s about getting on the trailer, too. I give him one chance before I grab my driving whip and reach back with it as I walk him on (he doesn’t self-load, I trained him to stand while I walk back and do the butt bar). I rarely have to even touch him with it, just having it in-hand is a good enough motivator.

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  2. I think he is just testing you like he does in something new. I think this just means you need to travel more. I know you can’t do it everyday, but I would try to make a point to do it regularly. More time on the trails will benefit you both anyway. Make sure you are the same person loading him at home that loads him away from home. And. Be set up to make him get on before you start loading. Lessen the time between he says no and you doing something to make him get on.

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    1. I’d love to travel more. I really would but life and things get in the way. Half a day on trail is hard to carve out right now. It’s basically been an ego thing on my part to not hook everything up prior to loading. He self loads like a pro at home and I want to try it that way out and about but you are right. Allowing him to walk away as I set it up after he refuses isn’t so good

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      1. I know it is hard. Take the ego out of it. The routine and procedure and consistency is important. I doubt you will have to do it very long before he just starts loading.

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      2. Y’all have this. Just take a breath and be more stubborn than him ;). It takes time, but that is OK, don’t think about the time and it will be faster than you would have thought.

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  3. Phoenix is lovely. I’m so glad your Dusty saved him! I agree with the ground work suggestion. Do the routines until he simply stays with you. It’s not loading, it’s just walking anywhere with Mom/Boss Mare. Cheat code: a favorite cookie at the end of the walk on helps sometimes-it depends on how food oriented the horse is. Tricia will follow NickerDoodles anywhere. If she was a kid I’d be afraid of strangers.

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  4. I’ve had good luck with the “in the trailer is the happy place / out of the trailer is the working place” method. When he stops and refuses to get on, put him to work on the ground for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be rough or a punishment. Just move his feet and make him think. Then ask him to load again. If he doesn’t get on, put him back to work. He’ll figure out soon enough that he gets to stop if he goes in the trailer. Just a thought! Feel free to take it or leave it 🙂

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    1. When he was really bad I did that. I’d mini lunge him and then ask again. If he refused he got lunged again. Repeat. I guess when I’m out I haven’t tried that because I know the moment I hook my gadget up he will walk in but it hasn’t progressed past that so it is time to up the ante

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  5. first off thank you for saving that poor dog:( ugh. People right?

    Second, Remus is a huge propenent of food in trailer means yay let;s go! I think if your guy knows he is going to get a handful of grain or something yummy (hay doesnt always count) he will start loading no matter which direction you are going.

    The good thing is he is not stressed or nervous so I hope it wont take long for him to figure out.

    OR You could tie him to a tree next time you leave a park etc. JOKING!:) HA HAH A

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  6. 1. Phoenix doesn’t even KNOW how much of a jackpot he’s hit with you guys. Love him!

    2. I went through this with Leo a bit. P’s always just self-loaded, no matter how often or how little he travels,, so I’ve been spoiled with that. Leo, on the other hand, has had some opinionZ about loading. Trainer B and I did a few lessons solely working on groundwork and that has made all the difference in the world because he’s now super sensitive to any pressure I put on him. I always carry a lunge whip with me when I load him as backup and he practically jumps on the trailer now. So if Eeyore gets on with your setup with no issues, I’d start loading him like that, rather than having to resort to it and letting him get his way.

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    1. I hope he fits in. Poor pup has had a rough start and deserves to be pampered.

      Ugh. I just hate being the person who has to run a lead out the fricking window to get my horse in. Especially since he self loads like a boss at home.

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  7. IDK, maybe this is not a useful or popular opinion but: if he loads up once you get the tools out, is this a true problem?

    Here’s my context: every single time I have ever put Tristan on a trailer, the first thing he says is a solid FUCK YOU. He has to balk, and usually flip his head around and back up a little bit. I very calmly but purposefully shank him hard once or twice, then stop, let us both stand and think about it, and then lead him on. I’ve gone through every possible variation on trailer training you can think of – doing it every day, using food, fighting it out, working on the ground, you name it. I finally reached the conclusion that he felt like he had to have some agency in the process; so for him, being able to say NO very loudly one time felt like he had exerted his opinion and felt better about it.

    Does Eeyore ever escalate his balk? Or does he say no once and then get on? If you’ve taken all the other sensible trailer training steps – and by all means, take those! – then if he still gets on after one refusal…would it be the worst thing to just plan on that one refusal and proceed accordingly?

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    1. I mean I guess it isn’t really a big issue. I just hate having to use a lunge line out my trailer window to get him on when I know he all’s on my himself at home. You have a point though. It’s not a struggle and I know he gets on after I hook him up. I wish I didn’t have to though

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    2. My gelding does the same thing – we are to the point now when he does his little…”um, no thanks” and stands there, I can just give him a half-hearted smack with the lead rope and he sighs and gets on. Sounds like this is a bit of Eeyore’s appy-tude and not a major training issue. I think you have done a great job getting him self-loading at home and it will come eventually for when you are away.

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  8. Doc almost always gets some groundwork pre-loading if it’s a new trailer (picky pony). No lunge line or whip or anything special, just working him to send him away from me and he knows the rules at the end of the leadrope. Might be enough of a “You Will Follow My Rules” for him to obey without getting all gadgeted out?

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  9. I think its all been said. Just keep the whip handy, the sight of it alone may convince him lol. My friend has a dressage whip outside her mare’s stall, her owner is very experienced but the mare just wants to test like a teenager pushing boundaries right now, and one time getting away makes her try again.
    Bet that pup thinks he hit heaven when he gets to come to your place.

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  10. I’m going to share how I taught Carmen to self-load and how I keep reinforcing it. If it’s of use to you try it out. I won’t be offended if you don’t.

    I. I taught her the go forward cue from the ground. It’s a tap on the bum and a cluck. I don’t walk forward with her, I expect to step forward without me. The leaving us is something they have to learn, especially if we spend all our time ‘leading’ from in front. The trick with the tapping is to keep it up until they step forward. It’s hard to keep tapping when they are backing up but it is essential that you don’t stop.
    2. I started teaching her to self-load in places that were not the trailer. Primarily her stall. Every time she walked into her stall I said ‘walk in’. I first I led her and then I expected her to walk in herself. If she hurried I brought her back out and repeated. It’s a real motivator for her because there’s food in her stall that she wants.
    3. Then it was time for the trailer. I started with help- me leading and saying ‘walk in’ and having someone close the bar. I then started to stand at her side and ask her to walk in, using the tap as needed. The tap was never hard, just there- tap-tap-tap until I had movement forward. rest, repeat.
    4. when it’s time to get in the trailer I’m pretty clear that we’re not doing anything else (like trying to graze, look around or generally be add). I walk her out, make her stand, throw the lead line up over her neck and say ‘walk in’. She normall does, but if there’s any hesitation she gets a small tap. I never load without my crop even though I haven’t used it in months.
    5. I am incredibly patient with the trailer loading. I don’t know why because that’s not me. But I exude the attitude of ‘hey I’ve got all day for this so it’s up to you’.

    You could set up a loading chute in your ring to practice with so you don’t have to have the trailer out. I tried treats but Carmen is not motivated to load for treats/grain.

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    1. My issue is that he knows how to self load. He does is at home just fine. We walk towards it, I toss the lead over his back and say “walk on” and he does.

      But some reason that goes away once we are away from home. I can’t really practice any at home because as soon as he sees the trailer and hears “walk on” he marches on.

      I’m not sure what the difference is out and about but he has decided it’s optional to return back home even though he knows it isn’t option to leave the house.

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  11. So… Gwyn is similar but had the opposite issue (she always hopped on to go home immediately, though that has changed recently) Also similarly, she’s not scared. Once she decides to get on, she’s on and fine and calm and eating and chill and it’s INFURIATING.

    But walking up to the trailer? She’ll try and bolt away and take me with her. Or go running around like an idiot for 30 minutes. I’ve taken to immediately tying her to the trailer when we walk up to it so I can brace against a tie ring then threading the lunge line, again so I can brace. Once she realizes she can’t fight me, she just… walks on. Just like in Michigan once I made a loading pen, she would self load because she couldn’t run away, even if it was the size of a round pen. It was enclosed.

    My friend says it’s an appy thing. They’re constantly testing people, seeing what they can get away with.

    Whenever people tell me that horses don’t do things to make us mad I profoundly disagree. Gwyn does this EXPRESSLY to annoy me.

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  12. To me, it seems like it’s the change in context that is causing the issue. So in the context of home he understands how to self load, but in different environments where the context is different he doesn’t understand as well. As others have suggested I would have the whip in hand on the first attempt which sounds like it will resolve the issue. The other thing to be mindful of is ensuring that he understands that you stopping doesn’t mean he stops. I think a lot of people train there horses to only move when they do and so continuing to walk when their human has stopped isn’t something they understand.

    When I teach groundwork I always use a dressage whip on the shoulder. I find it much easier to use effectively and it translates under saddle better. I have found it interesting to see so many people using lunge whips! Different horse culture I guess!

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    1. All great points. It really is a change in environment and I admit to having spent a lot of time on ground work teaching him to stay at my shoulder and stop when I stop. I have been working on “walk on” to send him ahead of me and it is improving

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  13. SO many good points and suggestions made here. I would just add that groundwork does not have to involve lunging. I do a little doe-see-doe routine with my horse, from my old showmanship/halter days, that reminds him that listening is not optional. Buck Brennaman does a great groundwork routine with his horse in the first few minutes of his dvd series. A quick excerpt can be found here and you see what I mean at seconds 32 and 47.

    Not really work, more like a dance.
    I do these little moves every day, when I groom, groundtie, tack up, etc.
    Sidepass, turn on shoulders/haunches, back, forward. Doe-see-doe.

    Love your progress this summer!

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