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(Another) Trailer Loading Problem

I have a horse which I know was badly treated as a youngster. He is 16 and absolutely brilliant at shows. He enjoys going to them and he used to load fine in to the horsebox but now he has just become completely petrified of it. Also if you use a lunge line or whip he get even worse. We can’t find a horse whisperer anywhere can you please give me some advice.

Becky, England.

Hi Becky,

I was on an airplane when I wrote you a reply to your question and perhaps it was a bit brief. Let me expand on it some more. Get the horse used to a lunge line again. Do not use it around his butt or for anything other than lunging. Get him really soft and good at it. Take as long as it takes to do this. This will enhance your relationship with him and get you both closer together. Do as much ground schooling as you have time for. Go back to the most basic moves and go forward from there. A horse that 'used' to doing something well and then develops a problem over time is missing the kind of leadership that keeps him confident and trusting. This probably has been coming on for a while. He would gradually get more and more unwilling to load until he just won't. It has to do with the approach the handler has to loading the horse, the handler's confidence level and the particular moves used by the handler. If the handler is uncertain, confused, lacks confidence or anything along these lines, problems like your arise readily.

I do not lead horses into trailers any more. I send them in ahead of me. Practice this skill of sending your horse various places at the end of a lead rope and lunge line. Ask him to go through gates and back out with you standing in one spot. Have him go into his stall or to the wash rack and out again without being led into it. This way it is more of a cooperative experience than him being made to do something. You can help him learn to try by having him lunge around in circles if he balks at going forward into something. When he balks, ask him to lunge (short or long line). Lunge him both directions for a few rotations and then ask for some forward movement towards what you want. If he tries a little to go where you request give him a "Good Boy" and rest for a minute. Then go for it again. Reward any try as I have said. Have him go to work if he balks or tries to run off. Do not get into a battle. Keep yourself level headed and undisturbed by whatever happens. Breathe consciously and do not let any frustration enter into the equation. This is a fearful response from your horse and deserves your compassion and patience. It is not the horse's fault and the horse is not doing anything to you. It is afraid pure and simple. It is up to us as leaders of our domesticated animals to approach with kindness, compassion and the skills required to lead our animals in the direction of trust and peace. Please keep me posted.

I have a friend in England. I am going to copy this email to her and ask her to get in touch with you also. She has a specialty that may help you. She is also is helping me to come there and present several seminars. Perhaps there may be of some interest in your area. Good Luck and I look forward to hear back from you how it goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

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