Tolerance vs Acceptance
Horses have to deal with a multitude of foolish things people ask of them. Wearing tack, getting clipped, or standing still for the vet or farrier. If a horse merely tolerates something, eventually that tolerance will run out. Maybe your horse is fine with clipping, until you get to his flanks. He will stand for the farrier, except he won't let him hold his hind feet. If you find yourself caveating your horse's behavior with buts, excepts, and unless's... you might have a horse who is just tolerating your crap (there are exceptions to every rule of course, but bear with me).
Spicy tolerated getting on the trailer. If it seemed clear that we were just loading and not going anywhere, he'd get on in a couple of tries. When the truck was running, it took anywhere from twenty minutes to over an hour. He always eventually got on but it's awful when you're trying to leave somewhere and everyone is loaded except you and your horse has grown roots at the bottom of the ramp.
|Ya, I guess I'll wear dis boot|
Another horse at my farm, who also wasn't a fan of the trailer, got badly injured and had to go to the clinic. But the injury combined with his already existing trepidation about loading meant no amount of crack cookies or brooms could entice him on. She did finally end up getting him to the clinic, but the experience jolted me enough that I realized I really needed a horse that loaded reliably in case of an emergency.
A few weeks ago, after our regular ground work session, I filled my pockets to bulging with cookies, and went back to the trailer. It had been over five weeks since he so much as seen it. He ground tied while I opened the doors which I thought was suspicious, as even the sight of the trailer usually made him hyperventilate. His head at my shoulder, I led him on, a giant loop of slack in the lead line.
He hesitated for a moment on the ramp, but I closed the slack and he followed me the rest of the way. Spicy stood there, with all the doors open and bars down, and he was calm. He placidly backed off the trailer and I tried it again. The second time he didn't even hesitate. We had a repeat the following weekend, and the weekend after that. Suddenly I no longer had a loading issue.
While I was shoving all the cookies into his face, I considered the change in him. I hadn't slowly reintroduced the trailer; in fact I seemed to have fixed the loading issue without involving the trailer at all. The difference was he had accepted to being led by me, wherever I may go.
Love this! It's 100% true - so many of these issues have nothing to do with the thing that the issue presents itself as. It's just a symptom. You guys are making great progress, the changes have to feel fantastic.ReplyDelete
It does feel amazing - I'm really lucky to have him and that he's allowing me to learn all this stuff. All the positive reinforcement he's giving me really helps!!Delete
Love ALL of this! And definitely true about the necessity of having a reliable loader. Great job!!ReplyDelete
Thank you!! And I know, I kept thinking about the people escaping wildfires and I was like oh god what if they refuse to get on in that situation??Delete
Well, you just described my horse (I feel like I was that fellow boarder who needed to get to the clinic and my horse WOULD NOT LOAD). That was my horse during a serious colic that lead a vet at my vet practice (who is no longer there thank goodness) to suggest over the phone that she could come back and stick a needle in his neck if I can't get him on the trailer. I eventually got him loaded (and 4 days and 2+ hours later, re-loaded to come home), but we had issues. In my case, despite working, I needed professional help (2 pros as the first pro failed and told me it was the trailer and not my horse, the second pro looked at my trailer, thought it was the best thing ever, and gave me tools and had us loading successfully self loading after 75 minutes ever since).ReplyDelete
Anyway, enough about me, but keep up the good work! It's not always about the trailer but about so much more. In my case, my horse would shut down and I couldn't break through that (now I know how). I needed tools to help my horse choose the right answer because shutting down was not it. The trailer then became a place of rest and the thing that takes us to adventures (he likes to visit new places). I hope you continue to have all the success!
Ugh, the vet saying that is not just super unhelpful but really hurtful. Like, thanks dude this isn't my life or anything.Delete
Sometimes you just need the right explanation between you and the horse. I'm lucky I was able to get on the same page with Spicy, but I had some professionals lined up if I was unable to work with him. It definitely helps that your guy likes going new places!! I think Spicy was worried we were leaving and never coming back...
THIS!!!! I've been guilty of allowing caveats too and they always catch up with you! Learning how to be the kind of partner your horse trusts and wants to follow is an incredible experience and I feel lucky to be able to follow along your journey with Spicy!ReplyDelete
aw thank you Niamh! I am super appreciative of all that he's taught me.Delete
This x 1000! As we have talked about we had to go back to square one on the ground with Dobby as well and his overall demeanor is even more relaxed than it used to be. He takes guidance from us on the ground now instead of just tolerating it or sometimes flipping us the bird. Still a work in progress but I’ve been really pleased with his progress. I am so glad to see spicy making progress like this.ReplyDelete
It really made me want to resolve Dobbys loading issues when I realized that he will need to get on the trailer. Any trailer. I need to know that if I am not in town or can’t be there he will load if there’s an emergency on any trailer with anyone.
Yeah we're going to be working on alternate trailers soon. Luckily my BO has a step up so we can even practice getting on a step up. In an emergency I want him to follow anyone onto the trailer, god forbid I can't be there for whatever reason!Delete
Ugh yes, ignoring the "little" things can definitely bite you in the long run, and I'm sooo guilty of this. Glad to hear that things are going well with the trailer loading!ReplyDelete
Considering it that way was a real eye opener for me. I was very used to just dealing with stuff that I didn't like because I was too busy doing 'other things' to focus on the little bits. But like... what's more annoying than a horse pawing in the cross ties?? Nothing!! So why don't I dedicate SOME time to making both our lives better.Delete
I was totally floored by the groundwork tools that I didn't have when I took my first cowboy lesson last year. The pony isn't mine to mess with, and he's pretty perfect as is, but I'll definitely be doing this ad nauseum on my next horse!ReplyDelete
Honestly it helps to have a horse respond the right way too. It's like taking a dressage lesson on a schoolmaster, then you'll at least know what it feels like and what you want the goal to be!Delete
he is my fav <333Delete
This was a big breakthrough when I was working with Opie's panicked flailing unloading issue. I worked him EVERYWHERE in hand, and each time we went back to the trailer itself it got better. Building that trust is so rewarding!ReplyDelete
omg It's been so long since you even commented on that I totally forgot about it- it's nice to hear that this is definitely universal though!Delete
Stepping back to take in the whole issue will always lead to giant leaps forward. :) Great job!ReplyDelete
Sometimes with him it feels like a million steps back and non forward but lately he's been paying it back, which is helping my patience!Delete
so glad he is starting to trust. Having a horse self load is huge and i am very lucky that my guy does that but I do know people that have so much stress loading and I congratulate you for getting to the bottom of it and starting from scratch. YAY SPICY.....That is huge!ReplyDelete
Spicy says thank you for your adoration and support :PDelete
This is what I did with Carmen to teach her to self load. It really helps breaking it down. The trailer loading isn’t the homework, it’s the exam.ReplyDelete
that's the perfect way of putting it!Delete
I just really love how you guys are forming this trusting relationship. That's pretty much how this whole horse thing works right? Trusting each other? I've had horses in the past that I never really trusted, and I know it was mutual. So I'm really impressed with how you're overcoming that. I'm learning a lot through what you are sharing. So thanks!ReplyDelete
aw thank you so much for reading & commenting!Delete
Well said! I had similar a similar experience with Q about the trailer. Funny what a little bit of trust does for all things.ReplyDelete
My lease horse only tolerates many things... and it is a problem! I love your distinction. I think it is totally spot on!ReplyDelete