CJ Takes the Trailer: Trailer Loading
You may recall that, upon arrival of our new-to-us horse trailer, we put CJ in a pen and started feeding him inside the trailer. The idea was for him to teach himself to load at his own pace, with a built-in reward. You want dinner, have at it — it’s in the trailer.
I like this method because it is so non-threatening that it tends to result in horses who view the trailer as a hay dispenser rather than a horse-eating monster. It works great on a lot of individuals, but CJ is not one of them. Maybe someone let slip that trailer loading is step one in Operation Geld CJ.
Anyway, the poor kid spent three days eating only the hay he could reach by crowding up to the back of the trailer and craning his neck. Finally, Travis and I decided it was time to give him some help.
Out of deference to my sore ankle, we chose to use a lower-contact method than I would normally favor. Instead of leading CJ up to the trailer and “sending” him in as usual, we hoped waving a lunge whip behind him would give him a sufficient mental boost to step up.
No go. You’d have thought the open trailer door was a wall of fire. We quit the whip-waving routine before CJ could learn that blasting past the whip “barrier” was a perfectly feasible option.
I haltered CJ and threaded a soft, cotton lunge rope from his halter through the trailer. Then, from outside the trailer (because sharing a narrow space with a nervous horse is not my idea of a good time), I led him in with a series of carefully-timed pressures and releases. He hopped in — all four feet on the first try — and settled to eating.
A few minutes later, I led him out again. He apparently thought he was jumping off a cliff.
But after a few tries, he was backing out like a pro.
I removed the halter, gave him a scratch, and watched while he turned back to the trailer and got in on his own.