I finally had time on the weekend to work on trailer loading with Apollo. I didn’t want to start working on it until I knew I had enough time to get the job done. My day was wide open on Saturday so I started first thing.
Apollo's chariot. All doors secured open with binder twine so it's more inviting.
I’m new to hooking up a truck and trailer by myself (I am usually just the person who stands there giving back up directions and awkwardly tries to help at hooking things up). On Saturday it took me 40 minutes to get the truck hooked up to the trailer. I could not back up straight to save my life. But eventually it was all hooked up and I went to grab Apollo.
I really focused on being relaxed and trying not to rush him. I got frustrated/angry early into the process on our attempt a week ago. To be honest it was shitty horsemanship. I want trailer loading to a positive experience (for both of us) and that starts with me being patient and calm.
I had mixed up his grain already so I plopped that in the hay area of the trailer. He’s a very food-motivated guy so I hoped that would encourage him. He seemed more afraid and less defiant than our previous attempt. There were some weird squeaks and creaks when the wind caught a window and that seemed to frighten him. He was very willing to put his front two feet in the trailer but when I tried to move him forward from that place or when the trailer made a weird noise he would panic and shoot backwards. I think we had two problems:
2) He was afraid of backing straight out (he’s always been able to turn around in trailers, so this is new to him).
He was getting more and more worked up and I decided to change my approach. Enter: buttrope. I’m sure it’s called something that sounds more cool and cowboy-ish but that’s what I call it! My barn owner lent it to me when he heard about our loading issues.
The Chuck Norris of the trailer loading team
I put the buttrope on him and held it in my right hand, with his lead rope held in my left. I sat in the hay manger area so he had more room. I would ask him forward with the lead rope and if he didn’t move his feet I would apply light pressure with the buttrope. I’ve never used a rope on him like this before and he was very respectful of it. It seemed to really unlock his hind end. Within a few minutes he was loaded into the trailer, happily eating his grain. I gave him a million pets and a few cookies. It took about 40 minutes to get him into the trailer (only about 15 minutes after the magical buttrope joined the team).
He seemed very nervous to back out. He wanted to fly backwards in a panic - which is really dangerous. We practiced going in and out a few times very slowly. I called it a day there and let him graze near the trailer so he could spend more time hearing the squeaks and creaks.
On Sunday I hooked up the trailer in 15 minutes and it only took 10 minutes to load him. I tried without the buttrope at first but we got a bit stuck again. As soon as I put it on him he walked right in. I intend for it to be a training tool, not a crutch, but it has been an amazing help so far. He ate his grain in the trailer again and then we practised entering and exiting at a leisurely pace. I had enough energy left over to go for a ride!
I’m not sure how long my friend is going to let me use her trailer but I plan to put him in it every day that we have it available to us. :)