For the last three years I've been trying to get the High Queen out to debut at a horse trial. The first two years Seneca was on the injured list, this last summer I was on injured list. The injuries interspersed with Seneca's trailering issue kept us home. I would plan to take her some place we would work on the trailering issue, she would seem like we had it licked but on the day that we would be ready to go she would stare at the empty trailer, it would stare back and no joy was had between the two.
The last year as I've talked about in this blog before I have been unable to either get the High Queen to load or stay in the trailer. I had tried everything, and I even dumped my two horse gooseneck trailer and bought a bigger three horse slant trailer to try and convince the High Queen that trailering could be fun.
We bought the trailer in September. The trailer had been on the farm for three days when the High Queen finally deigned to step forth in to it. That was the first step and I nearly cried that day. Seneca continued to get better at getting in and out. I created a routine. I get her from the pasture, I tie her to the trailer, I groom her and then on to the loading and unloading. Then I would either ride, or tie her and groom her again.
Seneca had been spending longer and longer periods in the trailer without just unloading herself which she learned only made me put her back in the trailer. She was only allowed to be done unloading if I asked her to unload. Now while we are still having the one to two minute staring contests with the lead rope stretched tight, tight, tight between us, she does get on. I have wayyy more patience then she does. I spent three months on crutches and in casts not walking, and being pretty helpless. If that doesn't teach a person patience nothing will.
This past week I had been adding something new to the routine. I needed to be able to close the dividers in the trailer so I could get Seneca secured in the trailer and then be able to close the doors. I had been trying to work on getting her to tie in the trailer so I could then walk back, shut the divider, and then the door. No go. She would not let me leave her. I did manage a couple of times to get all the way out of the trailer, but then Seneca unloaded herself. *sigh*
So what to do? I began working Seneca up to letting me touch her with the divider. I could use one hand to hold the lead and rub her, and the other to pull the divider against her. The first couple of times Seneca got extremely nervous. But eventually she let me push her with the divider, but I couldn't get the nearest divider(The one for the first stall) closed because she wouldn't move all the way up in to the space.
Okay this is a problem. She will let me touch her with the divider but I can't move to close the first stall's divider. How did I solve this problem? I looped a lunge line around the narrowist part of the second divider and used the lunge line to pull the divider closed. TA DA! Wonder Pony is now locked in to the trailer. I then tied her lead line very loosely (She likes to turn her head and look around) and slipped out the emergency door. I then came around and walked in to the trailer to reassure her. I petted her butt and tried to get the first stall divider closed, but she wouldn't move over.
Eventually I might be able to get her to let me close the first divider, but I can probably rig it so she can ride with just the second divider closed, and I'll still have a spot to put Cowboy in. The beauty of a three horse slant.
So what did the High Queen do when I finally reopened the divider? I thought she was going to throw herself in to turbo reverse and was totally prepared for it. But that isn't what happened. My mare surprised me. I had been trying to teach her to turn around and face the back of the trailer so I could try and pull the divider closed that way. Which would leave her with no where to back up to. I couldn't get her to understand what I wanted. She just thought I was asking her to either turn her head, or unload.
But when I opened up the divider, she scrunched her body together, turned around to face the back of the trailer then just looked at me. I was sort of startled for a minute then I walked on to the trailer and asked her to follow me off. She jumped off and looked around worriedly for a moment as if she expected to be somewhere else. I think this goes back to the last couple of times I had trailered. Twice she'd gotten in to a trailer and left her friends, her usual handlers, and her routine to be cast in to something new and unfamiliar.
And what did I do after she calmed down enough to see we were still on our farm? I loaded her right back in to the trailer and made her stand there for a few moments. Though I didn't close the dividers again.
I would call this a win. We are still a ways from Seneca being a reliable loader, but we have come soooo far. Happy, happy, happy!
Flying between the flags!