Jenny Pearce

Horse floating and horse trailering problems – questions answered here

Over the years, I have answered a lot of questions from people who have problems getting their horses on the float or trailer or truck or have problems travelling them and successfully helped a huge amount of people and horses solve their problems.

Get your completely free Six Keys to Happiness over here.

At one time I earned a significant part of my living training difficult horses to get on the float or trailer nicely and travel happily.

 

The good news is that I still earn a considerable part of my living helping people fix floating and trailering problems – but now I have become expert at helping other people become experts, helping people from all over the world to do it themselves … to become the expert themselves.

And their horses love them for it.

So if you have a problem with your horse travelling or with getting them on the float or trailer or truck – then start off by getting the free lessons The Six Keys to Happiness with Your Horse, up there at that green arrow.  That will give you an understanding of what I am talking about when I answer your question.

Those lessons will also give you a better understanding of your horse’s fear and how you can start solving your horse’s fear with my gentle approach.

Then ask your questions about horse floating

and trailering problems here,

in the comment section below.

That way, we’ll start building a free training resource here on this website too.

Keep your eye out, maybe sign up to get my blog into your email in box, (that orange and white box over there to the right) because I am developing a whole float and trailer section on my blog,  with information and things to think about and checklists to follow.

 

Here is a chapter from my book  Bobby’s Diaries – Straight from the horse’s mouth to you, about training horses to load up the float and trailer, to start things off.  Some of the expressions I use will make more sense when  you’ve had The Six Keys to Happiness with Your Horse.

 

From Page 199 of Bobby’s Diaries – Straight From the Horses Mouth to You

BOBBY’S AND MY IDEAS ON FLOAT TRAINING AND TRAVELLING

When you feel fear when you are traveling your horse, it’s probably because you’re both a wreck waiting to happen.

Listen to your fear, figure out what is unsafe about what you are doing and change it!

Traveling a horse who is on the outer edges of his not too sure zone or in his oh shit zone in the float or truck is a recipe for a disaster that will happen some day(Note from me: The comfort zone model which explains this is The Second Key to Happiness)

I made a commitment to my horses a long time ago that I would do my best to make traveling a relaxed and even enjoyable experience.

When they are relaxed and comfortable I can be relaxed and comfortable too and we both get to where we are going fit and able to enjoy that competition or that clinic or that lovely ride in the bush, whatever.

In order to do this, I will not shut the back of the float up unless the horse is in his comfort zone.

When a horse walks on the float, I do not go “gotcha”.

When I’m float training a horse, I need him to be able to walk forwards and backwards, softly, confidently and easily – without coming off the float the whole way – before I will close the back up and travel.

I like my horse to walk on as I point him towards the float and throw the rope over his back. Then I do the back of the float up. Then I walk around the front and tie him up if I’m going to.

To load like that is to be able to do it by myself, easily.

That’s my big picture. What’s your big picture?

Do you like to send him on from behind like I do, so that it’s quicker and easier to do the back of the float up? Or do you like to lead him on, leave him standing there loose (because you would never tie him up without him being locked in, would you?) and walk around to the back to do the back up?

Either way, you want him standing there politely and happily while you do the back of the float up and then walk around and tie him up if that’s what you like to do.

Almost all horses are claustrophobic to some degree.

Claustrophobia is a fear of small spaces. It is quite logical for a horse to be terrified of going into a float.

Knowing what we now know about their emotions, we’re going to work their comfort zone so that it includes this cave on wheels, rather than risk them flipping out into the oh shit zone and damaging themselves and the float while they are traveling, if something goes wrong.

There is some preparation that you can do before you walk up to a float to load them for the first time using this model:  

Have you taught him to move forwards when you ask him to with the lead rope? I.e, slide one hand down the lead rope and take up a gentle contact with your horse’s halter. Add a gentle pressure in the forwards direction. Does he step forwards easily and comfortably and reliably? There’s not much point at going anywhere near a float until he does! 

Will he back up from the rope? Getting him on the float is good, but you also have to be able to get them off, easily and smoothly without panicking. 

You could teach him to back up from the tail – that’s a useful way of asking him to come off the float when you’re ready. Once you’ve taught back up from the rope, you stand at his tail, holding the rope in your hand. Imagine him moving backwards when you pull his tail. Pull his tail gently in the backwards direction. Use the rope to get him to step backwards. Stop and wait for the chew. And start again. When he steps backwards from a gentle pull on the tail, “what a star!” 

Does he move his butt away with soft easy movement of his legs when you keep a short rope and walk to his hind end? Because you’re going to use this simple method of changing speed and direction to establish leadership at the float.

Can he go into tight places that are not the float? Between you and a fence.  Between you and a wall.  Between you and a leafy bush that will brush against his body as he walks past. The more claustrophobic things he has in his comfort zone, the less fearful he will be when you ask him to go into the float.

There are many different ways of encouraging a horse to move forwards into the float and the following suggestion is only one of them. Remember, connect to his mind so that you can hear what needs to change for him to be comfortable. And if you feel frustration, that’s a message that you need to change something. (A simple explanation of how to “connect to his mind” is The First Key to Happiness.)

Stand at the back of the float and imagine him walking on the float.

I was float training someone else’s very difficult horse once and she walked in on “imagine it”. I couldn’t wait to see if it was just coincidence, so I tried again and stuffed it up. I should have spent a long time telling her what a star she was!

Slide one hand down the rope and take up a gentle contact with your horse’s head and point him in the direction of the float. When he steps forwards, stop and wait for The Chew. (The importance of The Chew and why, is also explained in The Six Keys.)

If there comes a time when you ask him to step forwards and he won’t, then keep a shortish rope in your hand and walk to his back end, changing speed and direction and ask again.

You’re not going to add pressure to fear or confusion, 201 so when you have gone through the steps of imagine it, give a clear physical request to step forwards with the rope, give him maybe three rhythmic gentle slaps on the butt to encourage him to move forwards, then you’re going to stop and wait for the chew before you ask him again – even if he didn’t move any closer to the float.

I know, I know, you’re going to be standing there for a while waiting for this chew with a scared horse, maybe even a long time, but it will be worth it in the long run and it will happen – probably faster than you think.

This method is much slower to load them than the dominance model. But I think it’s very much quicker to have them happy in the float and I think that they are more solid, faster.

However, I’ve float trained dozens of horses with Pat Parelli’s more dominating method and if you’re looking for a quicker result, he has a great float training tape and DVD.  I have found that horses tend to more co-operative with this gentler method though.

Another option in Bobby’s method, is to back him up (changing speed and direction again) away from the float, until you find his comfort zone and work the comfort zone forwards and backwards (approach the float and retreat) step by step getting the float into his comfort zone, waiting for him to chew, allowing him to think every step of the way. (See the first of Bobby’s stories at the back of the book for how I discovered Bobby’s method of dealing with something that are really frightened of.)

Watch closely that in your desire to get him on the float, that you do truly read where he is in his comfort zone model and pay attention to that.

Once we start a task like a float loading, it is too easy to slip back into our old way of doing things!

When I used to float train horses as part of my living, I would ask the owner if they had bacon and eggs in the fridge. They usually looked at me puzzled and then I said “well, if we’re still here in the morning I’ll have bacon and eggs for breakfast, thanks, but I won’t still be here the day after that!”

This attitude of having plenty of time to get the job done properly, no matter how long it takes to get a positive result, is absolutely essential to a float training and comes straight from my instructor training with Pat Parelli.  Bless him, I do things quite differently now, a lot gentler but he had some good training.

Also note that a positive result does not have to be going all the way into the float and getting happy about that and going for a drive today.

If your time is restricted and the horse very afraid, you may be happy with him being in his comfort zone with the first steps on the ramp.

Whatever. There are no rules.

Once they are in the float, I like to eventually be able to ask them to come out of the float and as they step backwards, say “just kidding, please go back inside”.

If they step forwards again, softly and easily without needing to come all the way off, then I think they are ready for me to shut the back up and go for a drive.

I like to take them out somewhere where there’s a nice pick of green grass, unload them, eat for ½ an hour or so. Then load up again. And go somewhere else where there’s a nice pick of grass and unload again. Eat for as long as it takes them to find their comfort zone for a while, then load up again.

On this first drive out, I like to take them to about 6 – 8 places, unload, eat, load up, until when I point him at the float, he jumps on and says “what yummy places are we going to this time?”  (Actually I’ve got gentler since I wrote this first book  and these days, I would probably only go to one yummy grazing place on the first travelling.)

If I’m float training someone else’s horse, I’ll do that for two or three days in a row to get them really solid and very comfortable about the float before the owners come and learn how to load themselves and take them home.

If you have access to a float and the time to do it like this, it works well.

If you don’t have a float or trailer of your own, then it’s even more important that you get your horse doing as many claustrophobic things as possible, in his comfort zone before you go and hire a float.

To have all these things happening softly and easily is to make it quicker and easier the day that you hire the float.

And you are going to hire or borrow a float, have it for at least one day just for float training BEFORE you actually travel anywhere to do anything.

And if your horse was really scared of the float you might have to do it for more than one day before you travel to a competition etc. It will be hire money very well spent!

Here’s some float problems that I’ve found when I’ve been float training horses: 

*  I had someone leave my place with their horse on the back one day so fast around the driveway that the poor horse was having trouble staying on its feet. No wonder it didn’t want to get in the float! 

*  Big wide windows can have some horses quite panicky about cars and trucks coming towards them on the other side of the road. When we come across this one, we tape up the window with cardboard and make it smaller. 

*  Slippery floors. They have to do a lot of work in there, moving their feet and they need grip to be safe or they will go into their oh shit zone. 

*  Some partitions are so deep (close to the floor)  that they won’t allow the horse to spread his feet wide apart for balance. That can put a lot of horse’s into their oh shit zone when they want to spread their legs for balance and can’t – and then they will scramble, or climb the walls. It’s worth getting the partition cut down to avoid that one if your horse is not an excellent traveller. Or hire a different float.

* Travelling boots that restrict smooth and easy movement will often panic him if he has to move his legs when he’s on the float. Yeah, I know, we put float boots on to protect them and now I’m telling you that they actually cause some travelling problems! If you are concerned about his legs when travelling with another horse, then fetlock and shin boots and rubber bell boots such as used for jumping are a much better option than floating boots. He’s either OK in the float and doesn’t need them or we should be float training him until he IS OK in the float and then he doesn’t need them. 

*  Floats that move and rattle and are even unsafe.  Ride in it yourself, off road somewhere and check it out. Glue sponge into place to stop rattles. Check your flooring. I once went to float train a horse who wouldn’t get on because she was very smart. Sooner or later she was going to fall through that incredibly dangerous floor! 

*  Wheel balancing your trailer makes it a more comfortable ride. The tyre people will often tell you that it’s not necessary on a trailer, but you’ve got the same reasons on your float as you have on your car – longer use out of the tyres and comfort in the ride for your horse. If you can feel the difference, then so can your horse. 

*  Check your electric brakes are working smoothly and not jerking your horse around.  I had a horse come in to do a clinic once because the owner wanted to fix float loading problems. When I saw the lady coming in with her electric brakes grabbing and slamming her horse towards the front window of the float, it was not rocket science to figure out what was wrong with her! 

*  Travelling them with a horse who is already a good traveller can be a bonus – until they themselves are the good traveller.  However, if you can’t do that, then you can truly work their comfort zone and get away without that. 

*  Is the float big enough for the size of your horse? If they are big or a long horse, like our horse Celtic Peace, then we cannot expect them to travel happily bent like a banana!  Apart from the emotional problems, it causes pain and  damages their muscles and bones! 

*  What I am NEVER going to do is tie them up while the back door is open. I’ve seen people do it and it makes my blood run cold. I don’t care how good they are at tying up, the smallest thing going wrong can cause a disaster, so it’s not worth it! 

*  I float trained one horse who was sick from the exhaust fumes of the car pouring into the float through the vents. They had to get an exhaust pipe extension to take the exhaust away from the float vent.

And remember, he is NEVER not going on because he is a “bad boy” – he is NEVER not going on, just to “stick it up you”. We have to remember that our rage and frustration is OURS and he does NOT refuse in order to get at us – as hard as that may be to accept sometimes!

Train him or her properly to travel without fear and then you can both enjoy travelling forever…

There are more float and trailer travelling articles being put up on this website, so if this and other articles appeal to you, you can get my blog straight into your in-box by registering on that orange and white box towards the top of the page on the right hand side.

 

 


 

27 Comments

  1. Zoe 06/15/2017, 3:03 pm Reply

    Hi Jenny, I have a 6-year old off the track thoroughbred who does not like standing in the float. He travelled in a truck when he raced (angle) and they had no problems with him, but he will kick and toss his head around the all the time in our straight load float and has really wreaked the side kick-boards from only the couple of trips he’s being on (vets, pony club). He loads and unloads pretty calmly. I have also been told he did not load in the racing barriers well could this be that same sort of memory/feeling for him?

    Thank you,
    Zoe

    • jennyp 06/15/2017, 10:55 pm Reply

      A lot of horses were forced in all kinds of ways to do things that frightened them that they wouldn’t have done without being forced. In which case he just needs to be listened to and retrained as per all the other articles here. 🙂 The other possibility is that floating means tension rather than outright fear (the tension of the racing barriers) and the tossing and pawing etc is an expression of that tension. The answer is the same – pausing at each baby step of the float loading, waiting for however long it takes for the tension to release and either stop for the day or go on to the next baby step, whichever feels right at the time. Don’t rush it. Fixing this will increase your bond together phenomenally. Grab the 9 Keys to Happiness with your Horse – they’ll help you to rethink some of the issues that will come up, plus deepen your connection so that you will better feel when it’s time to back off and / or quit for the day.

  2. Kristy 12/30/2016, 4:45 pm Reply

    Hello I just brought a horse about 4 weeks ago they said he travels fine in a truck or angle load they had a straight load an old Kentucky so it had a little window and they said he traveled fine in that but he had to be floated on the left-hand side because he wall climbs on the right that’s what they told me anyway he’s happy to go in the float he self loads and most of the time you don’t even know he’s in there when you’re traveling when we stop at our destination he was throwing his head up and down chewing on my tuck bo we stop at our destination he was throwing his head up and down chewing on my Tack Box so I put anti chew spray on the box that seems to stop that but two days ago he loaded at home with a pony got to my destination and he started to wall climb well I think that’s what he was doing when where was stationery he did it end up cutting some of his leg but then when that we went to go home he went on as per normal he stood there and then soon as we went to to move it sounded like I had an elephant on board it was a very slow trip home. I have now put a camera in the phone to see what he’s actually doing but he’s marked all the side of my float and cut more of his leg and his leg is swollen up like a balloon it’s an extra wide flat so he’s got a bit more room to spread out have you got any suggestions some people reckon maybe to cover the front window in cause if he’s used to traveling in a truck or side load all the old Kentucky with a little window a big window might not be a good thing for him but have you got any ideas please

    • jennyp 12/30/2016, 4:59 pm Reply

      I found my horses who traveled in a Kentucky horse float with the small window extremely well had to get a comfort zone all over again with the wide window. What I got when I felt into what was going wrong was that the wide window had the opposing traffic coming forwards at their eye VERY fast. A lot of horses find that really scarey, not just horses who have been used to a small window. I fixed it by taping up the big window with light cardboard and making a small Kentucky sized window.
      When you’ve taped the window up, do some quiet work to get his comfort zone back – don’t just expect him to know that you’ve fixed the problem for him. Once they lose confidence it’s important to take gentle action to regain it. I’d do some quiet work on and off, only leaving him on for a minute or two to start off with, then I’d maybe feed him on there a few times and re-create it as a good place. 🙂 Let us know how you go.

  3. Georgia 10/05/2016, 2:56 pm Reply

    Hi Jenny, I have a 9 year old thoroughbred who was always a fairly good floater, however, last time I floated him he tried to turn around and slipped down the ramp. I have not tried to float him again before I purchased a new float with a shorter and less steep ramp which I have now got. I would like some advice on how to get him back in there without freaking out and trying to turn around again. He goes in very well however, because he is scared of slipping he refuses to go out and then has a tantrum inside. Thanks

    • jennyp 10/07/2016, 8:54 am Reply

      First I’m a little puzzled – a shorter ramp would usually be MORE steep. I can’t picture in my mind a circumstance whereby a shorter ramp got LESS steep? Anyway, that’s hopefully secondary.
      It sounds like he wasn’t actually confident in the first place – he was just being obliging and going on because that was what he was taught to do. Next time he’s just being a wonderfully obliging horse, keep working at it over a period of days or weeks until he’s actually confident – then at least the small things that can go wrong in a traveling situation won’t throw him into his Oh Shit Zone. To see what I mean by that grab the free lessons The 9 keys to Happiness with Your Horse – Click here for those.
      There are many possible answers to getting your horse confident in the float.
      As you lead him towards the float, work gently from his Comfort Zone to his Not Too Sure Zone – and each time he reaches his Not too Sure Zone, (again you’ll read about that in the 9 Keys to Happiness) back off after a few seconds of that feeling and don’t stay there for longer than two minutes at the absolute most. Then wait for him to lick and chew no matter how long that takes.
      So you would be approaching and retreating from the float in that way – each time getting more and happy to walk forwards a bit further and a bit further. Feel free to use a bit of food as motivation, so long as it doesn’t distract him from the job at hand – which is to get comfortable in the float.
      The big key to getting him backing out happily is to NOT put him all the way on the float until he can move forwards and backwards off the ramp itself VERY comfortably, without actually going in. I suspect that he’s so tense in the float/trailer now that he’s not able to move his feet easily and this is a central part of your problem.
      And it’s NOT a tantrum sunshine. The word “tantrum” implies that he’s doing it on purpose for no good reason, whereas he just scared and has no other way at this point to communicate that to you.
      Your leadership in your riding as well – i.e. how well he does what you ask of him when you’;re riding – is affected by how you deal with this floating/trailer fear. Because a leader is someone who has your back and gives you confidence. Given that traveling a horse can have all kinds of things that can go wrong put pressure on them – when you have to brake hard for example because another driver pulls out in front of you – you want a VERY relaxed horse in there before you think of driving off again.
      Let me know how you go.

  4. Jo 01/09/2016, 1:38 pm Reply

    Hi. I have a 7 yo mare that has always been a perfect floater. A couple of months ago she starting kicking out in the float which we put down to being in season however after a couple of months off we floated her again and she is kicking in the float and peeing which the vet suggests is a stress thing. She has never been down in the float and is always given a lovely quiet ride. The last time she competed she travelled home perfectly! Do you have any suggestions. She is a lovely quiet horse and doesn’t appear to stress about anything else

    • jennya 01/10/2016, 5:25 am Reply

      Jo you’ve caught me at an incredibly busy time. I am absolutely flat out like a lizard drinking, so I will need to answer in more haste than usual. It sounds to me like the vet could be right and that it is a stress thing. Have you had a float change? How deep is the divider? You’ll read articles here about the length of the divider in the float being responsible for a LOT of traveling problems. Do you have your own float or is it hired? Is it in good order? Are the wheels balanced and the wheel bearings OK? I hear you say she’s always had a lovely quiet ride but our idea of that and theirs can be two different things. I once traveled in the float to get an idea of what was going on and crikey! It put a completely different perspective on what had to happen for the horse’s comfort. So you could do that and check out what’s REALLY going on in there (for safety, not with the horse in it please.) Get the free lessons The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your horse and that will help you start figuring out exactly what IS going on, since there are some many possible causes. For example where was she going when all this started? Could it be the stress of what happened/is happening at the other end of the trip that’s causing the problem? You say she was a good floater, but how does she load even now? Does she walk on happily all by herself? I ask these questions because we all have different ideas on what a good floater is. 🙂 You’ll read about these kind of personality in horses in The 9 Keys, but if she is a Caretaker Horse she could be a lot more scared than you think and need some confidence work done around the float. Come back to me when you’ve done The 9 Keys and had a think about these suggestions and I am happy to talk some more if you need to.

      • Jo 01/10/2016, 7:53 am Reply

        Hi Jenny thanks for that. She walks straight onto the float , no float change and float is a relatively new freeway float. It’s just had a warrant so it’s all good. Only change seems to be at last show she was boxed for a night but was quite happy and travelled home well. We are going to try taking the divider out and giving her the whole float

        • jennya 01/26/2016, 2:09 pm Reply

          I’ve been tied up very intensively with the new program 21 Days to Quiet Mind, Jo – but I emailed you privately about that and thanks for your patience. So here I am now back on deck. 🙂 How did that go giving her the whole float to balance in? If it worked, that would suggest to me that she’s a little bit sore somewhere. Yes you read that right – if it WORKED to give her the extra space, then she’s probably a bit sore somewhere. I’ve seen that happen before – a little bit of arthritic change for example and they can need to spread their legs wider for balance under corners or such. If it didn’t work, send me a photo by email and I’ll have a quick “feel”. That can be my way of saying thank you for your patience! 🙂

          • Jo 01/26/2016, 4:19 pm

            Thanks Jenny. She didn’t like the whole float. We initially thought the problem was related to her coming into season and put her on ovumate. We now think that that made her ultra sensitive and was upsetting her . We have stopped giving it to her and have been putting her in float and feeding her. She appears settled and happy with that. Our next plan is to take her for a short ride with my daughter in the front of the float so if anything happens we will know exactly what! My daughter did a equine massage course and when she has looked at her cant find anything sore. We are hopeful that with kindness and patience we will have her floating happily again . You initially asked if we had ridden in a float and yes we both have so understand what you meant when asking this.

          • jennya 01/26/2016, 5:48 pm

            Well that removes a couple of causes! Good job! Feeding them in a stationary float can be an EXCELLENT way of helping them to find a comfort zone in there, good thinking. Two words of caution, both of which I expect you’ve already thought of, but we have lots of readers here that may not know someone who has experienced these problems – make sure the float is hooked up to a car properly or the float/trailer can tip up and terrify the horse and make the problem worse. And feeding is excellent PROVIDED that the fear element isn’t too big. Just SOMETIMES, the feed can distract a food motivated horse for long enough, but it’s a distraction from their fear rather than a real Comfort Zone, in which case the fear can blow back up again. So keep your eye on how good you feel in YOURSELF in your connection with your horse before you do it all up and drive off. There are some safety concerns about someone in a float with a horse while they are traveling, so think your way through all of those issues too please – safety first!

  5. Jackie 03/10/2015, 7:36 pm Reply

    Hi. I’m starting a 4yo brumby gelding which I now own for almost a year. He was wild when I got him but already very curious towards humans. He trusts me but is wary with other people. I train him the Parelli way and he does the seven games pretty good already.
    I got him as far as pointing into the float and he loads himself, and him standing quietly in the float with the rope over his back and the back open, while I go to the front and give him a little treat.
    He loads on either side of the float. I put the ramp up once and he seemed fine but because I saw a horse panic recently and trying to under the bum bar, I’m worried about just shutting the tail gate on him as he’s never before been locked up. Do I try loading him with my other gelding even if they don’t get along or do I take him for his first ride by himself? Do I float him in the small partition or take it out? One other thing… his eyesight on his left is pretty bad, so he spooks quiet easily there…
    I hope you have some hints for me how I should go on. Thanks a lot 🙂

    • jennya 03/10/2015, 10:09 pm Reply

      It sounds like you are going very well Jackie. You are going so well, that your nerves – what I call something is Not Quite Right – indicates that there is something that wants attention before you put the back of the float up and go for a drive.
      You sound like your instincts are excellent – so trust them and figure out what that is and fix it, before your travel him. Maybe the front window is very big – which can give them a fright when traffic comes towards them quickly. Maybe the partition is too close to the floor and won’t allow him to balance. Maybe you need to do some more work moving around on the tail gate making everything move and make a noise. Maybe he needs a REALLY good traveler beside him to take confidence from. Is your other gelding a REALLY good traveler? Maybe you could spend some time giving him a feed in there and help him to find a deep comfort zone? Does he know where the roof is in relation to his head? I have a neat trick for fixing that… If none of these things are “it” then come back to me and we’ll come up with some more ideas.
      Just remember, that we have these instincts for a reason and we should listen to them!

      • Jackie 03/11/2015, 1:51 pm Reply

        Thanks Jenny. I don’t think the window would be a problem as its fairly high and the brumby, Dexter, is rather small. The partition doesn’t reach the ground and is cut out at the back. Dex goes in and out without touching it. The float has a pretty high roof… How can I show him where? Its a WalkThru float with lots of movable parts which makes it a bit noisy but I banged and rattled it with Dex standing next and in the float and that doesn’t seem to worry him. Buddy, my other gelding floats very good and he would be a calming factor if he got along with Dex but everytime Buddy comes near him and pins his ears, Dexter walks off. I thinks Dex would refuse to go on with him and furthermore that he would panic if he’s on the float and I load Buddy and he can’t get away from him… They will need to learn to float tigether at some point though. How would I do that? With Dex not being able to see properly (when I taught him to lead he was fine while I was on his bad left side, but very spooky with me on his right side), would it be better to travel him on the right side of the float with another horse on his bad side even if Dex is the smaller horse? I’m not sure if he only sees shadows or just things that are near on his bad eye. Cheers

        • jennya 03/11/2015, 7:39 pm Reply

          OK, if you think about having his “bad” eye to the wall, how do you feel then? I have on occasions had good reason for putting the larger horse on the downhill side of the camber of the road and felt OK about it. I expect that there are circumstances where it wouldn’t work out though. And is that spooky leading on his good side resolved now?

          • Jackie 03/11/2015, 8:32 pm

            Yes, he’s leading fine now from both sides 🙂 When I loaded him the other day on my friends float on the left side, which has side windows as well, he spooked when my friend standing away from the float watching us, took a step… Luckily my float doesn’t have side windows

          • jennya 03/12/2015, 5:55 am

            OK, to spook that easily would suggest that although he is doing what you ask, he is not in his comfort zone and to travel him when he is that far out of his comfort zone would be a cause of your uneasiness – because sooner or later that comes back and bites you on the backside, maybe even with some kind of accident. So – well done you for having such a good connection to your horse that you’ve noticed this BEFORE you got into trouble.
            There’s a whole heap to understand about fear to help him with this and the first four of The Six Keys to Happiness will help you with that and then The Seventh Key will give you a way to systematically release the old fears and anxieties that could be intensifying whatever is going on now. They may be freebies, but I think that they are possibly the best freebies around. 🙂
            So… your mission now, should you choose to accept it, is to start back at the beginning and find and fix all the causes of nerves and anxiety ON THE WAY to the float loading as well as with the float loading itself. Start at approaching him to catch him and use The Seventh Key to Happiness with your Horse, to systematically eliminate every cause of nerves and anxiety.
            Sometimes some very traumatic things can happen as brumbies are torn from their families and captured out of the wild. Trauma can kind of sit there like a time bomb waiting to go off under the right circumstances and it doesn’t have to be like that – you can help him change how he feels about all of that old stuff too.
            So – not only will this approach give you an extraordinary little horse and a wonderful relationship with him, it will satisfy your soul. 🙂

          • Jackie 04/03/2015, 5:06 pm

            Hi Jenny

            A little update. I gave Dexter a spell for around 3 weeks after he loaded easy on both sides of the float and stayed calmly inside until I asked him to back out again. I did more groundwork with him, trimmed his hoofs, hard tie him and circling/lungeing. I also worked on him and my other horse having a better relationship, working them together in the round pen and taking them together for a walk and a graze. Today I finally had a good feeling and after first loading them on their own, I then loaded Buddy on the right followed by Dexter on the left. It didn’t take long and I could take them for a short drive down our laneway. Dex was sweaty but came off calmly and didn’t mind to go back in. I’m soo happy! Buddy really helped Dexter as I saw Dexter’s head most of the time on Buddy’s side, touching his withers for reassurance. Thanks so much for your advice 😀
            Kind regards. Buddy, Dexter and Jackie

          • jennya 04/03/2015, 10:11 pm

            Well done Jackie – wooohooo!

  6. Verity 08/21/2014, 3:44 pm Reply

    Hi. I have a horse who has done the same melt down in the float. The first time I thought it was due to the other horse nipping at her, but after the second time I gave her a large spell still thinking it was due to another horse ‘triggering’ the melt down flight response as she has traveled so well in the past. However I tried one more time with only her in the float and she snapped while traveling and eventually bashed through the chest bar and ended up wrapped around the centre devider in the extended front. Is there hope for a horse who snaps under pressure, or is it just best to leave them to stud/pasture. Ps, I have a lovely custom made float with flared walls with all adjustable bars to fit the larger horses.

    • jennya 08/21/2014, 5:55 pm Reply

      The answer to that sunshine, would depend on how much time and effort you were willing to put in to help the horse overcome the problem. I have no doubt that the problem can be overcome. It takes time and baby steps and understanding how to help a horse release old trauma. Because at the very least, the horse will need to release the trauma of that melt down and you will also need to resolve what was going on before then too.
      Way back donkeys years ago, I had an older horse who “suddenly” started having melt downs and climbing the walls of the float, scrambling. Knowing what I know now, there were signs that he was really just being obedient and that he wasn’t actually that comfortable in there. So it’s not surprising that when something went wrong, he went from the “not Too Sure Zone” that I talk about in The Six Keys to happiness with Your Horse – to the “oh shit I’m Dead Zone”, with all the panic that goes with that – quite quickly. In his case, he got a bit sore in the back and that was enough to start the melt downs in the float.
      I have been re float training Oliver, my giant 18 hand warmblood who had a melt down in the float not long before he came to me and it is taking some very steady baby steps to release all that old stuff and teach him how to back out of a float with his head down on auto pilot even when things go wrong. He’s too big to be flinging his head around – most of them can hit the roof if the get upset, but at his size he doesn’t have top go up that far. The key after such a bad experience, I think, is that we HAVE to make sure that the melt down response is completely changed before we travel them again. I’m not prepared to travel this boy until I am 100% confident.
      So., short answer – yes you can change it and yes it takes time and effort, so that’s what you will have top take into consideration in making your decision. The other thing to take into consideration is your skill level at working with something this big. Working your way through the on line program Fast Track to Brilliant Riding will help you with the skills and good instincts that you need to do the job, plus I have been videoing Oliver’s float training and will release that at some point when I have time to both finish the training and do the editing, so that will give people a heap more techniques that I have come with for traumatized horses.
      But even with the float training videos, they will probably still need you to have the other skills, the feel and timing and practise at using your instincts and connection to your horse, and having helped them to release all the other fears in their lives so as to make the float thing smaller than it is now. Does that make sense?
      Because all unacted on, unresolved fear or trauma is cumulative, each one added on to the next and making the next one bigger than it would otherwise be. Those free lessons The Six Keys at the top of this page on the right hand side, explain some of this stuff. I will be interested to know what you decide…

  7. Megan 03/06/2014, 10:54 am Reply

    Hi there I am actually asking for a friend, her horse has been kicking the inside of the ramp whilst being floated and is now having to get the float repaired. She asked me if I have any ideas why this could be, I have always had a great floater so I am at a loss but was wondering if you could possibly shed some light on it. Thanks in advance.

    • Jenny 03/09/2014, 8:37 am Reply

      Gosh Megan, there are so many possible causes of that problem that I would have to know more about it. There is a list of issues that can cause a horse problems with being on the float, just about any of them that might cause that kind of kicking at the back tailgate in this actual article. Your friend should give each one some thought and eliminate it from the list of possible causes. If she gets those free lessons The Six Keys to happiness with Your Horse and practices the first lesson with this problem in mind – that should help her to get the answer too.

  8. Tony 10/20/2013, 10:05 am Reply

    It is worth adding that this fella went into full fright and flight mode. He was basically self destructing. It was shocking to watch, and I don’t know when he would have stopped if I was unable to free him.

  9. Tony 10/19/2013, 8:13 am Reply

    Hi Jenny,

    I found you while researching how to give my horse confidence in the float.

    I had him calm and cool and spent 3 days out of 4 getting h comfortable standing in the float.

    We had him calm and relaxed and closed the rear bar without the pin and he was fine. Pinned the bar. Fine. Put the ramp up. Fine. For 30 seconds. He went berserk and wouldn’t stop kicking and bucking. It was traumatic. I couldn’t safely free him for maybe 2 minutes. He has caught legs over the bar and dragged them back in, and thankfully the vet says he will recover.

    He’s my forever horse and I have such a strong bond with him. He’s been a very willing learner as we’ve re-educated him, as he’s an ex steeple chaser. Can we overcome this… Or am I dreaming?

    Thanks Jenny.

    Regards,

    Tony

    • Jenny 10/26/2013, 7:37 pm Reply

      Well Tony we corresponded a bit by email, so thanks for your patience in me replying. I am in the middle of teaching a virtual clinic and the workload is delightfully high!

      You will have noticed from those free lessons The Six Keys to Happiness that I suggested you get from my website here (big yellow box at the top right hand side of every page for anyone who hasn’t seen them) – you will have noticed from the second key, that fear is cumulative. That means that each fear where our horse cannot take action to make themselves feel safe again, intensifies the fears that come after it.

      So the terror and completely losing the plot in the float may not be all about floating. It could be smaller fears and anxieties about other things, all adding up and piling onto each other and then the fear in the float was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      Does that make sense?

      And it doesn’t matter that some of these fears and anxieties don’t make sense to you – if your horse feels them, your horse feels them and it’s OUR job to help our horse feel safe. Working the comfort zone model in The Second Key is one way to extend our horses sense of being completely OK and comfortable, into more and more things.

      You may find that as you develop your early warning signal that something is not Quite Right, that we talk about in the Fourth Key, it is possible that you might pick up that he wasn’t as comfortable as you thought he was in the float. Maybe he was being obliging because he feels the other end of that bond we were talking about and it wasn’t until the door was shut that his terror was so big he just couldn’t be obliging any more?

      Or maybe as an ex-steeple-chaser, the things that have happened on the other end of float trips have been very scarey, so THAT may have contributed to the melt down too.

      In our program, we systematically go about releasing these old fears that are affecting the way our horse behaves now. There is a bonus lesson in those free Six Keys to Happiness that talks big picture about how to do that.

      Your partner sounds like she might be particularly sensitive to picking up the horse’s fears, as per the Third Key to Happiness – if you draw that to her attention, she will know if that’s the case, if thinking about her disquiet actually being the horse’s, the yucky feeling will go away and she will feel good again. All good horse people sooner or later experience this phenomenon.

      From the floating point of view, I like a horse to be walking in and out happily before I travel them. I like to be able to ask them to back out and be able to change my mind and have them softly come off the pressure of the rope to come forwards again.

      I like them to be able to drop their heads WHILE they are backing up AND when they are coming forward and I start that before they are even in the float. I REALLY want them to understand about keeping their head down happily in the float before even I finish asking them inside.

      The big picture answer to your floating problem, is to systematically get your horse comfortable and happy and relaxed about everything in his life currently and while you are doing that, to release his old traumas (clearly he has had some) with the technique that I talk about in The Seventh Key to Happiness.

      You could do bits and pieces of float work with the releasing old traumas work in that Seventh Key while you are doing the other stuff, but don’t over focus on the float. Life is supposed to be fun and relaxed for them and for us. You will help him to re-program being relaxed, by spending at least 80 per cent of your time doing things that he is completely relaxed about and only stretching that comfort zone for short periods of time – under two minutes at a time.

      These old race horses deserve a wonderful home because their racing lives have usually been full of fear and stress. What a gift you will bring him to release all that.

      Funny though, in these circumstances I have found the gift often comes more back to us!

      If you get to the end of the six keys and you like my approach, then have a look at the on line course Fast Track. It will help you to look at things I guarantee you won’t have thought of. It will help you develop the phenomenal feel for your whole horse that Tom Dorrance talked about wishing that everyone had. He was one of the great horsemen of all time, if you aren’t familiar with his work.

      Good luck and I will enjoy hearing about how you go.

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