Fixing float and trailer loading problems as a path to your horse dream. Does the idea intrigue you?
I’ve got three stories for you that demonstrate the possibility. The first one talks about my own missed opportunity and the crappy result that could have been avoided if I knew then what I know now and two more stories that demonstrate how easy it can be.
One of the most horrifying trailer training things I came across was a very advanced dressage horse sent to me for training, whose Grand Prix ambitions were in cold storage because they couldn’t get him on a trailer – they couldn’t even get him on a truck – which meant they couldn’t get him to events. The new owner in her desperation had been willing to try anything and had tears in her eyes as she described to me how the previous trainer she’d employed had forced him on the float with a barbed wire breeching rope. (I know – barbed wire!! WTF?)
He got the horse on the trailer, but … gosh his name is on the tip of my tongue… he stood there frozen in terror and they couldn’t get him to come back out. When the trainer couldn’t think of anything else to do, he took his halter off, figuring that eventually he’d come off by himself.
When he did move, he exploded through the roof of the float and scalped himself on the way out. Then they called me.
Waaaay back then I was doing the “cause them to want to get on the float” version of float training, so although I trained him to get on, it didn’t address the trauma that he’d experienced. Quite a long time after he’d gone home, something went wrong, that trauma was re-triggered and he came flying out at high speed with his owner injuring her hand quite badly. It reinforces the point that you’ll hear me make repeatedly, that leaving traumas in there risks it biting us on the butt later.
These days we do float and trailer training very differently – releasing any old trauma or resistance, re-learning each step with confidence and communication and understanding and anchoring this new learning into new brain neural pathways in a way that makes all that old repetition that I used to do, unnecessary. Float and trailer training is the combination of a whole heap of tasks for the horse to learn and a whole heap of skills for the person. It’s not just about getting on the trailer.
In fact, getting on the trailer is the LAST piece of the puzzle.
If a horse still has a problem with one of the combination of tasks that make up trailer loading and traveling, then there’s always going to be tension around getting on the trailer even if they do get on. That tension means we’re taking an unnecessary risk that will one day bite us on the butt. It could cause an accident one day if something goes wrong like it did with Bollie the dressage horse in the story above. (I remembered his name!)
The way that tension works in the body, those stress and tensions can also manifest in serious health issues.
I’ve got two stories that talk about the way I could have helped Bollie better, if I’d known how to release old trauma.
In fact, I wouldn’t have been doing the training for him at all, because it’s so much more fun for the owner to do themselves and helping them to have that enjoyment is a nice feeling for me too. AND learning how to do the trailer training themselves helps them reach their other horse dreams too. I wouldn’t want to deprive them of that kind of joy. AND they don’t need to leave home to learn it either.
Sunny’s story about doing trailer training a very lot better.
When I was getting Sunny out of the paddock after I’d paid for her, she started leaping and plunging about as soon as she saw the horse trailer coming into view. After three hours of trying every trick in my book (her owners had vanished in the house and were nowhere to be seen), I realized there was no getting this horse on the float without going through the slow steady work to do the job properly. So I sent a truck to collect her and promised her that would be the last time she traveled without being properly prepared.
When the truck driver arrived at my house with her, he said “I hope you didn’t pay much for this…” expletive removed because even though I swear cheerfully, it’s too bad for me to repeat.
There was lots of work to do with this powerful lead mare – gosh more than I want to dwell on when we’re talking about float training – but in the spirit of emphasiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiizing just how dramatically other issues affect float and trailer training, I’ll tell you some of them. Did you see that accidental typo? It does such a good job at emphasizing my point, that I’ll leave it there!
I could get a halter on Sunny easily enough, but mannn she was not happy about it – she looked away from you while it was going on, she had a hard, worried look in her eye and her ears were back. She had been made to tolerate a halter. It turned out that the halter was wrestled onto her as a newborn foal and done in such a way that it resulted in imprinting her personality as a “fight” horse. She wasn’t really a fight horse as it turns out and released that pattern of being handy with her teeth and her feet.
That’s a big deal that we’re going to come back to – that the way she was haltered MADE her into a horse that was handy with her teeth and feet. But bigger than that, is the way that we worked to put haltering into Comfort Zone, changed her “fight horse” personality. We’ll talk about how in a minute.
In the mean time, can you see my point, that a horse who is that unhappy with a halter isn’t suddenly going to drop that unhappiness and resistance and their urge to fight, when you use that halter to load her onto a trailer? Or when you put a saddle on? Or step into the stirrup?
The next big deal that came to our attention, was that she was dangerous with one leg when feet trimming. She wasn’t happy with any feet being trimmed, but she tolerated three legs. She’d slam the fourth leg down so hard and fast that anything in the way would get broken – it was lethal. I have a high regard for my feet trimmers’ personal safety, so she just got three feet trimmed while we layer by layer steadily released the trauma on the fourth foot. We have a brilliant and simple trauma release on the Fast Track program.
The day she let that trauma go, she showed us a picture of that leg tied up in the air in a parody of natural horsemanship, where she thrashed and fought and eventually fell to the ground. I cry easily these days, but my trimmer is a lot tougher. Both of us “saw” that vision she communicated and both of us were crying as she communicated the anguish that she felt as she literally thought she was dying.
Gosh it was a big moment…
Can you see how that amount of trauma – that the amount of tension and resistance in her because of that trauma – was always going make EVERYthing else more difficult? Well if you can’t see it yet, I think you’re going to! And I AM getting to the point of how easy float and trailer training can be.
Then came moving farms.
Then it came time we sold our farm and of course all the horses had to travel to the new farm. We had a six month settlement. One of the tasks of getting ready to move, was making sure that everyone was trailer trained. We had a mixture of very happy, well trained and experienced travelers, but we had two that needed more work. Young Boots was born on the farm. I’d loaded him onto the float with his Mum in baby horse training, but he hadn’t seen it since and Sunny hadn’t had any float training with me yet. I had plenty of time, so we worked on the bits and pieces of trailer training with both horses every now and again, to the stage where Boots was quite relaxed and in his Comfort Zone in the trailer.
But Sunny wasn’t finished. I was feeling a little overwhelmed about that and the packing still left to do when I went out to the paddock to bring her out for another trailer training session. I had one of the clearest communications I’ve ever had from a horse. “I don’t need it, I’ll be fine.” she said.
I gotta’ tell you I was only too pleased to listen to her and rushed off to do some more packing.
When it came time to move the horses I realized it was going to take me 2 days non stop to go backwards and forwards with the float, so I booked a truck for all the big horses (same local guy as delivered Sunny a couple of years earlier).
I had this meticulous loading plan. Peace was to go on first because his big long body needed the one and half bays at the front of the truck, then Boots between two very relaxed and experienced travelers (because he’d never actually traveled anywhere before). Then Sunny would also go between two very experienced travelers.
Well it didn’t go to plan.
Peace went on first. The truckie and Mel were also grabbing horses from the paddock and I realized with a feeling of horror that everyone else was on the truck and I was left holding Sunny. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever loaded the last horse onto a full truck, but they have to be rock stars. They’re walking up a steep ramp and as they get to the top, they can’t just walk in, they have to turn around and step in kind of sideways into that last spot, with a big drop to the ground both front of them and behind them.
Gosh it makes me teary all these years later, remembering how she strolled up there as if she’d done it a hundred times before, turned sideways into that steep drop and stepped into place as the anchor horse.
The truckie put the last pole into place, winched the back up and off they went to their new home.
I couldn’t resist poking at the truckie who’d judged my horse “Remember that horse you called a …. (expletive) that you brought here a couple of years ago? That’s her you just put on the truck last.”
I’ve seen it since many times, when you have the deep communication stuff happening and they have confidence in that, when they’ve released their old fears and traumas, when you’ve “taught” the ingredients for the float loading well, the loading itself is incidental.
Oliver, another rock star
Here’s another story that demonstrates that the loading itself is a piece of cake when you’ve released any old traumas and taught the ingredients well.
Oliver had an horrific floating experience before he came to live with me. He was being evacuated from the Snowy Mountains ahead of a fire when he exploded in the float while he was traveling – pulled back, broke the rope, injured himself thrashing around and damaged the lovely big new float his owner had bought him. He even got his giant 18 hand body turned around and was trying to jump out the back. Gosh it must have been terrifying.
It was such an enormously big deal that his old owner thought he “had a screw loose” in his brain and the incident was the beginning of a series of events that had her deciding to give this valuable horse to me.
Here’s the thing. I could “poor Oliver” him and never put him in a trailer again (I trucked him to me from interstate) but he would still be left with the trauma of that accident stuck in his body and his mind, causing that layer of terror underneath to rise up and make worse every fear that he experienced from then on. It was also causing a whopping layer of tension in his body that layered into his health problems, which had included a cancerous sarcoid. So we float trained him. I say “we” because invariably the herd is involved in this sort of thing too. 🙂
It quickly became apparent that even our extra big float wasn’t big enough for this 18 hand horse. Just standing there with a relaxed head set, his head was only three or four inches off the roof. Braking a bit hard would cause his head to bang into the roof – even tossing his head at a fly was going to cause him to bang his head.
So not only did we have to painstakingly teach all the tasks that make up his ability to load on the float confidently – and Release all the misunderstandings, stresses and tensions that had gone on before in those tasks AND Re-Learn those tasks which had never been learned properly – we also had to Release the old trauma from his previous floating accident. Part of the re-learning was boosting his awareness and confidence about the roof itself, because the roof and his height at 18 hands was at least a contributing factor to the drama of his floating accident.
Because I didn’t have a float tall enough to travel him in, we’d only done the trauma release, the loading pre-requisites, some work with his ears and the height of the roof but we hadn’t closed the back up at the time he stepped up so beautifully to teach the horse in the photo.
The horse on the left was being re-float trained by his owner after she’d made an extraordinary breakthrough at a clinic here. Even though he’d done a lot of traveling in his life, he was not a happy horse about floats and he did not want to go in. She wasn’t willing to compromise the heart and joy and visible health breakthroughs she’d made. Oliver had been standing in the same yard to keep him company, haltered with his lead rope just on the ground.
This photo captures a moment when Oliver, dragging his lead rope behind him, came in from the side, pushed in front of the other horse and loaded himself on the float all by himself. He even broke it down into the same steps that I’d broken it down for him – pausing and reaching up to the roof of the float, showing the other horse how to feel it with his ears before he walked on!
Mannn… THAT makes me a bit teary too. What a rock star of a horse! This demonstrates again that when all the elements are attended to, that loading on the trailer is a piece of cake.
So here’s how you can do this too – Release, Re-learn and Re-program
Our Release Re-learn and Re-program formula is at the heart of the Fast Track program. It gives us a simple yet gobsmackingly effective way to release old resistances, tensions, blockages and even traumas – to re-Learn the way it could have been taught in the first place, then we re-program the neural pathways so the job stays done.
Can you feel how BIG that is?
So the job stays done…
We no longer need to do repetition after repetition after repetition to try to change old neural pathways in the brain.
This formula opens up possibilities in all kinds of areas with your horse, that simply didn’t exist beforehand and is at the heart of how we can call Fast Track a fast track and you’ll learn this skill very thoroughly on Fast Track.
Trailer loading as a pathway to your dreams
I’ve said if before and no doubt you’ll hear me say it again – the skills, knowhow, soul connection and deep inner communication with your horse that’ll you’ll use to solve whatever problems you have with your horse – including trailer problems – is the same skill, knowhow, soul connection and deep inner communication that will make it possible to reach all your other horse dreams.
Yeah it’s that big…