Sharon asked about using the calming acupressure point from my previous blog to help with a horse’s float / trailer problem:
Would this help a horse who stresses in the float??? My mare no longer travels well in the float. She loads easy but leans on centre divider and no matter if it is a 10 minute ride or an hour she is in a lather of sweat when I unload her. There is plenty of air flow in float I have tried everything I can short of going to the vet to get a calmative.
My answer: I don’t think the acupressure point is going to be a substitute for good trailer training, but there IS a possibility that the calming effect of the acupressure point could interrupt a stress reaction about loading and make that re-training a bit easier. But training or re-training properly, without fear, would be the biggest key for success.
Using a calming drug from the vet to travel, risks an accident with a horse who can’t stand up properly or react in time to corners, braking etc AND it doesn’t solve anything, maybe even makes it worse – so there’s good reason for your intuition to have avoided that option – well done!
Things that can cause trailer loading problems
- Get in the float yourself and have the driver drive you around somewhere safe and see what the driving itself feels like. And make sure you notice what it would be like without holding on, cos that’s what your horse has to do. (Don’t actually let go, because you don’t want to fall over!) Or drive a horsey friend around if you are the driver, cos cornering too fast or braking too hard will cause this horse response. Sometimes I watch people driving in ways that make it quite clear why the horse has traveling problems!
- This exercise may also uncover a problem with the trailer itself that you hadn’t noticed.
- Some horses are terrified by the things that come rushing at them very fast that they can see out of those big wide float windows. Tape the window with some cardboard and make it a smaller window where they can’t see the oncoming traffic.
- Get your trailer wheels balanced and don’t take any crap from the tyre people saying it’s not necessary. It makes for a better ride on the float and there’s a live, thinking, feeling animal in there.
- Check the floor from underneath to make sure it’s sound (that was the cause of one floating problem I attended to – smart horse!), make sure the brakes aren’t grabbing, that the wheels are turning on the bearings properly – all that good maintenance stuff.
- The centre divider can be too long, i.e. too close to the floor – that is a very common cause of what you describe. Basically a centre divider should only be a bar or a bit wider than a simple bar. If it gets in the way of the horse spreading his legs into the other side of the float for balance whenever they need it, it WILL adversely affect the traveling comfort of even the best travelers. Even my Bobby – one of the best loaders and travelers ever, started to lose his confidence in the new float and I had to get a bar made for it.
- There is also the possibility that the horse was trained that they HAD to get on the float to avoid consequences or punishment and that all along they have been scared of it. In this case they just need proper float training our style, which gets them HAPPY about doing stuff rather than forcing them to do things they are frightened of.
- And some horses are so darned obliging that they go on the trailer even though they’ve never been trained properly. They start off a little bit scared and each trip it gets a little bit worse until they just can’t be obliging any more. Training properly is the answer there too.
Trailer training (like most things) is not hard, when you work with a good mental and emotional connection with your horse. The strong connection means that we don’t even need to be highly skilled and know a heap of trailer training techniques, because in that closely connected relationship our understanding of our horse flows so beautifully and their co-operation is increased. Read this little story from Leanne who was in the middle of our program 21 Days to a Quiet Mind.
From rearing at the trailer, to connection together, to loading easily.
Leanne had just walked out of a clinic where she hadn’t liked the way they wanted her to treat her horse. She said:
THEN we couldn’t get him on the float. I was upset and he knew it. My negative energy drove into him like daggers. I sought the assistance of some ‘horse people’ (husband and wife) who were not too far away from me, and they started to manhandle him to try and get him on the float. Of COURSE he played up, rearing and carrying on. The husband said to the wife, “it’s not like our machines Darl.” My blood ran cold. Now that I think of it, it has been since this time (12 months ago) that he developed his issues with floating.
Her next email was during our on line program 21 Days to a Quiet Mind
Oh my good LORD!!
So today, I took myself out and plonked myself down in a chair in the middle of the paddock to do today’s lesson. Both Sarge and Coco were just snoozing under a tree.
I went back to day 2 and listened through that in my chair, and then spent a good 10 minutes just basking and breathing. Although I had both horses standing over me wondering WHAT on earth I was doing, Sarge (my daughter’s horse) eventually wandered away, but Coco – he stayed. He nuzzled my hair, he gently nibbled my knee. He pushed his nose into my upright palm. It. Was. ELECTRIFYING!! It was BEAUTIFUL….
This afternoon I will turn back to some float training again. We had such a fabulous session on Monday after Day 1’s meditation. Initially, he would move from the ‘not too sure’ zone straight into the ‘oh shit’ zone in 30 seconds flat!
Just as quickly, I retreated him back to his area of safety, where he gave me his lick and chew, and we proceeded all over again. I started off this time without his feed bucket, but after 10 minutes, progressed to feed bucket. The end result for the day, was me standing on the other side of the neck divider, he would walk on, back off, walk on, back off, and then walk on towards me by himself and start to eat his dinner.
Baby steps for my beautiful soul…
And here’s her reply to my recent enquiry about how the trailer loading went. Clearly she had taken her connection with her horse to a whole new level.
We made some fantastic progress with the float training, with Coco just walking straight on in, shutting the divider, and the tailgate up.
Take your horsemanship to a new level too, with 21 Days to a Quiet Mind