This week's ground work returned us to our old friend the trailer. Rose has been hauling well since March (by that I mean she walks right on and slowly backs out on command). So what's my problem? We've only ever hauled her loose with the divider open, like a box stall. Granted she hauls great this way, and if I knew that I would never sell her or that I would never own a second horse, I would probably be lazy and just haul her that way for the next 20+ years. However, I do hope someday to have a second horse (husband, kid, etc.) and one never knows in this economy what will happen, so if I were forced to sell her then I'd like to know that she's hauling in a slant divider safe and sound.
We decided to teach her to stand in the second slant first, before moving onto the first slant. Right way I noticed a slight problem with our current loading methods. Because we've always hauled her loose, I've always walked on the trailer with her and then handed her lead out the window to AR and then shut the back door, after which we'd un-clip her lead. Our problem: with the slant divider closed there is no room for me on the trailer. This means Rose needed to learn to self load. So we spent the hour figuring out that we needed to get her to self load, and then getting her to do it. We spent a good amount of time walking onto the trailer, only for her to turn her head, look at me not moving forward, and then stopping all forward motion. The look on her face said "Mom, why are you standing back there? Don't you want to get on? No? Okay, we must be getting off then. Back?" Finally, toward the end of the hour she figured out that I wanted her to still get on, even without me. She walked right past me with the lead looped over her back and put all four hooves on the trailer in the second slant. Good mare! After a good scratch on her rump, lots of praise, and a carrot from AR through the window we had a nice slow back out, on command, and ended the day's lesson with that success. I think a few more successful loads like that, with the back door shut, and we may be ready to move onto the front slant (heart caught in throat at prospect).
Please everyone, teach your foals and yearlings to load and stand in a divider, so it doesn't have to be taught once they are a 16.1h 1,100lb 3 year old!