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Successful Loading Part 3 - Building Motivation

Building Motivation 😁💪

In part 1 we looked at the basics of loading and in part 2 we looked at how to build your horses confidence on the lorry/trailer.

But what about the horse that just doesn’t fancy going on? He’d just much rather stay where he is thanks. 🤔

These are often the one’s that you see their poor owner on the ramp hanging on to the lead rope pleading with their horse 🙏 and they’ve probably been there for sometime! There’s usually very little drama with these horses unless someone tries to force this issue, then they are quite happy to tell you what they really think about being on the trailer!! 🤬

So what’s this problem all about? It’s about your horse asking ‘Why should I?’ and ‘Just because!’ is not a sufficient answer for them.

In this case your horse needs to be convinced that being on the trailer is better than anywhere else. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to do this is not by making outside the trailer a really horrible place to be. The best way to do this is to make the trailer a great place to be, it’s dry, it’s safe and it’s even got food up there!

Here’s how I approach this issue, I ask the horse to go on the trailer, using just enough request that the horse thinks they need to move, usually with a leading pressure on the headcollar and I may add some tapping with a stick depending on the horse. If they go backwards I keep up the request, no firmer just persistent. As soon as they come forwards I release that pressure by letting the rope go slack and stopping with the stick if I’m using one.

This is where persistence will be your greatest friend! The key thing here is that I have the attitude that I am quite happy to wait and do this as long as it takes until the horse decides to move his feet. I’m not going to get angry or resort to a stronger method, I’m just going to wait for my horse to make a positive decision.

Food 🥕🍏

I touched on using food in part 1, some people don’t like to use it, some people do. When I’m loading a horse for someone I am happy to follow their wishes. With my own horses I often use food to build motivation or change their minds about something they find difficult.

With regards to loading if I do use food I am really clear about it being a reward, not a bribe. I’m a great believer in having a haynet on the trailer when practising as this will tell you so much about your horses confidence when on board and will also act as it’s own reward. A scared horse won’t eat hay on board but they might override their fear to get at a feed bowl which can mean that they eat really quickly then want to get out of there as soon as possible creating a dangerous situation. A confident horse that needs motivating might be very happy to find some hay waiting up there and this may well start to change his mind about the trailer being a good thing.

If they need a little more incentive or enthusiasm then I may use treats strategically to reward a big effort, for example the first time the horse sniffs the ramp or the first time they put all four feet on the ramp, or get halfway in and so on.

Finally how do you get your horse to really want to get on the lorry and to be so enthusiastic that he loads himself? This is the icing on the cake, and certainly as long as you can load your horse safely and efficiently, this is only if you want to develop it further. Some horses once they’ve made the switch to thinking the trailer is a good thing, will get there quite naturally, some will need a little practise.

A game I play with my horses is to make the lorry a resting spot. So I’ll have it parked up where I’m working with my horse on the ground and each time they’ve done well or need to stop I’ll rest them in the lorry. It doesn’t take too many times before they figure out that every time they go to the lorry they get to stand, rest and eat hay! Very soon they’re dragging you over there. The great thing about this is that if your horse has really made that switch to thinking the lorry is a great place to be then if disaster does strike and you find yourself broken down for hours or stuck in traffic, your horse is going to be quite happy to wait while you sort it all out!

Happy loading!! 😊🦄💕

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