09.01.06: Trailer Prep

We've had a few good sessions with Storm lately. Its still bloody cold, which is annoying as crap since we have a north facing arena, which means it stays fucking frozen ALL winter long. So doing any serious work in the arena isn't very easy, not that we do anything of speed yet anyway.

Saturday we worked with some trailer simulations. We have a pedestal, and Storm is very willingly stepping up with his front feet now. He'll begin pawing, and with just a request of forward movement, he will step up with both feet. He backed off very neatly at my request, which was also positive (he'll have to learn to back down off of a trailer, not that he doesn't know, he just needs to get to the point where he'll do it no matter what). He almost stepped over the whole pedestal, front and back feet, but he didn't quite make it over square. But the effort was there. We worked on the 'go forward cue.' Teaching him that a tap on the top of the hip means to walk forward will reinforce the relationship of trust. Never asking more of him than he can offer will only solidify that. My boss brought me the mother of all dressage whips to help with this, since its near 10 feet from Storm's head to his rump. I think it was a buggy whip, but the darn thing is near as tall as I am. Quite useful, though a wee bit unwieldy.

I moved on to another challenge, and had Storm working into a channel of barrels, simulating the "squeeze" that is required to get into a trailer. It was a bit wide at first, and he kept trying to sneak and turn around. We narrowed it up some, and he walked in, and then backed out square (with a little help from the mondo dressage whip). He did spook pretty bad once while we were down there, jumping back about 15 feet or so. I lost the rope, only because I didn't want to hang on too tightly, which could have trapped for him, and caused him to react worse. The best thing was that when the rope slipped from my hands, he stopped moving at the same time, rather than running away. That made me feel good, despite the fact that I couldn't find a reasonable source for the spook itself. Horses generally do not like that end of the arena, but at the same time, there didn't seem to be anything usual that would have caused it like deer or something crashing in the woods. I can only wonder about those congruent emotions though. Who knows. I likely never will. He did well by not running off, so I was pleased.

After asking him to go in again, I decided to try to see if he could back in, which he did quite smoothly. I didn't pressure him too much since he had just spooked away from that area, and my boss was getting tired (he'd been sick with the super icky crap recently, and was only just recovering), so he headed home. We had really done about as much as we could do without a trailer there anyway.

I managed to catch some of the people at the barn that have a large trailer, and was able to ask them to move the trailer to the edge of the field where we would be able to practice with it. My boss will bring his truck over (and possibly his trailer, too, even) for us to work with. Unfortunately, they're both step ups, though the barn manage has said she'll bring down her ramp load when the weather improves, so we can practice with that too. Getting as much practice in before the big haul to FL will be important. Sadly, I can't fully simulate that since he'll be riding in style in an 18 wheeler down the road. It'll be far faster, and less stressful than if we did it ourselves. Since we have zero hauling experience, its just not a good way to test the waters. We'll get there eventually.

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09.01.10: A Dream of Storm