Sienna will be seven on April 27th and I have had her since she was four. Before I got her, she had been trailered quite a bit locally and had done one trip from Montana to Iowa and back. When I got her, we drove her from Montana to Las Vegas (I purchased the trailer that she had travelled in also, so she was very familiar with it). In the two years that she was in Las Vegas we did plenty of trailering locally to play days and trial rides, and last year we drove her from Las Vegas to Pagosa Springs, CO where we now live.
Not once in all those years has she ever had a problem trailering........until recently.
About three weeks ago I was heading over to the ranch to ride with Molly and it took me a good hour to get Sienna comfortable in the trailer, which was not like her at all.
I have a three horse slant load trailer and it had become apparent to me that the front compartment was a bit of a tight squeeze for her. Sienna is a Quarter Horse/Percheron cross and she had obviously grown a little since I first got her, but I was able to close the divider and eventually head out.
Another thing I had noticed was that when ever we got to a destination, as soon as the divider was opened she would come out of there in a hurry, not so much in a right brained way, but she definitely wanted out of there.
The following week we were headed out to a play day and again it took me a good hour or more to get all four feet in there, but she would not let me close the divider. Any time I went to close it, she would start backing out, and when that Percheron butt is coming your way, you can't stop it!.
I decided to take out the first divider so she would have the front two compartments and much more room. I put her in the round pen while I was doing this, and she got so worked up running around in there she slipped over in the slick mud (left over from the snow).
Now if you read the previous post about Sienna's horsenality, you would see that she doesn't get worked up about much, and the only time i've seen her get upset is when her pasture mate is taken out of her sight........well it suddenly hit me, could this all be because she couldn't see Juno?
After I moved the divider we set about asking her to go back in and this time Mackenzie (Juno's human and the wonderful photographer and roomy who took these photos) was playing with Juno in plain sight of Sienna thinking it would help, but things actually got worse. It took me about another hour to get all four feet in the trailer and finally get the divider closed. I want to say that she was comfortable in there but she wasn't, she was pawing at the trailer floor and whinnying. I seriously considered taking her out and calling it a day, but I instead drove her to the play day. She neighed the whole way there and stomped her feet occasionally, and when we arrived I was a little concerned about asking her to come out and asked Petra to give me a hand.
Petra was brilliant and showed me how to ask her to come out calmly. We hooked her up to the 22ft line and threaded it through the front window and back in through the last window, this allowed me to have control of her front end as well as the back end. When she pushed against the divider, I could gently ask her to come forward using the 22ft rope while Petra used phases from zone 5 to drive her forward, every time she would stop pushing against the divider she would get a rub and the pressure would come off.
We were eventually able to open the divider, have her stand and wait and then ask her to come out. Once she was out, she was fine and we had a great play day. Also, when I got her home I used the technique that Petra showed me to ask her to come out and it worked brilliantly.
Having control of the front end and the back end
The following weekend we were headed out to another play day and this time Juno was going with us, and even though Juno was waiting her turn to get in the trailer, it still took me about hour to get Sienna comfortable in the trailer. When we got to the play day, every time Juno was out of Sienna's sight, she would start neighing and get worked up, so every time she did that I would ask her to move her feet..... a LOT. Eventually she settled into the calm horse she usually is and we had a great play day.
The weekend after that, Molly came round to watch and gave me some great techniques to play with. We asked Sienna to place certain zones next to the trailer to see if there were any sticky spots. I hadn't thought about asking her those kinds of questions because trailer loading had not been a problem in the past, she just did it. Well it turn's out that zone five up against the back doors was a little sticky. We then placed treats all around the trailer and asked her to find them, this helped a lot with placing different zones against the trailer.
Finding a treat
Sienna had also got into the habit of placing her front two feet in and then coming back out, so we asked he to only place one foot in, well this just blew her mind and when she was able to do this, we called it a day. There was lots of licking and chewing for both of us!
One foot only please
That night I decided to feed her in the trailer. Well she must have gone in and out about 20 times but all the while I figured it was good practice for her, and thank goodness I now have the savvy for a situation like this where I can smile and say: "you want to go out?, OK let me help you, but now come back in again".
For the next week I fed her in the trailer every night and very quickly it has become a place where she likes to go. First I will ask her to go in, which she practically offers, I can close the divider with no resistance....
Then ask her to come out while I place her grain and hay in there - all the while she is wanting to come in. Then I will back her up about 15 ft, throw the lead rope over her back, point to the trailer and in she goes.......
where she will happily stay while I sit at the back and read a book.
A few times she has come back out (back feet only) and taken herself back in to finish eating.
When she has finished eating she'll either come out by herself or I'll ask her to come out (by the tail)...and we walk at liberty back to her pasture.
Thanks to Molly and Petra for your wonderful advice and to Parelli for teaching me to Take the Time it Takes, so it Takes Less Time!