Atticus and Trailer Loading Skills, 5-24-13

Today was very interesting. He came out of the barn a bit more energized than usual, and, therefore, a bit more bargey. We had to practice coming out of the gate a little. But only once and then he was fine. I don’t know why he was this way. Is it because it’s raining? Or is it because the temp has dropped almost 25 degrees? Or is it coming out to the trailer this way? Is this route more charged for him? I don’t know.

He went straight for the grass outside the gate and I let him graze a bit. If he offered to bring his head up, I CT’d and paid with Alam cubes. We worked our way to the trailer, grazing on the grass along the way.

He didn’t particularly want to go in today and veered off. He doesn’t know that I’ve added carrot pieces to his breakfast and Stud Muffin. Until yesterday, he’d gone straight in. So there’s something about this area or this route that is bothering him.

We practiced circling and giving to the lead on light pressure, CT’ing all the way. I shaped him toward the trailer and tried again. He got in this time and I put up the butt bar and closed the back door. I CT’d him for looking out his door at me and went to feed the other horses. I was gone about three minutes.

When I came back, I CT’d him and talked to him and then went to get the paper and yesterday’s mail. When I came back from that, I put the paper and mail down on the ground by my car, which is parked near the trailer.

I treated him and opened the back door. He had dumped a pile of manure (he didn’t yesterday) but at least it was not mushy. So he’s somewhat stressed but not to the point of mushy manure.

I then set about our routine of walking to the back and touching a hock, walking forward and CT’ing for his looking at me OR having his head in the hay bag. Then waiting for him to target the boat bumper three times, CT’ing those, and moving on to the next trial.

He kept backing into the butt bar every couple of times. When I first thought I could back him off, he backed off without a cue. So no click and no treat. I did let him graze, again CT’ing if he offered his head up. We worked our way back to the trailer. I let him see me get a Stud Muffin (SM) and put it in the bag. He, of course, wanted it NOW! Then he loaded quite well and I put up the butt bar.

But whatever was bothering him to begin with would not let him settle into our routine. We practiced many, many times my touching a hock (either one) and, if he stayed still, I’d walk up front and CT, and then wait for him to offer touches on the boat bumper. I wanted three successful tries before upping the criterion to the butt bar. This went on for what seemed like ages. But I didn’t want it to go on forever – either for him or for me. So after awhile I changed to moving, but not unhooking the butt bar.

At one point, his head came up and we both heard a car come down the drive. I thought it went to the neighbors. As it turned out, it was the plumber coming to fix a couple things. Even though I knew he was coming, I still was a bit surprised to see him there. That’s what happens when you’re focused on something else!

Once the plumber was in, Atty seemed to calm down a bit. Finally, I thought I could try unhooking the butt bar and I did. He stayed put. I walked up and CT’d and gave him a small handful of Alam and an SM. Then I went back, waited a second or two, cued the back off, and he calmly backed off the trailer.

As we walked by my car and the newspaper and mail on the ground, he had to sniff those. Maybe that was something that bothered him as I think he could see those while in the trailer. He also had to sniff the plumber’s van. He grazed around it and then I put him in the paddock.

Started off rough, but finished up just fine. 🙂

About Laurie Higgins

I play with clicker training - with my horses, dogs, and cats. I also attempt to grow vegetables with the hope of one day being able to feed my family from my garden. My daughter and I are learning ballroom dancing. Well, we were. But she left me for a paying horse job, so now my husband and I are learning ballroom dancing. I'm also now helping Peggy Hogan, of Clicker Training Horses (and The Best Whisper is a Click) to teach people how to train their own horses using "clicker training".
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