Trailering Skills, Session #109, 10-28-13

I have been gone about a week and wanted to get back to practicing trailering skills with Atticus today. But first, Peggy Hogan needed a still shot of him in the trailer.

When the sun was in the right place, I went out and set up the camera. Atty came to meet me and walked with me to the paddock gate to the trailer. I didn’t want to let him through just yet. As I was going through the gate, he managed to get himself zapped on the nose by the electric fence. Poor baby! He trotted to the other side of the paddock and then started jumping and bucking and tormenting Buzz. He soon settled down.

Then I went to get Atty for the trailer loading. We went through the gate; and as I went to turn on the camera, he obliged by getting on the trailer. He got his Stud Muffin and I got my little bit of video. From that I can get a still shot for Peggy.

Later, after breakfast, is when I set things up to practice his skills. Stud Muffins at the ready, with one in the hay bag. Pouch full of Alam cubes. Now for the horse.

He offered to back up from the stall gate which was clicked and reinforced. I asked for another couple of steps of backing, which were also clicked and reinforced. Then as we walked out of his stall and then the barn, I asked for a few halts. He does the halts quite well inside the barn and about halfway through the paddock. But the paddock gate was open and he saw that. Halting with me while that gate was open was not happening. He did halt after about 15 feet. Then I asked him to back up a couple of steps at a time, CT’ing each set, until we got back to where he had left me. He did halt with me one more time, but then we were just too close to that open gate! That skill will have to be worked on!

Now it was time to practice with the trailer. He had wandered off to check to see if the field gates were open (no) and to eat what grass he could find in the lane. Then when he decided to load, he did so at a very strong walk, almost a trot, and fairly flew onto the trailer. I chuckled at that!

From there we practiced our usual routine: I open the side door, CT him there, and then also CT each of three nose touches to his boat bumper, and put a few treats into the hay bag. Then I walk to the back of the trailer to do whatever I’m practicing that day.

Today I started with touching his hock and going back up front to CT. We did ten trials and he did back up or even off a couple of times. But I moved on to the next bit anyway. First I asked him to back off the trailer on cue and treated him. Then I let him get on again and gave him a Stud Muffin and then moved on to our routine as I outlined above.

The next set was hooking up the butt bar. I hooked up, walked up front, did the routine, walked back, dropped the butt bar, and walked up front again – splitting out the behaviors of standing still on the trailer with the butt bar up and again with the butt bar down. If he backed off (which he did at least once), I basically ignored that behavior, waited a bit, walked up front, and CT’d if he had gotten back on, and resumed the routine. He did not get a Stud Muffin for getting on in this case. After only five trials, I asked him to back off on cue, which he did.

The next set was having the butt bar up and my closing the back door for three seconds. Then I’d walk up front, do the routine, walk back, and close the door again for three seconds. We did five trials. At the end of those, it was: open the door, walk up front, routine, walk back, drop the butt bar, walk up front, do the routine, walk back, and ask him to back off on cue, which he did.

The next set was latching the back door. As before, I latched the back door, walked up front, did routine, walked back, unlatched the door, walked up front, did routine. Five trials like this and then I asked him to back off on cue, which he did, this is where we stopped for the day.

He seemed quite relaxed throughout and he did not manure at any time. The other horses did call once near the beginning, and he listened to that, but settled immediately.

After finishing our trailer games, I let him into the lane to have some grass and I let the other boys out. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that one field gate was not properly latched and Mr. Atticus let all of them into one of the fields. Oh well. I’m sure they enjoyed their grass!

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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