Traiilering Skills, Session #111, 11-4-13

Today I fed Atty breakfast in the trailer. But before I could do that I had to turn the truck around, back it down to the trailer, and hook it up. Then I opened the back of the trailer and added a Stud Muffin to the hay bag. Then I got his breakfast bucket and walked through the paddock where all three boys were. I shook the bucket a little and kissed to Atty. He came over as did Ollie. I let only Atty through the gate to where the trailer is.

He walked to the back of the trailer as I walked to the side door to put his breakfast in the hay bag. He got on and I went to the back to hook up the butt bar and close the door.

I think that all of these environmental and situational cues (truck running and hooking up, eating on the trailer, and hooking up the butt bar and closing the back door right away) unnerved him a bit. We’ve done this before, but it’s been a few months. And when we’ve done this before, the trailer was in a different spot and the side door was open. This time it was closed. I’m sure he thought he was actually going to go somewhere this morning.

I walked around and did some chores. I was gone perhaps five minutes, maybe a little more. When I got back to the trailer, I opened the side door and treated him for looking at me. But he would not touch the target at all – not even when I touched it and said “target”. So I left him and went to the back of the trailer and opened the back door. I came up front and went through our routine. This seemed to settle him a bit. Then I went to back again to drop the butt bar. When I moved the butt bar, he backed into it. I let it drop back into place and then he stepped forward. I did drop the butt bar this time and he stayed where he was. I walked up front to treat him and do our routine. Then I went to the back to ask him to back off. I had to cue him three times before he would back off!

He did drop a huge pile of manure while he was on the trailer which is a sign of stress in him. He also wouldn’t target the boat bumper up front at first, but then he settled into his routine. He did stay on the trailer when the butt bar was down. And the fact that it took three cues before backing off is a sign that he settled into our routine.

I then dropped another Stud Muffin into the hay bag and a few Alam cubes to see if he would get on again. He did, which is another good sign. I went through all the parts again – butt bar up, routine, back door closed, routine, back door open, routine, butt bar down, routine, cue the back off. This time he backed off on cue.

From here we went back into the paddock and played with the vinyl fence board. He readily offers his front feet on the board to station (or pedestal), but the hind feet are a little harder for him. He will even position his front feet (and himself) in such a way that his body is nearly parallel to the board and his front feet are one behind the other! Great for walking the plank. I think it would be too much to try to actually get him to walk the plank on something only six inches wide, though. That’s just not enough “wheel base”!

We spent several minutes working out how to place hind feet on the board while perpendicular to it – walk forward to the board, place front feet, CT of course, then walk forward a bit more and CT for trying to get back feet on the board. After several approaches and mini-sessions of attempts, he did finally managed to get both back feet on the board.

We finished for the day. Now if he would only let me clean out his feet while he’s at his hay box!

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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