Trailering Skills, Sessions #112 and 113, 11-5 & 6-2013

I will do my best to remember what we did yesterday and how it worked out. I’ll try my best for today, too. Everything seems clear while I’m in the “zone”, so to speak, but becomes a bit of a mushy mess when I try to write about it later. Oh well.

Yesterday, I went out and put Atty’s breakfast in the trailer as before, but without all the truck movements and engine being on as it was already hooked up. Atty followed me out to the trailer since I had his breakfast bucket, and he got right on.

I had thoughts of maybe actually moving the truck and trailer, so I went around to the other side of the trailer to see if I could remove the wheel chock on that side. As I did that, I thought I’d pop into the trailer on that side and feed/treat Atty from there. When I opened the door, his head was quite high and he seemed slightly stressed. Ah, changes! Moving to that side and coming in from that side tweaked his antennae! So that’s what we worked on: my walking around and around the trailer and coming in from that side. I still came in from the usual side and did our routine as well – I sort of alternated between the two. I’d do the routine and then go to the other side of the trailer, open that door, throw some treats, go to the back, do something there, go to his side door, and do our routine. Continuing to do our routine helps reassure him that all is well. Or at least somewhat “normal”.

He again dropped manure in the trailer early on. I’m not really sure if that is definitely a sign of stress or only a possibility. It could just be that because it’s breakfast time, he drops manure. To make room? But since the manure was fully formed, not soft, squishy, or cow pie, I’m not worried about it. It may still be a sign of slight stress (voiding the bowels), but I’ll just have to watch for changes in it.

He again wanted to come off the trailer without the cue when we got to that point. I again waited to see if he would get back on so we could practice waiting for the back-off cue, which he did. We stopped there and went into the paddock to play other games.

Trailering Skills, Session #113, 11-6-13

Now that I know that going to the other side of the trailer was a bit upsetting to him yesterday, that’s what I focused on again today.

One of the things I’m trying to introduce to Atty is the idea that the “routine” is now going to be “expect something different”. When Peggy Hogan went to the Shedd Aquarium this past August, one of the things she learned there is that the animals are taught from the beginning that they should expect something different every training session. Now how do I do that since almost this whole time I’ve been developing a steadfast routine that he can rely on? How can I start mixing in different things every time or a different way of doing things so that no matter what is different, it’s okay? I’m not sure of the answer to that, but I’m working on it.

Yesterday, I did sort of a round robin set of things that had me circling the trailer and doing our routine every circuit. Today I stayed on the far side of the trailer.

However, to begin at the beginning: To start with, Atty did not follow me out the gate when I went through the paddock with his bucket. He followed me to the gate, but not through it. Hmm, well that’s interesting. He must not have liked his session yesterday? I went ahead and poured his breakfast into the hay bag in the trailer. I think that he may have heard that and the Stud Muffin that also went in because he was ready to come through the gate now to come near the trailer.

He loaded but did not stay on. When I went to close up the butt bar, he got off and wandered away to the end of the lane at the field gate. Then he got back on again. He did back off a couple of times today and I walked back to hook up the butt bar. Each time he did, I just waited for him to get back on and then did our routine. Then when he was stable so that I could hook up the butt bar and close the door, I was able to go back to our routine – up to a point. This is when I switched to doing everything from the far side – treat there, go to the back and open the door, go back to the far door and treat, go to the back and undo the butt bar, go to the far side and treat, go to the back and give the cue to back off.

If he didn’t wait for the cue to back off, I waited for him to load again, and we went through all the behaviors again – butt bar, door, etc.

We finished with a cued back off and then we went to play in the paddock.

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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