Trailering Skills, Session #122, 11-30-13

I wasn’t originally going to write a training blog today. I just didn’t want to for some reason. But after talking with Peggy Hogan (, I decided that I really should write this down.

The last few sessions haven’t gone particularly well and I’ve felt discouraged. I felt like we were going backwards. I’ve been trying to change things up a bit, but Atty hasn’t responded very well to the changes. I’ve also tried to incorporate pedestal work after trailer work to help, but that doesn’t seem to have helped with the trailering skills very much. His pedestal work has improved though, so that’s good.

Today went like this: I went ahead and fed breakfast as it seemed as though he got stressed when he had breakfast on the trailer. For the previous two sessions, Atty also had breakfast in his stall. Then after breakfast, I asked him to walk with me through the paddock, out the gate, and to the trailer. He very willingly did this and offered a forward walk to the trailer. The hay bag in the trailer was already set up with a few treats and a Stud Muffin. Atty got on.

I went to the front, opened his side door, and clicked and treated. Then I waited for him to touch the bumper three times as in our routine. However, he didn’t do that as his head was deep in hay. I thought I could go ahead and go to the back of the trailer. Au contraire. That did not sit well with Mr. Atticus and he backed off. I waited while he checked out the lane but didn’t really find anything worth munching on and he got back on the trailer.

Apparently, he did want to do the routine and I was too hasty to abandon it. If I’m going to use the three touches of the boat bumper as an “initiator signal”, then I had darned well better use it that way and wait for him to touch it and not assume that he’s fine munching hay and that he doesn’t need it. Hah!

So this time, after he loaded up again, I went to the front and began the routine. This time he more readily did the routine by touching the boat bumper. From there everything was great: I went back and touched a hock, routine, rattled the butt bar, routine, hooked up the butt bar, routine, closed the back door, routine.

Then I upped the ante by going forward and turning on the truck engine, came back and did the routine, went forward and turned off the engine, came back and did the routine. Then I went back and opened the back door, up front for the routine.

Then, when I went back to unhook the butt bar, he backed into it. I left it hooked and waited several seconds. Then I went up front and we did our routine. Then I came back again and this time I could unhook the butt bar and he stayed put. When I went up front for the routine, I gave him a Stud Muffin for his efforts of staying on. (I also wanted to use the SMs more randomly than only when he got on the trailer.)

Then I went back to cue him to back off. But, guess what? He didn’t want to get off! Or, at least, he didn’t get off right away. This is super! When he finally backed off on cue, he got an extended jackpot and I closed the back door. I did not ask him to get on again. I’ll check that on Monday.

From there, we played with a Jolly Ball (bite the handle) and be near the kid’s basketball hoop (Fisher-Price). He likes to knock that over!

Then we played a bit with the pedestal. I’m working on trying to get him to close up the space between his front and back feet. This is going to be hard for him as he has a rather long back. But once I get his front feet on the pedestal, and I reward heavily for this, I then go back to place his hind feet closer to his fronts. I hoping that over time, he will be able to get them closer and closer together.

I also added another pedestal that I have right next to the first one so that his back feet can be on the “new” one and his fronts are on the one we’ve been using. The one we’ve been using is actually newer and it’s more solidly built. The other one is made from a miniature palette with a piece of plywood on top.

We also practiced some more with backing straight to the pedestal and hanging out there without necessarily backing onto the pedestal. I’d like to minimize, if not eliminate, the butt swinging from side to side. He is getting better about that.

We then came back into the paddock and made one pass of getting hind feet on the board that’s in there. Then on to the hay box and getting feet cleaned out.

All in all, a good day. 🙂

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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