Trailering Skills, Sessions #182-187, 11-15-14

apples and carrotsIn the last ten days, I’ve worked with Atticus six times.  These are subsequent to his going to see the chiropractor an hour away and Ollie went with him.

The first two sessions after the trip, I only wanted to see if Atty would load onto the trailer.  I did not ask anything else of him, not even hooking up the butt bar.  The good news is that he did get on the trailer again both of those sessions.

The next session after that, however, was a different story.  While he stayed on the trailer and I worked on his staying on the trailer when I walked to the back and he did let me hook up the butt bar, he got very upset when I closed the back door.  He started bouncing off the butt bar and his head was very high.  I just threw treats into the feed bag in hopes of counter conditioning his reaction.

After a minute or two, I opened the back door and worked on our usual routine.  He got off on cue, although I had to repeat it once.  This is actually okay.  But I do find it interesting that he was bouncing off the butt bar when the back door was closed, but he not only didn’t rush off the trailer when I dropped the butt bar but he also needed to be cued twice to back off.

When I talked to Peggy Hogan about it, she suggested that I put all the tastiest yummy things that he never gets into the hay bag.  For the next three session I did that and used apples, carrots, Stud Muffins, and peppermints.

Since I wanted to repeat the loading and his getting the great treats, I had to figure out a way to get him away from the trailer while I filled the hay bag.  If he’s loose and nearby, he just comes up alongside the trailer and helps himself through the side door to whatever’s in the hay bag.

One of my pedestals is in the area so I put it down on the ground about 40-50 feet away and put down a big handful of Alam cubes.  He eats kind of fast so I have to put down two handfuls and then RUN back to the trailer to open the back door that I closed off after he got off it.

Then I run to the side door and start filling.  Atty finishes his double handful of treats and comes straight back to the trailer to get all those yummies!

He has also figured out the routine to the pedestal to get a double handful of treats!  When we finished today, I walked by the pedestal but he stopped there expecting to get more treats there.  But I wanted to switch out the boys and work with Ollie.

peppermintsI haven’t worked with Ollie in quite some time about trailer loading.  I’ve worked with  him a lot in the past but I’ve never shaped it at liberty with him.  I finally realized that I should give him as much care and attention as I’ve given Atty.

For the last three sessions with him (at this point with this “new” shaping program, it would be sessions #1-3 for Ollie!), Ollie has only gone as far as putting two front feet on the trailer.  He has not gotten on far enough to find all the goodies in the hay bag.  And he doesn’t load with me at the back door.  He will put his two front feet on the trailer if I am in front by the hay bag.

The first two sessions, I shaped him with Alam cubes alone.  But today, I mixed in the Stud Muffins, apples, carrots, and peppermints.  I think, from his reactions, that apple is quite the favorite!  Unfortunately, I would need to cut them up first to get any real bang for the buck out of them because just letting him bite the apple means that he got the whole thing in two bites!

Carrots are good and I can bite them into little pieces as we train.

I’m sure he likes the peppermints quite well, too, but I find them difficult to deal with because they have to be unwrapped first and that sometimes takes awhile and is a bit of a chore.

Ollie got on the trailer several times, but only ever with his front feet.  I could entice him back with whatever treat I had, but still only front feet.  He did lift his hinds a couple of times as if he was thinking about putting them on the trailer, but he never actually accomplished that.

That’s okay, though, because I don’t want to rush him.  He’s got to be comfortable with what we’re doing.

Maybe I’ll have some time work with them again tomorrow.


As a sort of post script, there were a few things I found interesting in today’s session.

One, the boys were in the paddock today which is right next to the “lane” where we work on trailering skills.  I did not put them in their stalls; I just got one and then the other.  While separate, Ollie had to holler once even though we were in sight of him the whole time – if Ollie had positioned himself next to the paddock fence.

I did manage to get the switched without too much trouble, which was nice.  I’m not sure I’ve tried to do that before at liberty.

When I finished with Ollie and left him in the lane, I opened the gate to the paddock and let Atty out.  Then I opened the gate to the fields to let them out to grass.  They went out, but then Atty came right back and wanted treats from me.  He was fairly polite about it and I thought it was a bit odd that he’d come back to do that.  I gave him a couple Alam cubes and then he left again.  After he left, I discovered I had two Stud Muffins in my pouch!  Maybe he knew that but I didn’t.  Interesting.

When they went out again, Atty had to run around like crazy quite a bit – several laps of that field.  Usually it’s at most two and then he settles down to graze or roll.  Today he didn’t settle after one or two runs.  Was it the cold or the training?

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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