What I’m doing is not training them to get on the trailer, per se. What I’m doing is desensitizing and classically conditioning being ON the trailer. This is different than training for loading.
Of course, they have to get on first before I can do the second. But the DS/CC work is primary.
Yes, I am currently retraining Ollie to self load at liberty because I’ve never done that with him before. Not at liberty, anyway.
But both horses have issues with the trailer moving. And, once they’ve had a trip in it, they are loath to get back on the next day. In fact, in a previous blog I mentioned that Atticus got a bit freaked out when I closed up the back doors on him three or four days after a two-hour, round-trip trailer ride.
This being uncomfortable while being on the trailer and the doors closing is what I need to do the DS/CC work for. Being closed up is what cues the anxiety since the trailer usually moves after that. I’m trying to take it as slowly as possible and work in the tiniest increments that I can think of while making sure that the process is not only comfortable but even enjoyable.
Do you remember going to the dentist as a child and getting little toys after the visit to help make the visit more enjoyable? I’m not sure it helped all that much but it was better than nothing. Candy would have helped more, but I’m sure the dentist thought that would be counter productive! J
That’s what I’m trying to do with the trailer – make the whole process of getting on, staying on – even while moving – and getting off is still enjoyable.
Yes, I use jackpots in the hay bag. I have all along. But I just recently added in the rarest treats available to me and, I assume, valued by the horses.
Do jackpots really make a difference? It seems to, at least for horses. The science says no, but we do it anyway. (I want to explore this in another blog.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, let’s have a party! In the trailer! No? How about right outside the trailer? Now how about just inside the trailer? A little farther in? Not yet? Okay, we can stay here awhile. We’ll move farther in when you’re ready. In the meantime, we’ll go at your pace and only raise the criterion when the current level elicits joy in you, the learner.