Trailer Basics For Loading

We all know someone who’s been there, or we’ve been there ourselves. We’ve got a horse that doesn’t load but we usually manage to get them on the trailer somehow. It’s not exactly pretty but we manage to get the job done.

We spend weeks, maybe even months getting ready for an event. The day of the show arrives and the horse won’t load regardless of what we try.

It’s at that moment that most owners start searching for answers and looking for what they and their horse might be missing. That’s when the quest for knowledge begins. However the problem isn’t a trailer issue, it’s a foundation issue.

It’s true that the horse isn’t comfortable being on the trailer. But the root cause is also a lack of the necessary cues to get the horse on the trailer as well. It’s a combination of trust and conditioned response.

There are few things that can ensure safe trailer loading success. The first is consistency. Trailer loading is not something that will be fixed overnight or in just a few training sessions. The top clinicians will tell you that while your horse may improve quickly, at some point they will regress. This is why it’s so important to be consistent in your training. Just five to ten minutes a day will result in progress.         The next important thing is recognizing the try your horse gives you. At first your horse’s attempt may be as subtle as a weight change. Be looking for those subtle tries and be ready to reward them when they occur with a release of what you’re asking.

Another important component of good trailer training is patience. When problems occur it’s usually because we ask too soon. Don’t ask for the next step until they’re definitely comfortable with giving you the current step.

Horses are a conditioned response animal. If you make the trailer a place to rest and away from the trailer a place of work, it doesn’t take too long for the horse to figure out that when he’s at or in the trailer he works a lot less. This is one of the simplest things you can do to help improve your trailer loading issues.

Next, remember your basics. If you can’t control your horse’s feet away from the trailer how are you going to guide them to get on the trailer? You won’t. So go back to the basics of getting control of your horse’s feet. Fine tune the cues for making your horse go forwards, backwards and sideways so that your horse is light in asking for these three things. Don’t forget to work on your whoa as well.

One last trailer training safety tip is to teach your horse to go forward on the trailer by themselves. The last thing you want to do is be trapped in the trailer with a scared thousand pound horse looking for any way out, which by the way might be right over the top of you.

Have you got a horse that won’t load? Why do you think you horse doesn’t load and what do you think you can do to change that?

 

Trailer demo at clinic
Trailer demo at clinic
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Failures As Fuel

It took me until I was 44 but it finally happened. This past week I received an offer from a publisher for a book I started writing ten years ago. Needless to say, when I received the email I was in shock. I’ve dreamed about becoming a published writer since I was a teenager. While I’d written a few articles that were published, the queries for my books had only garnered rejections. The belief in my writing ability and vision were beginning to wear thin.

The last few days have been filled with writing a bio and a blurb for the publisher and perusing thousands of hot cowboys for my book cover- a rough life I know, but someone’s got to do it! This afternoon I received an email from my editor so the reality is finally setting in and I have to say it feels good and I’m genuinely looking forward to the whole process.

My romance novel, Lost Betrayal, will be published by Solstice Publishing in 2014 in digital format, initially. Here’s a snapshot of the book –

THE FUTURE OF THE RANCH HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down and destroys her family ranch in northern Georgia taking her hopes, her dreams and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. An ex rodeo cowboy with a past, Garrett has sworn off rodeo and the last thing he needs is entanglement with a woman on a wild horse chase but there’s too many unanswered questions, such as how a horse could stay gone so long.

Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her, holds the past, and her future. Sordid secrets and malicious betrayal jeopardize her efforts. Is she strong enough to push past the hurt and the lies in order to get back all she holds dear?

 

Everything that happens in my life I always wind up relating it to horses somehow, of course! This is no different.

Whether it’s breaking a colt or riding at the nationals, we all have dreams and goals that we want to accomplish. With every dream that we have, there’s going to be setbacks and failures and things that make us question whether or not we should pursue whatever it is that we want to achieve. Those failures make us question whether or not we’re being rational with our goals.

I’ve read time and time again to use your failures as a way to improve. Every time I received a rejection for one of my book projects, I always went back and tried to figure out what it was in my writing that caused the literary agent or publisher to not like the book. A rejection always resulted in a revision in my book, and ultimately improvement.

Working with horses shouldn’t be any different. When a horse rejects what we’re trying to teach them, sometimes the tendency is to think it’s the horses fault and in that case no one improves and the horse usually suffers for it.

In other cases, especially with better horsemen, failure in training should result in self-evaluation first. Just like with the rejection of the book, what was it in the training approach that caused the horse not to reject what was being taught? It’s only then that as a trainer can you move forward and improve.

I’ve always said that it’s the toughest horses that make the best horsemen. For that reason alone I love to work with difficult horses. The more difficult they are, the more I’m drawn to them. Why? Because the refusals are usually extreme, and the greater the refusal, the greater the self-reflection in an attempt to fix it. In the end we both improve better than we ever would have had the whole process been smooth.

Use your failures to fuel your success. What dreams do you have and what have you failures been in reaching that dream? What have those failures taught you and how have you let them make you better?

In or Out?

There’s a lot of rain and snow in many parts of the country this time of year. Wet weather can make it a little tougher to manage your horses and usually the one question we all ask is do we keep them in or do we put them out?

When it comes to wet winter weather, there are generally two camps of thinking for managing horses. One is to keep them up and make sure they’re sheltered from the cold and wet. The other is to throw them out because they need to be out as much as possible and it makes them hardy. Which one is right?

For years if it did anything more than just a sprinkle, I kept my horses up for several reasons. I didn’t want my small pasture dug up. I didn’t want my horses getting rain rot. I didn’t want them getting cold and sick. I didn’t want them to be miserable – I certainly wouldn’t want to stand out in the pouring rain all day long.

Through the years, my thinking has changed, or maybe it’s just that I’ve got too many horses and I’m always looking for ways to minimize my chores. Either way, I’ve gotten a little closer to the camp that thinks horses should be out as much as possible.

One argument you often hear in our area is the general story about the worst storm of the century and how all the horses chose to be out the in the storm and not in the run in shed. By the way, I lived that scenario in 1993 when the blizzard hit and I was working at an Arab farm and all the young mares were out in the storm and not in the shed. But is that always the case and is that a valid argument to throwing horses out to the elements?

Now that we’re at our new place we have one set of horses out 24/7, I have found the argument that horses had rather be outside is not entirely true. While some of my horses will graze out in the rain, I have one horse that insists on standing under the shed. Every time he starts to leave the shed, he’ll get halfway out and feel the rain and then immediately back under the shed again. He just detests the rain.

The horse with the blaze is the horse that backs up under the shed. 

Staying Dry

These guys go out in the rain all the time. They don’t care if they’re out. 

Like To Be Out

I don’t think the question, “In or out?” is a simple question. I think for one, you have to know your horse well enough to know whether or not he’ll be happy out in the elements. Some don’t pay any attention to the rain, and then others like the gelding that I mentioned are miserable. If a horse is miserable they’re going to be stressed and stress, as we all know, can cause health issues in horses. So in the long run is it really worth turning that horse out into the wet weather without shelter if he’s going to be miserable?

Another thing to consider is just how bad is the weather? Years ago I read an article that I use as a guide for managing my horses in wet weather. The article stated that if it’s raining and the temperature is below 40 degrees that horses require additional hay because they start losing body heat. If the weather is dry, that temperature threshold drops down to 20 degrees.

I’m fortunate now in that both my pastures have run in sheds and the horses can decide whether or not they want to stay out in the rain. If I didn’t have run in sheds, I’d still use the 40 degree rule for when it rain to determine whether or not I would turn my horses out.

Even though you may have ample shelter for your horses while they’re out, you also have to consider how well your horses get along. Do they get along well enough that everyone gets to go under the shed? Sometimes horses will pick on each other when they’re in close quarters. That usually means one horse will have to stand out in the rain. It’s important to know your herd’s dynamics for this very reason.

Your horse’s hooves are another thing to consider when asking whether or not you should turn your horse out. If your horse wears pads or special shoes and your pasture has a lot of deep mud, it might not be the best idea to turn your out. Deep wet mud can get trapped under pads and can also pull shoes off. You also don’t want a horse with severe thrush or other hoof infection or injury standing in wet ground all day.

“In or Out?” seems like a simple question. After all, it is only two options. When it comes to horse management however, it’s not that simple. When the weather gets wet, herd dynamics, horse temperament, hoof condition, and temperature are all things that you have to consider before you answer that question.

How do you determine whether or not you turn your horses out?

Sharing What You Have For Christmas

Christmas is right around the corner. It’s a time of giving but it should also be a time of reflection of how blessed we are. Often we get so caught up in the usual holiday obligations that we don’t stop and think how blessed we truly are to do what we do with our horses.

Most of us are pretty quick to be thankful for our horse. Our unique blessing actually goes a whole lot further than that, especially if you keep your horses on your own place. Most of us horse owners have a tendency to not even recognize just how fortunate we are.

Even at our old place that was just under 5 acres, I did feel very fortunate to be able to keep my horses at my house. It’s nice to just walk outside and dump feed and do stalls, etc. But as the new wore off, I complained about the barn, complained that I needed more pasture, complained that I wanted to be further out away from everything.

It wasn’t until some friends of ours from Pennsylvania came over that I began to see things completely different. They were from the city and lived in a subdivision. Our lifestyle, even on that small acreage, was completely foreign to them. What I thought was too crowded and too small was a rural paradise of quiet for them. They loved to just come and sit on the front porch of that old farm house and enjoy the country, or just come and pet the horses. What I had taken for granted was a great treat to them.

You might have competition goals and wish you had a more competitive horse. Keep in mind that while you’re wishing for another horse, some young kid or adult that can’t have one is just wishing for ANY horse. It doesn’t have to be a blue ribbon winner. As competitors we have a tendency to set our standards so high that we forget about the blessing of just having a horse in the first place.

As you stop and think about the blessings that go with owning your horse, also stop and think about those folks that don’t have that blessing but that would love to. Find ways to share that. It doesn’t have to be a two-hour trail ride through the mountains or an hour-long lesson in a dressage arena. It can be simple. Sometimes something as simple as inviting someone over to just pet your horse can make someone’s day. It’s amazing how a simple ride while you lead can bring a huge smile to a person’s face, adults and kids alike.

Pass the blessing on. Who can you share your horse with today?