My TB, Freedom, is a great horse in many ways. But one of his major “holes” is that he is very difficult to load on a trailer alone. He’s resistant to loading even a the best of times. It’s funny because he’s not scared of the trailer. He plants his feet on the loading ramp and just refuses to move. He only melts down when he realizes he’s alone on the trailer (for the record, he can’t be alone in the barn, either — he’d either jump out of his stall or go right through the door). From there it can become a full blown anxiety attack in less than a minute.
The first time I trailered him alone was the day I picked him up. He loaded with the help of a broom and encouragement. Then the trailer started to shake. Really shake. He was weaving violently in the trailer. He was okay while we were moving but when we stopped for lunch, he went full tilt boogie and people were staring out the window at my trailer wondering what type of wild animal we had inside.
After that experience it was almost three years before I tried to ship him anywhere alone. After awhile I gave up and put my other horse on the trailer for company. I know it was a cop out, but it worked. I know, I’ve even written a post on Trailering Safely – Loading Tips and I still couldn’t get my horse to load without help and a companion.
Last year, I wanted to take him to a hunt. My regular hunting partner wasn’t going and I had forgotten that he’d been riding with a friend all this time. I got him onto the trailer reasonably quickly. Then he panicked. I didn’t realize he knew how to piaffe. I thought he might try to go over or through the front bar and try to sneak out the side door! Finally, I realized that motion was required. Once we were moving, he was fine. Circling the block gave me enough calmness that I was able to grab my hunt clothes from the barn and head off to the hunt. After two hours of hunting, he was also fine. It just proves that fatigue is a great antidote to separation anxiety. He even stood quietly on the trailer while I had lunch!
Today we had a major breakthrough. He loaded (after backing up a few times) with some help from my husband. He stayed relatively calm as I got into the truck and started it up. Even better, after my ride, I was able to load him without any help. Yes, I had to back him up a few times but in less than five minutes he was on the trailer and ready to go!
I guess the backing up trick is a well known approach because I found a Monty Roberts video that shows clearly how well this technique can work. My goal for the summer is to fix Freedom’s trailering problems for good and now I can’t wait to try it again.