After the ordeal of hitching the trailer to the truck, I proceeded to get everything ready for Dottie to load. I went to open all the back doors, and I couldn't even get the ramp down. One of the latches was frozen shut! I beat on the latch for about 20 minutes before finally getting it open. Then, there was ice on the rubber loading ramp, so I had to salt THAT. I tied a rope in the trailer, so I could hook her up easy once she walked in, and I finally went to get Dottie.
She immediately put a foot on the ramp, then another. Then, we waited. and waited. I rewarded her efforts with a handful of grain, but, it seemed she was content to stay right where she was. So, I encouraged her to step forward, and she backed off. We played this game for about 20 minutes. I decided that if I kept doing the same thing, she would probably keep doing the same thing, so, I tried a new approach. I did a little 'ground work' and had her move across the ramp, like I had seen some clinician do in a demo, a long time ago. She moved across the ramp, this time, stepping her hind legs on for the first time, so, I felt this was progress. After moving her back and forth across the ramp a few times, I thought we would try to load again. No luck. And, she was getting annoyed with me. The feelings were mutual. I tried backing her, and walking her forward a few dozen times. No luck. Of course, my husband was on child duty, so he was of no help. I'm not sure what he could have done, given that his only horse experience is feeding and cleaning stalls. But, he could have helped hold a butt rope, while standing out of the way.
I have had a lot of luck with a butt rope, in the past. Basically, this is a lunge line, hooked to the side of the trailer, draped behind the horse's buttocks, and held by someone who stands clear of all danger. That way, the horse can kick at the rope, and no harm is done. The rope simply provides a steady pressure, and the horse is usually more concerned about moving away from the rope that is pushing in an unfamiliar manner, than the trailer. I had trained and shown my vet's horse, during my last year of 4-H, and I had to do this every time I loaded her. She would have nothing to do with the trailer, but, once the butt rope was behind her, she hopped on. Finally, there was a time where I simply got the rope out, and she hopped on, without ever using it. I could practically see her thinking..."OK, I guess if you are going to use THAT thing, I might as well get on." By the end of the show season, she was willingly hopping on the trailer without any funny business.
But, this was a new problem, for me, trying to load by myself, with a horse that didn't want to load. I decided to try the butt rope, all by myself. I hooked it to the side of the trailer, gently slid it over her back, got back into leading position, then gave the rope a slight flip so that it went behind her buttocks, and I applied ever so slight, pressure. A step forward! I gathered up the rope as she slowly stepped towards the trailer, and kept it taut. Then, she walked right in! Hallelujah! I snapped her in, shut the divider, closed the doors, put up the ramp, and headed out. Whew, 45 minutes of fussing around, and I pulled out the butt rope, and she hopped right in.
|Looking around, wondering WHERE AM I ?!|
|Before I got on, I tried to snap a photo...she was loose, walking beside me. |
Not quality photography, but you can still tell she is cute, right?
|English bridle, western saddle. Identity crisis.|
I had a bystander do a quick video with my phone. She was trotting more collected prior to taping, but, after getting the video ready, she must have thought she was done. But, not bad! Oh, this is my first EVER youtube video!
Her canter, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Uncollected. Uncoordinated. Fast. Ugly. So, I didn't tape that, I didn't want to embarrass ourselves. In fact, the bystanders who had admired her at the trot, jokingly asked if they should get the barrels out. Ugh. I know she (like me), is out of shape, because we haven't ridden since fall, but, it's still pretty bad. Maybe I'll tape it just so I can admire how far we've come, a few months from now. I'm thinking positive.
We enjoyed our ride, and I was tickled pink that she was sensible. In fact, she had just come into heat, and was still sensible. Good girl! I was worried about loading up to leave. I didn't mess around, and at first balk, I flipped the rope behind her, and, without hesitation, or my having to apply any pressure, she walked right in. When I unloaded her, she calmly walked out, as if she had done this a hundred times. All this sensibility is getting my hopes up, that I might actually put out a decent performance at our first show. Well, decent performance if it is a walk trot class!