In-Hand Harmony

Reverse Psychology

You may have read about the trainer’s horse refusing to load.  How humbling!  But yet another opportunity for me to learn and then pass that along.

Tobias had once again got to the point where he would “walk-on” to the trailer.  But as soon as I’d ask him “over” and put my hand on the divider, Tobias felt a need to back out of the trailer.  Asking him to stay in just seemed to make matters worse.  It became too much pressure.  And it became frustrating for me.

So the next time we were trailer loading and this happened, I decided, “Oh, goodie! We get to practice backing up! I love backing up!” As soon as Tobias had all four hooves in the trailer — instead of asking him to move forward and move over — I would ask him to back out, giving him a verbal “step” cue.  Because, truly, we needed to do this better.  He had been a bit clumsy with his hind feet ever since his colic and fractured withers.

(For those who haven’t heard the story, on the way to the clinic for colic surgery one evening in June, 2013, Tobias was evidently unable to stand up and got underneath the divider.  His attempts to regain his feet rammed his withers repeatedly against the divider until he was once again standing in his “stall” upon arrival at the clinic.)

Well, after about five times of practicing backing up, “No, no, Tobias.  I’m not ready for you to stay yet, please back up, yes, that’s right, now Step…”  Before I could ask him to back up again, he moved all the way in and put his body over next to the wall on our slant load and looked back at me.  I closed the divider, patted him on the rump and we were on our way.

The next time you’re getting frustrated with your horse, or your horse is feeling too much pressure, try some reverse psychology and then let us know how it goes for you.

Happy trails!

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