RUSHING OUT My horse has a really bad floating problem. She loads perfectly, but once it’s time to come off the float she rushes off really fast. Sometimes she even ducks under the chain or bar of the float! I’m not sure what I can do to help her.
Never talk or yell at your mare and never pull against her when she rushes backwards. You must remember that she rushes backwards because she’s worried. This behaviour starts when a horse has a frightening experience in the float. If you pull against her, your mare will become even more frightened. She’ll raise her head, pull against you and then she may hit herself and make the problem worse.
Here are a couple of rules that apply to everyone, every time you load and unload your horse.
Always do up the tailboard/loading ramp before you tie your horse’s head in the float. Always tie your horse so that her tail end hits the back of the float before she comes to the end of the lead. That way your horse won’t learn to pull back and fight in the float.
Every time you unload your horse, undo the lead rope before you lower the tailboard. This will prevent your horse pulling back when the tailboard is lowered.
In your mare’s case, undo the chain or bar at the rear before you lower the tailboard. By doing this, your mare won’t have a drama if she does rush backwards.
In my experience, most horses who rush out of the back of the trailer seem genuinely afraid. In most cases, you’ll probably never know what frightened the horse to rush out backwards in the rst place, but once the behaviour starts, it’s tough to correct. e panic and commotion of rushing out seem to recon rm the fear for the horse each time. Trying to hold her in the trailer by pulling on the rope which applies pressure to her poll will not work, and discpline will also con rm to her that she’s in a really fearful situation.
Interestingly, the panic and rushing typically seem speci c to the back out unloading situation. Simply changing to a truck or front o -loading trailer in which you can lead her out forwards can immediately reduce everyone’s stress levels.
However, if an alternative vehicle isn’t in the plan for economic reasons, and it’s necessary to re-train your girl for a regular trailer, the most e cient and long-term e ective approach I know is to go back to the basics and re-train her to walk forward, to stand, and to back on command.
For the rst training session, just work on these commands in an open area without a trailer. Keep repeating the training until she responds and calmly obeys on voice command, without any tension on the lead shank. While she is obeying the stand command, give her a treat.
en move on to doing the exact command sequence, but going into and out of the trailer. Load, stand, and unload several times at rst without trying to close up the back bar or ramp. Just lead her rstly so she just stands on the ramp and then gradually get her further and further into the trailer, ask her to stand, and give a treat while she is standing quietly. It is imperative to maintain a loose lead and a relaxed, calm manner.
en, use your back command and direct her to back slowly out of the trailer. As she backs out, you can give the stand command and reward her stopping and skip the treat and resume.
en, once she begins to reliably follow the commands with little or no tension on the lead, reintroduce the back bar or chain and the closing of the ramp. Be as calm and relaxed as possible, so that your fear of the potentially dangerous situation doesn’t alert her to a ‘dangerous situation’. While the back is being done up, the person at her head can distract her with a bin of tasty feed for standing quietly. When the ramp is taken down, again calmly hold her attention to the tasty feed rather than tension on the halter or lead. Wait a variable length of time a er the bar is removed before giving the back command.
A er she is calmly following all commands in this situation, you can actually practise going on short trips and repeating the procedures.
I reckon that this problem is a situationspeci c variation of head shyness, in that it develops and is exacerbated by tension on the back of her head.
Devon, if you can’t change her vehicle you must change the timing and degree of the tension you apply to the back of her head via the rope so she doesn’t feel the need to panic and break free.
Wanting to do them is the best place to start! Fear, just like any other emotional response, serves a useful purpose and its primary message is that we need to get prepared to change the situation or get prepared to cope with it.
Begin by identifying specifically what it is that you are scared of. Only once you have narrowed it down to specifics can you start to form a strategy for remedying it, and the subsequent steps that you need to take to move forward.
It is certainly more common to experience fearful limitations as we get older, but there is really no reason to allow ourselves to be defined by them, or to see them as permanent and pervasive. The further we progress through life, the more experiences we have had, the more mental patterns we have established, and as a consequence, more variables come into play. As a result, we might find ourselves feeling less confident in some areas, but also more proficient and capable in others; it’s just a matter of where we are directing our focus.
In terms of your fears in the saddle, once you have identified what it is specifically that you are afraid of, you can examine them further by shining the spotlight on two areas; your processes and your procedures. Your processes refer to how you are thinking about the situation and what you must do in order to be able to prepare yourself mentally; your procedures refer to your strategy. How you are going to go about things from here and what are the best possible actions to take?
I deal with fear within a three-pronged assessment; encompassing your level of confidence, your level of competence and the combined partnership that you share with your horse. Aside from a debilitating mindset, fear and a lack of confidence can also arise when our level of competency comes into question; perhaps you are experiencing behavioural or training issues with our horse? A lack of confidence is when you are held up by doubts and worries; a lack of competence is not knowing how to do what you want to do. You can further differentiate between the three by asking yourself the following questions:
What is the problem here? Do I really know what it is that I am trying to achieve?
Are the limitations that I am experiencing due to a lack of confidence, and do I have the mindset or emotional capacity to follow through?
Do I have the skills and the know-how to make this happen? If not, what do I need to learn and who can I get to help me?
The answer to the first question will provide you with clarity; the second and third with a better understanding of whether the fear finds its roots in issues of confidence, or issues of competence.
If you isolate the issue as one primarily of confidence, then you can look at techniques to resolve this and help you press reset. If it’s an issue of competence, then you can ask yourself what resources are available to you; what do you need to learn and who can you get to help you in order to be able to move from where you are now to where you want to be?
The actions that you take will be very much dependent on your specific situation and triggers, but please don’t give up!
You just have to keep your eyes on the prize and remain flexible enough to keep on persisting.