Q

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.

NZ Horse & Pony - - Ask the experts -

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.

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