Over the stable door
Greetings Fellow Equines and Horse Owners!
I hope you have all had a safe and happy Christmas season. So far the fire season has been pretty quiet, let's hope it stays that way. The maintenance work still needs to be done and kept on top of, especially growth of grasses and weeds around buildings and fence lines.
While the weather is good, if you have a neddy that is reluctant to go into his float, this is a good time to do some practice/training.
Here is a brief overview which may be helpful.
Some of you may be familiar with Tom Roberts and his 'go forward' principle. Tom was so far ahead of his time in his training, and his methods stand true today. So what I am saying here is that before your horse even sees the float, start your training on the ground away from the float in a place that he is relaxed in and familiar with. Ensure that he will go forward for you at the lightest of signals and also that he will stop on a light command too. Once you have those two ingredients, you are well on the way for stress free loading.
If you run into trouble and he stops going forward when he sees the float, it just means that your training in hand needs to be clearer. The in-between step can involve ensuring that he will go forward and stop willingly at some place other than where you started his training. The change of venue may seem minor to us, but it can be a big difference to your horse. You may even need to try half a dozen different places before your horse becomes more consistent.
Two other key factors here are that you yourself must be consistent too, and make sure you have plenty of time. If you have had several good repetitions of stopping and going in some changing locations, you can finish that session on a good note. Your horse will be better if he has time to process his experience. When you recommence, revise what he has previously learnt and all being well, you could introduce the float. Make sure your float is attached and clear of obstacles. Have a clean floor and tailgate so there is minimal chance of slipping. If there is a divider it is handy to move it across. Even a bit of positive reinforcement in the form of a hay net at the front of the float can be helpful too – you want everything on your side! When you present your horse to the float, he may need a bit of stepping forward and back just to reinforce his previous training.
It is very important that once presented, that you do NOT turn him away from the float. It is literally 'out of sight, out of mind'! If he stalls, let him look at the float, keeping facing into it for around 13 seconds. Do not hassle him. Quite often after 13 seconds, he will calmly walk on. Keeping everything calm will ensure that this training is a stress free experience and you will have more chance of success. Once he is on, ask him to step back before he chooses to do so. If possible, repeat the exercise. The ultimate aim is for him to load on straight, walk out straight and be able to stop and go anywhere on the tailgate that you ask.
The better your training is beforehand, the easier this will be.
The other prerequisite is for your horse to be able to 'park', or stand still. This too needs to be trained away from the float. Once in the float, when your horse 'parks', you can walk in or out without him wanting to rush out just because you have moved. There is much more to be covered here, so it will keep til next time!
Happy munching and safe riding,
PS I have a new paddock mate Sunny/Charlie