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Thread: Loading improvement diary...but I don't know why?!! Ideas welcome...

  1. #1
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    Default Loading improvement diary...but I don't know why?!! Ideas welcome...

    Sorry this is long- I'm trying to work out why my pony's loading has improved dramatically with loading, so that if we start having problems again I know what to do...right now I'm clueless! Note: I may not have done things how you would have. That's fine, and I don't profess to be doing it the 'right' or the 'only' way now, I'm just trying to work out what has worked for my horse and why.

    Background
    In short, my pony has been a shockingly bad loader. For the first 5 years I owned him it has taken us anywhere from 1-5 hours to get him on a trailer or lorry (for a long while he wouldn't go on a trailer at all). This was PRACTISING, I don't mean just loading to travel, and even if we got him perfect practising, as soon as he travelled anywhere we were back to an hour or more to get him on again. For a long time he only travelled to move yards, as I couldn't guarantee that I could actually get him back from a show if I travelled him there. He had a minor trailer accident (cut himself up a bit) just before I got him, but no other bad experiences to note. He has an anxious disposition! Once on, he travels fine (although is not very relaxed).

    What I've tried
    What he does is plant his feet, either just off the ramp, or at the very bottom of the ramp, and refuses to move. If you put a lot of pressure on, he rears. I've tried lunge lines, whips, ropes, blindfolding him, pressure halters, practising endlessly, food, pressure-release in various different ways, travelling him with others. Nothing made it any better (or any worse mind you), and we would always be back to square one when you had travelled him and he wouldn't go near the ramp!

    Current strategy
    My current and consistent strategy is to put a normal thickness leadrope over his poll and looped through headcollar, and pull on that until he moves. He gets a release every step he takes, but otherwise the pressure stays on. I've learnt that for him, rearing is good, as it means he actually moves his feet. He can get mentally and physically 'stuck' and just switches off. When he gets on (and I mean when he is at a point I can tie him up and shut him in) he gets an apple or a small bucket of feed or mints or something. I learnt the hard way that if I give him food on the ramp he goes no further as he has already been rewarded for staying on the ramp!

    Progress
    About 3 years ago I was able to do slightly more travelling to shows with him, as I had sympathetic friends who claimed they were happy to wait as long as I liked...this meant an improvement, and we would tend to get him on the trailer or lorry within an hour of having started trying. Sometimes this was travelling alone and sometimes in company -he didn't seem to mind either and having another horse on didn't improve his loading.

    About 2 years ago, a friend was really keen to help us get out and about and we went to exciting places (sponsored rides, XC etc) in her trailer. Loading time then decreased to 20-40 minutes each time, he would just plant until a magical point in time where he would just decide to walk up the ramp.

    About a year ago, a friend and I took our ponies away on holiday to CER's and we travelled him 4 times in the space of a week (to CERs yard and back, to the beach and to SJ comp). He was still taking roughly 10-20mins to load, but that wasn't too bad. Since that trip we didn't get to any fun stuff (apart from one 3DE), because he has been intermittently lame. Because the lameness has been in the hind legs, I didn't want to risk worsening it by practising loading as that often comes with rearing.

    This year
    In April 2013 came my worst fear- the vets saying he needed to come in and see them I've always tried to improve his loading as I've always been scared he will need to see the vet, and any loading difficulties could worsen the injury He hadn't loaded in 8 months, but it only took us 10 mins and a bit of rearing to get on- it could have been a lot worse. On the way home it took 5 mins, which I put down to him wanting to leave the vets!

    In May he had to go to a different vets for a 5 day stay. I was worried as his last trip had been to the vets, and that he may not want to go on again. This time it took us 5 mins on the way there, and he walked straight up on the return journey. This bemused me a lot, as he seemed to be improving, although the journeys weren't leading to fun places!

    Today
    Today I loaded him on the same lorry (7.5t) we went on the last 2 trips to the vet. He flew up the ramp with NO HESITATION on the way there, and hesitated for about 5 secs on the return journey before walking straight up.



    I'm super pleased with today, but equally I've no idea why he is walking straight on. This has NEVER happened before. Is it the big lorry he likes (although he has travelled in big lorries before and that didn't seem to make a different to load time)? Is it the consistency of the vehicle (although when moving yards a lot the same transporter took us, and I have two main friends with trailers so there have been consistent vehicles in the past)? Has he just gotten over his fear??

    Any ideas welcome- and cookies if you got through all that

  2. #2
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    I think the other information that might be needed, is the dimensions and types of all the different vehicles?
    I admit I probably have more knowledge than other people of this

    Does the big 7.5tonne have a window in a certain place, is it sideways or forward facing? What angle is the ramp? Is this vehicle particularly light and bright? Is it wider/longer or maybe small and narrow so he feels secure?

    It could be that all the practising has finally paid off It might just be coincidence that he has loaded well, and the next time it takes 3 hours.

    The only conclusion I would say is that since I've known you, his loading time has significantly improved. So it is possible that you have now reached the point of "normal" loading.

    Or maybe he is now just desperate to leave the yard and do fun things
    Only when things do not interest one, can one give a really unbiased opinion; no doubt the reason why an unbiased opinion is absolutely valueless.

  3. #3

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    l'd say it could be a combination of things.

    - They do seem to load better and travel better on a lorry than a trailer
    - lt could also be that he needed a break. Some times practice can actually flood a scared horse to the point they shut down rather than actually accepting it without fear. Giving a long break allows them to 'forget' a bit and take the pressure off and then come back with a fresh start.

    Another question - when you have loaded into a trailer have you ever tried taking the partition out and opening the front ramp? lt makes a trailer seem less claustrophobic... Another get around can be to reverse them up the exit ramp ;}

  4. #4
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    Sometimes things just click. I couldn't long rein Hattie without her tanking off, I left it for a long while , tried again and suddenly she was fine.
    [SIGPIC][CENTER][/CENTER][/SIGPIC]

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by CER View Post
    I think the other information that might be needed, is the dimensions and types of all the different vehicles?
    I admit I probably have more knowledge than other people of this

    Does the big 7.5tonne have a window in a certain place, is it sideways or forward facing? What angle is the ramp? Is this vehicle particularly light and bright? Is it wider/longer or maybe small and narrow so he feels secure?
    It is a standard 3 horse lorry- side facing (which I know he prefers), some windows (but he doesn't like too many due to noise), ramp is much steeper than a 3.5t lorry or trailer. It's an old ish lorry, fairly dark inside I'd say. Much more room than he needs so I tend to wedge him in with the partition at an angle so he has less width than in a trailer at the frony but more at the back (as it's fixed that end).

    Quote Originally Posted by RoughRider View Post
    l'd say it could be a combination of things.

    - They do seem to load better and travel better on a lorry than a trailer
    - lt could also be that he needed a break. Some times practice can actually flood a scared horse to the point they shut down rather than actually accepting it without fear. Giving a long break allows them to 'forget' a bit and take the pressure off and then come back with a fresh start.

    Another question - when you have loaded into a trailer have you ever tried taking the partition out and opening the front ramp? lt makes a trailer seem less claustrophobic... Another get around can be to reverse them up the exit ramp ;}
    He definately showed a preferance for lorries, but then for a while wouldn't load into those either. He then was happy enough in a trailer and that was the vehicle he got down to 20/30mins loading time in originally. Since then its been a mix of vehicles..
    This isn't the only time he has had a break from it - there were times when we didn't practice or travel for 6 months or more at a time. He improved most rapidly when travellling to fun stuff regularly, but wasn't at the instant loading stage then? I haven't actually practiced loading him for a good few years now, on the basis that it's pointless as soon as he does a journey somewhere he goes back to the same loading time as usual!
    When we used to practice, we could do anything with the trailer including leaving it in an arena with all ramps open and no partition and a huge dinner inside and he wouldn;t set foot on in -and he's reasonably keen on his food!

    Quote Originally Posted by Clava View Post
    Sometimes things just click. I couldn't long rein Hattie without her tanking off, I left it for a long while , tried again and suddenly she was fine.
    Maybe... guess the only way to see if it's that is too keep going places and hope it doesn't worsen!

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