Thanks to a Haulier calling off at the last minute we had the absolute pleasure helping a horse to load on to a trailer the natural way, without force, rope/lead rope, whip or shouting. This was a horse who had not been on a trailer for a good number of years and when he was he was always loaded with his longstanding mare being led in first. Sadly the mare (T) had passed over to Rainbow bridge a couple of weeks before hand therefore (B) the horse had to cope with going on this journey or new chapter in his life on his own. Having been grazing in this field, with his friend T for many years all this was a new entity, an experience he had never had to cope with on his own. We were told of T being ill before she died, although just a matter of days beforehand and after the dreadfully emotional day of her passing B was showing natural signs of the, now, massive void in his life, to the point of some of his 'normal' antics changing, for example he would go in to her stable, which was not normal, his pooing pattern had changed and his sense of mourning was apparent. His owner contacted us and after sensing her concern for him we offered, on the days we were seeing another Client in his direction, to pop in to see him to see how we felt he was and to give him our kind of tlc.
We soon realised that B was a very intelligent horse and loves to be mentally, one ahead, of any human. He's not one, at the moment anyway, who enjoys a lot of comforting, stroking or hard 'equine' scratches which can often be the key to encouraging a horse to take the next few stages naturally without being forced from either behind or from the front. He also seemed to be a horse who has given his all to his owner albeit with the odd panic attack in between and because of this his owner wanted to make this transition period as smooth as possible for him, especially after all the commotion he had to experience or face over the last few weeks of his partner's life.
If you have spent any time at all watching or trying to get a horse loaded on to a trailer or lorry, you will be familiar with the amount of times a horse is perhaps forced on or who continually looks behind to see when the next tickle from a whip or rope is going to be. In fact very few horses or large animal who has had trouble loading in the past does not look behind wondering - what's going to happen next, or where has that human who was shouting at me to move on gone, or what are the two people going to do behind me . . . because darn sure I'll be ready for them -
Often horses think : "I'll just leap to the side, or go up on my hind legs, or I'll put super glue on my hoofs and not take one step further, or I'll, all of a sudden just leap back - that'll make them all shift and lose their confidence! I know, I'll lead them to false pretences and milk them for all the treats I can get - I know that they haven't got the same patience as me and that I'll get hauled to go further forward - but why should I be forced to do something I don't want to, I have never forced them to do something they don't want to do nor have I kicked them from behind or hauled them to an area that I want them to be in. I mean come on, it's got to be 50 50 in everything in life otherwise life becomes a dictatorial one which can make our lives no fun whatsoever, it can also lead to a huge lack of trust. . . . all because the human is always in so much of a rush" with little understanding for those of us who do not speak the human language
The initial plan was to get someone to come along and load him in a lorry - a lorry having more room than a trailer - but sadly the person they asked, at the last minute called off - so one of their friends offered them their trailer.
The owner of this horse had kindly thought about placing the trailer in B's field a few days before he was loaded, they tied haynets round the side so that he could munch and be content around it. They placed the ramp down a number of times drank numerous cups of tea and ate many a sandwich in it with the hope that he might just waltz on himself but as much as this was a good idea, B thought - they must think I was brought down the Swanee yesterday, I don't load without my friend and she's not here!"
On this very cold January morning of B's owners arrived at 9.30'ish and after a period of time succeeded to encourage one of his legs on to the trailer, but as for the rest 'No thank you Mom'.
We arrived at about 11'ish, caught up with the progress to date and continued with a 'joint plan, but not a 50/50 communication plan but a 33.3/33.3/33.3 plan' or perhaps we should say we need to consider everyone on an equal wavelength but with B at the centre. Ideally we wanted him to load on his own, in a contented fashion, without any force, panic attacks or fearful situations or experiences.
B's owner, knowing that B had only ever loaded with T going on first, had the forethought to rub the trailer down with the smell of T's rugs and the juice from apples, in the hope that this would make him just walk on, but, sadly, it didn't, however we do feel the smell of her gave him that comforting smell, but he still wondered and was wary as to why he should go in to this trailer and quite rightly so.
Having been told on numerous occasions that B is a horse who works things out to his advantage and to a point where he has the ability to 'play with humans' on a 'one upmanship' basis, our comment was ' two can play at this game' so off to work we went.
As always, our ultimate goal was to encourage him to load with his owner alongside and not just for us. Like us, it was totally clear that, if at all possible, the owner did not want any form of trauma being inflicted on B and that everyone present sang from the same tune.
Having spent some time with B over the previous fortnight he naturally recognised us and accepted that we were not a threat to him, at least we hadn't been on previous visits so he had no reason to question our visit. He had also realised that we used his cues, not our own, which for this horse, as with many others (horses/dogs/humans/cows/bulls/sheep) always works at the end of the day.
So with just a halter on, down to work we went working the horses mental state of mind, not his physical being, after all no human, without the use of chains, rope and sheer constraint will win against a 3/4 tonne animal. Using this form of mental communication also gains a mass amount of trust between the initial instigator of all movements and the animal, to the point that the horse, in a relaxed fashion, soon learns that, mind over matter was infact quite a self learning curve but one that also brought 50 50 respect and a completely 100% positive result for not only this task in hand but also instills a 'happy memory' if asked to load again, that is as long as the same method is used. . . . and there lies the answer to all behavioural or requests asked of any animal (humans are included in this by the way!)
Remembering our goal was to encourage this horse on to the trailer, but not just by us. It was extremely important that the owner was able to do this. A saying she used on the day, every story/film/play needs a producer and an understanding director, once the script is written or set in stone and understood by all, then it is up to all involved to create it and to make it run as smoothly as possible. In this instance the horse was the Producer, we were the initial directors but once the directions were clear to all, then the Producer worked with anyone . . and this was indeed the case with B. By the time we had succeeded in mentally guiding him which was about 50 minutes later B was happy to stop where ever we stopped, whether on or off the trailer, go on and off the trailer as often as asked without the flinch of an ear or tail. He would stop and stare out of the trailer on his own accord all without any force, roping, lead rope. Another truly humbling result and another example of how using natures own ways gives 100% results and we hope this will encourage others to listen to all animals cues, whether horse, human, dog, elephant or bull.
On behalf of all animals who have been forced in the past, PLEASE give your animals the chance to work naturally for you, but above all, have patience and cut your verbal communication by 99.9%. After all they don't speak your language, they rely on body language, so if you stop they will stop etc.
Remember any any animal will milk your body language for as long as you allow them to do so and here lies their winning key!
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