Loading Practice Session 1

December 24, 2014

The one draw back with Spike is his lack of interest in loading onto a trailer. When Zoe and I picked him up it took a few minutes but we were obviously successful. When I took him to practice he was a little more difficult to load than the previous time, but again there was success. The trailer Load home from practice was even more challenging than the previous two.

So I decided that this needed to be a priority project. Last weekend I parked the trailer in one of the paddocks and got down to business. And that business went on and on and on.

I spent the first two hours (yeah, two flippin hours) doing the lunging method. Lunge = work, or get in the trailer = no work. So when he bulks at loading he gets a nice lengthy lunge. The thinking is that he will eventually get tired and agree to walk into the trailer. Nope. He was soaked in sweat. I was soaked in sweat. We were both huffing and puffing. And Spike was not getting any closer to the trailer.

My husband was kind enough to take on a few rounds of lunging for me otherwise there is no way I could have kept up that pace. We also tried the good ol “feed” technique which did not help at all.

So my husband and I worked together with a more aggressive “get your ass on the trailer” approach. This method completely backfired. Spike freaked out and wouldn’t even get into the vicinity of the trailer. And when I say we were more aggressive, I mean I put a chain over his nose and used a dressage whip (appropriately).

After a few minutes of that it was clear that it was not going to work. So I put a long line on Spike, I climbed into the trailer with a bucket of feed, and I stood there. I didn’t pull on the line, I just stood there. After about five minutes Spike walked into the trailer and stuck his head in the bucket. I let him eat a few bites and smothered him in pats and good boys. Then I unloaded him and did the same thing again. Me standing in the trailer with a bucket of feed and a loose line to Spike. It took about five minutes but he climbed back in and again, I let him chow down while I patted and good-boyed all over him. Then I did it a third time and called it quits for the day.

I should probably be clear, Spike is not afraid of the trailer. He is simply being a pig head. It is also notable that I am not the most patient person. This was an extreme challenge for me. I also have never had a really bad loader. Yeah I have had a few that bulked a bit but I trailer so much they quickly learn to jump on. This whole refusal to load thing is not going to swing.

So I decided to leave Spike in the paddock with the trailer and to put his feed and hay in the trailer. It’s a dirt paddock so if he wanted to eat he had to go in the trailer. Genius right? I sure thought it was. But I was wrong. The first down fall to this plan was me coming down with the flu. I was feeling really rough, and simply walking to the paddock to check his hay level and then walking back to my bad was enough to knock me back on my butt (walking from my bed to the kitchen for a ginger ale was almost as exhausting). The second problem with this plan is that Spike was left in the paddock alone, and the other two ponies apparently spent all their time taunting him. So spike was completely preoccupied trying to catch glimpses of Simon and Poe. He ran back and forth and whinnied a lot. The third and final downfall was Spike is complete pig head. He just flat out refused to give in. After 1 1/2 days of him not eating I moved his food down the trailer so he could reach it with his front hooves in the trailer. He ate the grain but only a little of the hay. Then he went right back to pony watching. So I moved him back to the main field with his buddies.

As soon as I am feeling a little better I plan to get back on this problem. I think I’ll try a reward for all forward momentum. Treats up to the trailer, each step gets a cookies. And me remaining completely patient. I’ll be sure to update our progress.

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