The herd are near the grazing cell gate when I go out to bring them in. The two Fells lying down. We do greetings and treats. It's cold. Tatters of yesterdays snow still lying around.
Everybody out and the gate shut I get on Iona. Carrot stick and string, halter and finesse reins. Bruce is the leader and he kindly waits until Iona and I are set to go. There is no real discussion, we just all leave. Bruce, Iona and me, Hunter, then Dakota. That's the usual travel order these days, same as the dominance order. Bruce doesn't go very fast. He's careful. Checks everything - even going from one side of the track to the other sometimes to see what's behind brush. It must be nice to follow him, if you're a scared pony. He takes his job seriously.
We trundle along. I never touch my reins or use the stick or my legs. It's like some sort of royal procession. Slow and dignified. I know if I was walking we would go a lot faster, but probably less dignified. Everybody stays calm and I concentrate on fluidity, on staying out of 'Ony's way.
Bruce stops to sniff noses with Molly, the pup. When we all stop I see she is wondering what to do about it. I try to figure out whether she is trying to herd us yet, then laugh at myself for thinking in terms of "us". Guess I'm a horse now!
We go on and come to an area that's slippery. It's always Iona's back feet that slide out behind her because she's on the forehand. I try to think of ways to shift my position to encourage something else, but it's not effective and I don't feel like using my reins. Maybe tomorrow....
At the water tank I hop off. There's half an inch of ice. The Fells push it under with their noses and try to slurp. Iona gets impatient and breaks the ice with her hoof. Job done.
Hunter - 1st trailer loading session
Thought I'd do a bit of this with each horse this week, as on Friday we have a trailer trip to the dentist for the whole herd. He was high headed even as I led him in. I'm trying to think what was bothering him - maybe some new tarps on haystacks? I led him in a circle each way around it. Had to defend my space a little, and quite a lot of snorting going on. I managed to sneak a treat onto a fender and then played Touch It. He loves that, and it gave him something to focus on. He munched the treat then came to ask me for another one. He can do that and still be really on his toes, which he was. Food motivated even while he's high. I snuck into the trailer and put one on the floor about a foot from the edge for later.
We played a bit of squeeze between me and the open door, and he chose to dash into the trailer, turn around and dash out again. Whatever! It seemed like he hardly even knew where he was. Next time he tried that I blocked him with a rope wiggle and we got a better squeeze game going. He was pretty respectful of my space and I could stand really close. Asked him to touch the trailer opening this time and he found the treat. Score!! So I offered him a squeeze in. He did the dash in and out thing again a couple of times. I would have taken just zone 1! Maybe I was shouting with my ask. I tried not to, and there was no stopping him once he headed in. I still felt that he wasn't thinking much about where he was in physical space. I think this is how he is always getting hurt. (OMG maybe he's a candidate for TTeam! That's supposed to tell a horse where his body parts are, etc.)
I began to suspect that he is afraid of coming out, particularly backing out. In fact I think that would be a huge challenge for him right now. Thank goodness it's a stock trailer! Hunter's way of dealing with things he's scared of seems to be to push through and get it over with, so I think that's what he was doing. Finally, a couple of times I managed to get him stopped with just his front feet on, then back him off. It wasn't very straight, but he managed to get them down fairly gracefully. Cool!
Later when we got all four feet in again I managed to ask him to stand inside and relax. Even though he had already turned around, I felt that was big progress. I rubbed him and gave him a treat and he came off much slower and more aware. That seemed like a good place to quit for the day. We do need more preparation, but I don't think he will have a problem, as long as the rest of the herd is travelling, too. Even if he doesn't learn to back off this week, we will get there.
Mark and I have spent a lot of time recently reviewing old Savvy Club DVDs, and we've been enjoying the tour stop segments. Of course there's always trailer loading involved, and Pat is very "free form" about it. I think that this has helped me a lot with my own loading approach. In a way, maybe more so than all the "How to Trailer Load" stuff that Pat has produced. It has opened up my thinking a lot and helped me focus more on principles and less on technique. This PNH stuff really does work!