While teaching with our level two students on trailer/horsebox loading, I had been working with a couple of horses that would load ok. During the lesson we were discussing the do’s and don’ts, covering health and safety aspects and some basic points.
I thought I would let the students see what it is like to load a more challenging horse, to get an idea of how we could help the horse get things right. I decided to pick a horse called Azzura.
Azzura is one of our long standing clients horses who has been with us for eight years. She came to us very aggressive and confused but over the years has become a pretty good riding horse although she still has her moments, especially with vets. Azzura had only travelled once in her life and that was to come to our yard, she had never seen a horsebox or trailer since.
So we brought her into the arena and let her have a look at things, remember she has never been loaded for eight years. I got her to the ramp and she was pretty nervous and wary, I let her have a good sniff and look inside. I walked her away and brought her back to the ramp, she was still pretty nervous but she walked up the ramp and onto the box, she turned quickly and then rushed off, which I let her do, not wanting to increase her tension. I repeated this a couple of times then began sending her in on her own which she did but not without a lot less stress and tension in her body. At that point I stopped and gave her a pat then put her in the paddock.
Some of you might think this was not as good a session as it could be but the thing that stuck out for me is that there was no techniques used, save for the fact that the horse trusted me and l had known her for eight years. Her day to day handling is always the same consistent rules. It was trust not technique that allowed her to load and as I told the students, yes there are techniques for loading but the skill is finding what works for the individual horse at that particular moment. I always try to do what the horse needs then refine it till it becomes the norm.
I look at things in a scientific way, try, get it good and repeat the experiment. Look at each horse as an individual and cater for that individuality.