Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lefty's Lesson


Lefty and I worked on my fear issues today. His, as well. I backed the trailer up to the gate and tossed in a flake of hay, then led him over and let him load himself up. It's been a month, just over, since our accident. My toe was throbbing as I led him to the trailer. The muscles in my leg still reminded me of my crash into the dirt. Our last attempt at working on Lefty's trailer issues had nearly landed me in a more dangerous position as he panicked, turned and kicked on his bolt from the trailer.

So there we stood at the door, him looking at the hay, me taking a deep breath and tossing the lead over his back.

Let me step back in time a couple days for you. City Boy was out cleaning paddocks, me sitting here editing photos from my trip, when he called me on the cell to ask if Steve Holt! and Lefty could be turned out together. Sure, I said. They'd gotten along well enough last time. It wasn't more than a few minutes when I received another call with a laughing City Boy at the other end. "Steve Holt! wanted to play, but Lefty didn't, and he ran in here and stood behind me with his head buried in my back!" Someone should tell Lefty that he's too big to hide behind his human. But it was a good move, because Steve Holt! wasn't going to come get him as long as he had City Boy to protect him.

And that's the personality I'm dealing with. One minute, he's a two year old hiding behind you. The next? He's a two year old lashing out with hind feet due to fear. Which one was standing at my side right now?

Lefty stepped right into the trailer, leaving me standing on the outside. Good...nice to know I can send him in. I let him bury his muzzle in the alfalfa, and shut the doors behind him. I began to set up dinner for the other horses, leaving Lefty for a few minutes. Then I returned, ready to let Lefty face his fear...unloading.

After being hauled, Lefty has exited the trailer like a bottle rocket. Right now, as the doors swung open, he definitely made a hasty exit, but nothing like the last few times. Better yet, he turned around and immediately loaded himself back up in an effort to finish his hay. I shut the doors again.

I stepped up on the wheel well and talked to him now and then. For the most part, he was rock steady. He flinched a couple of times as I bounced up, but settled right back down. I opened the doors again, and this time he walked out a bit more quietly. This time I picked up the lead and sucked it up. I stepped into the trailer with him, but only allowed him to enter with his front feet. He stopped when I asked him to, I gave him a pat, then asked him to back up. He stepped right back out without any argument. We did it again, and the third time I let him step in with all four feet. And with all four feet, he backed right out when asked.

Now I was beginning to feel confident, as was he. I led him in and turned him around so that he was facing the doors. It had been suggested by Wendy at the BLM corrals to tie him in backward, so that he was facing the doors, so that when I entered the trailer I was at his head and not his hind end. Brilliant! Why hadn't I thought of that? Why didn't you think of that and tell me?

I didn't do it. I exited the trailer and closed the doors. I stood on the wheel well and Lefty looked up at me, letting me know the hay was about gone. I grabbed his halter, then the lead, and from the outside of the trailer (far safer there), I tied him. Then I went back to the doors, took a deep breath, and opened them.

Lefty didn't pull or panic. He waited. I reached in and rubbed his nose. But I couldn't quite bring myself to step up and untie him. Instead I walked outside and pulled the lead, undoing the knot. Lefty stayed put, not knowing he was able to exit on his own. I went back to the door, reached for his nose, grabbed the halter and my courage and stepped up into the trailer. I took his lead, and together we walked out quietly.

I feel better now. Inside, that is. My toe still hurts.


Crystal said...

ya, one fear conquered!
a few more quit entrances and exits and he will be over his fear and then hopefully no more kicking and getting hurt.

He is soo adorable, love the picture!

photogchic said...

Success! Just wondering why you want to tie him? After my big trailer accident, I use the blocker tie ring, so if she pulls back, there is release and no panic. But I also un hook her before I open the door...never again will I get slammed into the wall by a panicking, tied, horse. But it sounds like you are on the outside for the most part....

Anonymous said...

Sounds really good! Loading and trailering are things I never enjoy, even though my horses all do well (now- some of them didn't start out that way). I'm always careful, though, to not tie until the partition/door is closed, and untie before opening up, just to avoid accidents - I've seen bad things happen to horses and people when a horse panics while still tied.

I know how hard those fear issues can be - good for you for working on it!

Jeni said...

Whew! I'm glad this trailer training session ended better than the last. For both of you.

Tracey said...

I was quite pleased with how it went yesterday. For those who missed the post about our last trailer loading...he stood quietly until I reached up to untie him, then it was as though he'd had no clue I'd stepped up there with him. I got him untied, he never did pull, just turned and bolted out, and on his way kicked up his heels. Barely brushed my fingers with those hind feet. Both issues need to end...the kicking and the bolting :)

Linda said...

Wow--I think it took a lot for you to work through that!! Congratulations. I understand the fearful personality horse, Beautiful is the same way....or was. She's not at all an aggressive horse--apparently, Lefty isn't either.

CTG Ponies said...

Awesome progress! It's hard facing down your fears.

Shirley said...

Always err on the side of caution, sez I. Even with nice quiet horses like Beamer, I usually undo the ties from outside the trailer before I step in to lead him out. It's not being wussy. It's being safe.
And I never mentioned angle loading because I assumed that most folks turn their horse to face the back before tying them in. If I'm tying one horse, I usually tie them in the middle of the trailer 9we have an open stock type trailer)that way they can swing their butt to the front or back, depending on where they need to be for balance.

Rising Rainbow said...

The hardest thing there is to dealing with horses is fear and the older I get the more of it I have. You're not alone.