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.