I know I have been a bit quiet on the blogging front but first I had a chest infection and so was feeling poorly and generally sorry for myself and then when feeling better I have gone head first into a couple of new projects. I am VERY excited about the things to come but more of them later.
This post concerns a visit to the yard where I keep my horse from horse behaviourist Richard Maxwell. Ania and her equine partner Rabbit were having some ‘issues’ regarding loading. Ania wanted to be able to take Rabbit out to clinics to have fun and expand Rabbits world. Rabbit did not want to go anywhere in that red box thing. As it ever is with horses what started out as a small sometime problem soon became a battle of wills and muscle, one that physically we puny humans can never win unless we use our brains over brawn.
After Ania received the very generous birthday gift from her husband of a horse trailer she also booked herself a visit from Richard. To say she was nervous before the event was an understatement. Richard had told her to set aside up to 3 hours and a safe place to do the loading. We have a few sand turnouts at the yard and one is big enough to get the trailer in ready for Rabbit and Richard to do their stuff.
When I got to the yard Richard had already been there a little while and was in the main school with Rabbit on the end of the lunge line using one of his pressure release halters. He was establising with Rabbit what his commands meant and reinforcing the edict that release of pressure is the reward for the required behaviour.
It didn’t take long for Rabbit to understand Richard – when we ask the same clear question we get the same response. Most of what Richard was saying to Rabbit was non verbal but he did have to explain it to Ania!
Then it was time for Rabbit to face the trailer.
After a couple of objections from Rabbit she finally understood what Richard wanted and didn’t look back – literally.
Then it was Ania’s turn……
Again no problems.
Richard then suggested Ania put Rabbit in her stable for about 20 mins and then take her out and try again. After her rest Rabbit came out and loaded like a professional. Richard then gave Ania some homework, practising loading on the yard before venturing out with her. So far, so good Rabbit has turned into a model loader and Ania has taken her out and loaded with no problems – she has now booked herself on a cross country clinic and only has the jumps to worry about when she gets there.
Having watched the process I would highly recommend Richard, it wasn’t complicated – far from it. Knowing the questions to ask and asking them in a clear and consistant way gets results, to be honest it’s no different from the ground or the saddle. It reminds me of a phrase that I hear quite often in my own lessons – ‘it’s not the horse, it’s you’ – if you ask the right question you’ll get the right answer!