Lila Versus the Trailer

 Posted by on 25 January 2014 at 10:00 am  Animals, Horses, Psychology
Jan 252014
 

Most horses, once they overcome their initial fears of the confined space of the horse trailer, are perfectly happy to load and unload without trouble. But… not Lila.

Lila doesn’t mind the trailer so much by itself. However, she’s a smart cookie, so she’s figured out that the trailer means work. She’s lazy, so work is bad. Lila can even tell when I’m just trying to practice loading her, because then she loads without a fuss. However, when we’re actually going somewhere — and particularly when I’m late — she’ll refuse to load (and act like an idiot) for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

So I’ve been playing a game with her lately, to try to convince her that the trailer is the place she wants to be.

I load Lila on the trailer, but I don’t secure the butt bar or shut the door. She’s free to leave whenever she pleases. However, when she backs out of the trailer, she’s immediately put to work (just groundwork — trotting, turning, backing, etc). After a few minutes, I load her on the trailer again, again without securing her. When she backs out, she goes back to work. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The game works, thankfully! However, I’ve found that I need to play it with her pretty regularly. Otherwise, she figures out that the trailer means work, and she doesn’t want to load. (Alas, that’s been hard to do in winter, when the ground is often slick with snow, ice, and mud.)

Interestingly, I’ve done variations on this game for some time before, without much success. The critical change that I made is that with this version, Lila chooses when to exit the trailer, and hence, when she’ll be worked. That way, she learns to correct her own impulse to leave the trailer — and in the process, she learns to yearn for the trailer. That’s an insight that I need to apply elsewhere in her training, I think.

Maybe someday, she’s be like these well-trained horses, who respond to the sound of the whip cracking by galloping in from the pasture and loading themselves:

But I doubt it!

   
Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha