I may change the name of this blog to "A Year of Living Horsily" because I haven't been specifically harness training lately, and I suspect real life will continue to get in the way of my plans. The present need is to get Kasper comfy with the trailer. He needs to go for a Coggins test (so I can take him to summer camp with me), and he's a might bit afraid of the trailer. Last year he loaded fine but wasn't too happy once the door was shut.
So, trailering will be my task for the next couple of weeks. Yesterday, it only took me about an hour to dig the trailer out of the snow. This photo shows how deep the snow is where it hasn't been trampled. I have this skinny little path beside the barn wall to pull the hay sled along...
Once I had the trailer dug out, I had to dig holes for the truck tires to sink into so the hitch was low enough, etc etc. Once hitched, I tied Kasper and groomed him until he was relaxed, then we did some ground work in front of the truck, taking breaks for him to nuzzle the truck hood--it's so soft and smooth!
Then loading. I asked him to step up with his front feet, stand, and back out. After several repetitions of this, I stood in the trailer and bounced it and made noise until he relaxed. And then I asked him to step in with all four feet, let him have a mouthful of hay and then asked him to back out. That was tricky. He spazzed, spun (away from me so the rope went flying), leaped out, did an amazing air-above-the-ground that would have made any Lipizzaner jealous (and made me wish I'd put my helmet on) and came to a stop facing me. So I asked him again, and this time on the back-up he scrunched his hooves together like he was trying to balance on a loonie, quivered, and then stepped back to the ground. I gave him a good rub and called it a day.
Today he was so much better. I started with the same grooming and ground work routine, and the front feet back-up routine. When I asked him to step all the way in, he was quivery when he backed out the first time but after that he did really well, searching carefully with his back feet to see if he was at the edge. He went in and out about fifteen times and never tried to spin and dash out. I jiggled the trailer and tapped the sides and he was okay with that.
By the way, it's a three horse angle haul trailer, so he doesn't need to back out, but his habit is to go in-get scared-dash out, so the backing practice should be giving him more confidence in the trailer. The trickiest part of loading for me last year was getting Kasper to stay in long enough for me to shut the door! Whenever I had a helper, it went fine, but I need to be able to load him up on my own. Most of all I need him to be happy and content in the trailer!