Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Not About the Trailer

Except that sometimes it is. Sort of. Because there is something about a trailer that brings to light every hole, warp and wiggle in the foundation of your horsemanship.

I came to Parelli because I couldn't load my OTTB. My journey with Moose taught me so much and there isn't much I cannot do with a horse and a trailer. I am so confident in my abilities with trailer loading that I told Pat Parelli himself there isn't a horse I cannot load. And Pat Parelli believed me - so much so that he told the entire Tour Stop audience about our conversation. I have developed Cricket's trailer loading confidence to the point she will, at liberty, canter into a strange trailer.

And then I met H. A big OTTB with more charisma, bravado, fear and unconfidence than any horse I have ever encountered. H has a rough history. He has pin-firing scars, a deep terror about jumps and a propensity to bite when he's frustrated. He has intense squeeze issues.

When I first began helping H and his owner, our biggest concern was trailer loading like a gentleman - going on when asked and waiting to come off when asked. Frankly, it was a bit of a band-aid and I know it. But how do you be that particular with a horse that has so much emotional damage? You just cannot do it, it's not fair.

So now we are trying to become more particular with H. Load the front feet and wait to load the back feet, accept a Yo-Yo game inside the trailer, unload and then re-load the hind feet without unloading the front feet. He is stretching me to the limits of my savvy. But it feels good to be challenged by trailer loading again.

On Sunday I spent almost 90 minutes helping him trust me to just load the front feet and then give him the choice to commit his back feet or retreat. Six months ago, this horse would have thrown himself to the ground in frustration. He was concerned, even a little unconfident but he never lost his trust in me. He blinked and licked and chewed through the entire episode. I was so proud of the strides he's made in his emotional fitness. What a cool horse!

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