Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trailer Breakthrough!!!

Hooooooooo Boy! Feels like a lot has happened in the last week with Nigel. It was all set off by one of the best calls ever with my Coach Rachel*.

We came to the conclusion that Nigel's trailer issue was separation anxiety ... not the trailer. If you put that horse in a trailer with several other horses...he'd be happy as a clam to go wherever. He would be with the herd which is were he is the very most confident.

Once this became clear we were able to formulate an appropriate strategy. ... and to cotton onto the fact that I was now dealing with Left Brained* behavior. It had started out as a little worry (especially after we went next door a month or so ago and we had that big meltdown when the other horses got all worked up about him being over there)....but now....he had my number.

It came down to needing to let him stay in the trailer longer. The thing was, he was still banging around and making such a racket! But...he seemed to be just fine to stand in there and eat his grain. As soon as the grain was done the symphony began.

As we know, Right Brained*, stressed and scared horses won't eat. They usually won't touch even their favorite treat because food is at the very bottom of a horse's hierarchy of needs. Sooooooo this was a great "tell". He was cocking a leg munching away...until he deemed the grass outside the trailer more appealing than the hay inside the trailer.

The thing was that I couldn't just keep letting him out now that it was Left Brained. Rachel instructed me to clean stalls...weed the garden...whatever...just ask him into the trailer, feed him his food and leave him be. When he got quiet (even if it was for just a minute) I could let him out. Duh right?

Well, I proceeded to do this. And Nigel proceeded to pound. Arg! I just wanted him to stop! It was making me crazy! I told Kip later: "thank god this wasn't in a nice new trailer. we'll have to keep this one for practice for sure." What was I going to do though? He was in the trailer! I couldn't move him around until he wanted to keep his feet still....I needed a way to make pounding less desirable...

Then it came to me.... A flag! I marched into the barn and tied a plastic bag to a carrot stick. When I came back out I simply mirrored him. He pounded...I waved like a mad woman. At first he looked at me like "what in the hell???" (I was watching carefully to make sure this was just annoying him and not really scaring him) He kept pounding...I waved...he got still...I got still...he clonked his hoof experimentally....I waved softly... About five minutes of this tit for tat....he looked at me....cocked a leg and started eating his hay. GOTCHA!

I've felt as if we were at a plateau with the trailer. This tipped the balance. Now I've got his number. Today, he chilled in there for almost 45 minutes. 5 of those he was completely shut in. At the end of the 45 minutes...he started yawning...he finally, finally, FINALLY..let loose. Oh thank god.


  1. hahahaha! eurika! now you wanna know something funny, my old arab that went to Johns with me trained the people i sold him to by banging on the trailer. after a ride we would be chatting and he would bang and they would leap into the truck and wave apologetically and drive away. he was in there with his stable mate too.....he never pawed with me in the trailer but he did eat the light out of the top of it on one trip,( can you picture that? no cover no bulb nothing ever found) and he could open the escape door whole going down the highway.... ay yi yi!grin

  2. This was so interesting to read! Love the flag idea. Also, Nigel has the most handsome face!! Congrats!

  3. Good work Emma! Way to solve the problem with your horsey