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Horse Trailers: Loading The Stubborn Horse - Part 1

By Jeffrey Rolo

Over the years I've loaded many horses into horse trailers and have observed that the number one cause for resistance is fear. Usually a well-trained horse will load and unload in the blink of an eye once he gets over his fear.

That having been said, sometimes even the best horse will feel a bit ornery. Much to my shock, Sir Paul, who is the most reliable stallion I have ever had the pleasure of working with, decided one day that he just didn't feel like loading onto the trailer for the ride home. He did it a hundred times before and surely wasn't afraid of it he simply felt stubborn that day.

So if all of a sudden your normally reliable horse suddenly decides not to cooperate with your loading request, try not to get too flustered or hold it against him. I have yet to see a horse (or a human, for that matter) that doesn't have a quirky or bad day once in a while.

In Horse Trailers: Loading A Nervous Horse I discussed the importance of determining if the resistance is caused by fear or stubbornness. The reason it's so important to establish the root cause of the resistance is because the steps to overcome the resistance are entirely different in some cases the exact opposite! Read the aforementioned article, then read this one, and you'll see just how different the corrective actions are.

You will take a more forceful approach towards a stubborn horse than you will with a fearful horse, but with the following caveats:

bulletYou're not going to be physically forceful you're going to be mentally forceful. Instead of coddling the horse, you know he's misbehaving and you're going to call him on it.
bulletEven though your approach will be a bit more aggressive, you must still remain patient and calm throughout the session. You're not going to engage in a battle with your horse, and you're not going to let his naughty behavior get under your skin.

A stubborn horse will either spoil for a fight by trying to overpower you physically, or he will simply ignore you. It's important that you not allow either to happen. If your horse attempts to pull back sharply or control the direction of the movement, don't play his game.

Instead of allowing him to back up, the moment be begins to force him to. Don't allow it to be his decision when you detect yourself losing, make it your request. In addition perform a series of absolutely mindless and boring tasks such as repeated forward and backup sessions. Your goal here is make resistance mind-numbingly dull such that he gives up playing his little game and agrees to load into the horse trailer.

So what should you do if your horse is feeling particularly stubborn and not reacting to your lighter cues? Find out in Part Two of Horse Trailers: Loading A Stubborn Horse.

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