Escalation and de-escalation

Working with Nay over the last couple of weeks with loading has taught me a lot about him. He’s definitely an interesting horse. Especially when I compare him to Subi and Batt. Especially Batt.

2 weeks ago, I asked Nay Nay to load in the new trailer and he pretty much alternated between 3 answers: No, Eff off, and I’m scared. The situation escalated pretty quickly and Nay Nay got nervous, shaking, flying backwards, and all that goes along with it. Me? Pretty much the same. What can I say? I escalate too.

The instant we moved away from the trailer? Nay was calm, quiet, relaxed, and back to his old self. Like a 1 to an 8 to a 2.

Me? I went from a 1 to an 8 to 7 and stayed there until I went to bed and then I woke up and I was down to a 5/6.

The next day? More of the same. I managed to calm myself down and keep Nay Nay from escalating too much (until I ruined it all by applying extra pressure), but the calm we acquired at the beginning allowed the us only to escalate to a 7 vs 8 and when we were finished? back to a 1/2.

When we had the trainer out the first time? She worked on the ground with him a lot. He escalated immediately. He did NOT like the flag she was using (plastic bag on a stick). But, she was working on personal space and moving shoulders and showing him the second he did what we was requested, he got praise and a break. If you didn’t know this, Nay Nay is very big on praise and gets proud of himself when is ego is inflated. He did NOT like the flag and fought like crazy but then he’d allow her to stoke him with it before it was a monster again. After a bit (and some sweating and panting), he’d move his shoulders when required as required. 0 to 9/10 but back down.

At the trailer? More of the same. The instant he received praise? De-escalate. 9/10 to 1/2. Honestly? He ended up so calm that all the sweat dried, he was getting scratches in the trailer, and he had his hind leg resting.

I didn’t notice any of this until Saturday when I had a friend out to help with closing the trailer door. We worked more on loading and all that. Nay never got upset (honestly, not loading immediately is more an “I don’t want to” or a “why” vs a fear thing now) and despite being nervous when the door closed, he was actually better when the door was closed. He had a couple of moments where he escalated (Again, just a no and fighting some applied pressure and then giving in). But immediately was back to a 0. My friend was the one who brought all of this up. He has the tension and then immediately releases it once he does something. Her horse? Carries it all day.

Batt was the same. For a bombproof horse, if there was something he’d fight you about or he’d escalate about, he’d hold that tension somewhere for the rest of the day (hello bridge at fair hill!). Hello working over fences. He’d shut down and pretend you weren’t there. Then if you continued the pressure and eventually got through to him? He’d do what you wanted, but you’d never lose the tense in him for the rest of the day. This was why I really stopped jumping him. He was very closed off and you had to push him to get reactions so if you did get a reaction, he’d hold that tension forever. The more you pushed, the longer the tension would be around (1 day, then if 2 days in a row, it would be a 2-4 day thing, etc.). We faced it with loading until that was fixed with professional help too. And a few other things.

Nay just lets go once he gets it and/or gets praised. Yesterday, the trainer came back out to solidify self loading (in a single stall on the trailer) and work on the butt bar/door. She applied more pressure since he can load and will load every time if you are leading him. He said no. No. NO. And then, after a while (praising once his front feet were on and letting him hang out with his front feet on as long as he liked before adding pressure again), he was on (rinse, repeat several times), adding the butt bar. He was confused, but, like everything, ok. The first time he got a peppermint and scratches, but after that? It didn’t matter. We did close the door and he was fine. 0 to 7 to 1 to 8 (he had a brief moment when his timer expired) to 0 when we swapped halters and he knew he was done.

I will say, my trailer isn’t big. It’s not extra tall or extra wide. BUT if it was any bigger, even set up for 2 horses like it is now, I’d have an issue. Nay can just about turn around… he’ll be fine tied, but seriously horse?

There is a reason to hire trainers…

So I was a little dramatic. But sometimes you need to share your fears?

Our trailer loading session this afternoon was a complete success! The person who came out was very much like our previous trainer firm but kind. She started in the round pen and got Nay’s shoulders moving and kicked his butt. Well, not really, but she had a flag and he had a poor attitude and claimed he was going to die. She was quick to reward and he was quick to be dramatic. I also got to see his evasion on full display.

After round pen work, on to the trailer. The rope halter lasted only a few minutes before my diva of a horse tried to make a couple of getaways and it was replaced with a rope and wood contraption. Basically, it looked worse than it was but the blocks applied pressure on pressure points when he pulled and it was rigged that the second he stopped pulling, the pressure stopped. From where I was standing, I could see the pressure release. With the rope, you have to give. With this, he gives by stepping forward. He learned in 4 steps that exiting stage left like he did with the rope halter was NOT smart and did not attempt that again (he did this to me prior which led me to not apply too much pressure).

Pretty soon, he was offering a hoof, but not stepping the hoof on the trailer. Constant praise for every leg lift. Soon? Smacking the trailer with his front hoof in true Nay Nay drama. Next? Front feet on. She didn’t get greedy. Feet on? Praise, rubs, back off, ask again, repeat. Over and over. At one point he got nervous and hit his head (lightly) but we moved on and stepped back up and soon we were on.

Then off. Then on. Then off. Then on. He had some alfalfa and peppermints and lots of praise.

She worked a few minutes on self loading and he got on a few times but the concept was foreign. Not stressful just… foreign. So we have a future session planned.

Then we closed the divider and walked him into the smaller space to see and? All was good. He took the time the first time to process and didn’t care. All was good.

I walked him up once and we called it a day.

I plan to just practice this all week and hopefully we’ll just keep loading. But, I feel so much better. He seemed fine inside the last time and just wanted treats and snuggles from me so we’re on a much better path. If things go south? We call the trainer back out to focus on the basics vs self loading.

With every success there’s a struggle.

I seem to have a common theme in my life.

My horses’ don’t like to load in my trailers.

Batt had so many freaking loading issues. And now, it seems, so does Nay Nay.

I’m writing this so that hopefully, a couple months from now, I can read this post and laugh. But right now? I’m crying. I mean, right now I’m not, but I was.

I was so freaking excited about the new trailer. I was concerned about unloading, little did I know I wouldn’t be able to get Nay ONTO the trailer.

The new trailer is about 3 inches higher than my old trailer. But I’m not sure that is the issue. It could be anything from “I don’t want to” to “I’m scared because the last trailer ride led to a broken axle” to “this trailer is different” to “hell no you crazy person!” to anything else. I’m not helping matters because I let emotion get in the way. I know that.

I reached out to the fabulous trainer who helped Batt only to find out he moved to Florida. Because OF COURSE he moved to Florida. He did give me 2 names and both are willing to help. Hopefully one will be out today and the other will be helping pending the outcome of today. Batt took 2 trainers so we’ll see if Nay Nay is the same.

We worked a bit this weekend on pressure and release and did well but I can’t get the next step. I can get Nay standing up at the trailer looking inside. But I can’t get beyond. I could get Batt to this part too. So, hopefully, with help, we can move forward.

Wish us luck.


Completely depressed and dejected about trailers.

1989 to 2021?!?!

With my trailer sitting in the shop, I did what any overreacting horse person does. I went shopping.

With no news about the state of my trailer, I decided to see what was out there. [it’s been 2 weeks since I dropped my trailer off… maybe I should call?] I emailed a few dealers and crickets.

Then last week Michele sent me a listing. Well, she sent me more than one. But forget the others. She sent THE ONE. New 2 horse stock. On the lot. In my budget. So I emailed and got a call the next day. Trailer was available. They’d hold it it for me until Monday if I wanted it. I tried to offer money to hold it, but nope.

And like everyone else, they knew Michele.

I went bright and early Saturday to see the trailer and it was perfect for me. I tried to leave a deposit, but I’ve never met people who didn’t want my money.

And today? The trailer is home.

[I did hear back from the other dealer offering to order me what I bought. Cost? About 4K more than I paid with a 3-6 month wait time]

I’m so excited! Now I just need to get my old trailer back and sell it…

This is the one time I’m ok with Michele spending my money!

Happy 24th Birthday Subi!

We skipped the hats and balloons and wild celebrations this year. It was raining. And now it’s cold and windy. Honestly? I didn’t order anything and just don’t feel up to it. But, Subi had 1.5 oatmeal cream pies and a carrot before turnout so I’m pretty sure he won out.

Old Man is 24! For some horses, that’s young. But Subi has been retired for a number of year and he’s an old 24. He has arthritis and just looks older than he is. His teeth are starting to fail and we’re just enjoying each day. It’s fine. He’s happy and healthy and enjoying life. His solid racing career took a lot out of him. And then he became a riding horse. Life takes its toll.

So today we wish Subi a happy birthday. And we celebrate with oatmeal cream pies and carrots. And later? GINGER SNAPS and peppermints. Ginger snaps are slowly taking over top spot as Subi’s favorite treat…