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?

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