Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

HafDressage
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Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby HafDressage » Fri Jun 09, 2017 7:32 am

My hafi is 15.2 hands and so relatively compact. He refuses to back out of trailers and has for as long as I've known him. In slant-loads, which has been our primary means of travel thus far, this has never been a problem because I can easily just turn him and walk out.

Well, I recently bought a 2-horse straight load trailer. It has a ramp, so you would think that would help... BUT he quite literally refuses to back out and if I get him to take a step back, he will them push/rush forward and slam against the chest bar. So, I've been unhooking the others side butt bar to let the divider swing over and let him turn his body to walk out forward. It's a squeeze, but he can turn and walk out and we hadn't had any problems...

Well, fast forward to this week, my trainer doesn't like shavings on the floor of trailers and so this week I was like sure whatever we are just going down the road, I'll try it. It didn't occur to me that with the turning around, the floor would be more slick. So anyway, he took a couple of steps turning around that really scared me and seemed like he lost traction. It ended up being fine, but I didn't like the look of it. So, without a doubt I won't ever trailer without shavings again, but, in general, the entire experience just made me really question allowing him to turn around.

So, opinions on this? Do I really need to force the backing up issue or is the turning acceptable as long as I have shavings in there?

Thanks!

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Flight
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby Flight » Fri Jun 09, 2017 12:31 pm

Can you teach him to back off by doing it gradually? Sometimes they take a while to be ok with the ground dropping down behind them as they back off. We have tailgates so it's easy to step them on one step, wait til they relax then back off, 2 steps on, then back off etc until they are comfy. Start with just one hoof at a time.
My guys travel with the divider moved to one side but I'd never try and turn them around to unload but they probably would get stuck!

angela9823
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby angela9823 » Fri Jun 09, 2017 6:09 pm

How does he back before you even get to the trailer? If he backs okay, then have him walk over something and back on it. Progress it from that point.

heddylamar
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby heddylamar » Sat Jun 10, 2017 3:21 pm

Fully agree with both of the above tactics. I'd add on things like back into his stall, and, conversely, back into the aisleway. It may not be the space or ramp, but not being able to clearly see what he's backing into.

Another thought — is your ramp slippery? Does it flex? If it's an add-on, on top of full doors, can you take it off while he learns to step backward out of the trailer?

kande50
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby kande50 » Sat Jun 10, 2017 4:10 pm

Clicker train him to back out, because not only will it be a very gradual process to get him to do it, but by the time he gets it backing out of the trailer will be so closely associated with rewards that he'll love backing out.

The way most teach trailer skills is by teaching them to take one step (click/treat), then step back to where they started (click/treat), repeat until fluent (lots of click/treats), and then gradually work up to more steps both ways so that they get just as good at stopping and starting in the trailer as they do at getting in and out. It's actually a very fun project, and because the treats are associated with the trailer it's not necessary to take the time to train anti-mugging behavior, because they soon figure out that they only get treats for loading or unloading.

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Chisamba
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby Chisamba » Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:51 pm

My suggestion is similar.

put just his front feet on the ramp, then back him off
then put his front feet slightly higher up the ramp, stop, relax him, back him off
then walk him til just his front feet are in the trailer, then stop, relax him, and back him off
then load him half way. stop, relax him, and back him off.

if you do this step by step, with reward and relaxation in between, he will learn that it is safe to back off the trailer.

I a one who also prefers shavings in the trailer

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orono
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby orono » Sat Jun 10, 2017 10:07 pm

Agree with Chisamba, I would also teach him that way. I have met a few who did not do well backing out, and some who preferred step downs to ramps. But since you have this trailer now you can work with it and get him comfortable with the ramp. :)

HafDressage
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby HafDressage » Sun Jun 11, 2017 7:23 am

Thanks for the responses! He backs fine in hand normally, but I can't say I can recall backing from one surface to the next as Angela suggests.

I think maybe I will try that as well as follow the just a little on, just a little off technique that Chisamba mentions.

To provide a little more detail - He quite literally won't put a foot back even within probably 6 inches of the ramp. Like just clearly scared to back up onto the ramp and so his solution is that if I get a single foot back, he charges forward. I had treats and tried that first, but he was also being so forceful (he's a big strong hafligner) pushing forward that I really was struggling to stop the charging forward. I don't know if something traumatic happened before I got him or what because normally, he is pretty chill about things and would sell his soul for a good treat.

It's a 2017 Sundowner and the ramp is very nice and new with rubber and is original to the trailer.

I am going to give these suggestions a try and will let you guys know. Thanks!!!

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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby kande50 » Sun Jun 11, 2017 9:34 am

HafDressage wrote:I had treats and tried that first, but he was also being so forceful (he's a big strong hafligner) pushing forward that I really was struggling to stop the charging forward.


There is no struggle with clicker training, because it's all volunteer. That's why it works, because we're not using any physical pressure so they have nothing to brace or push against. so can take as much time as they need to become comfortable with what we want them to do.

A technique called "microshaping' works well for getting started, in which the trainer watches the horse's muscles and starts clicking him for just simply contracting the muscles he's going to use to step back (which also gets him on a high rate of reinforcement near or inside the trailer).

Because I'd already been using pressure and release for decades when I started clicker training, it was really hard for me to stick with clicker training alone, because I always wanted to try to help them by using what I already knew (pressure and release). But I soon found out that when I did try to use pressure it was counterproductive, and they got it a lot faster if I just let them take the time they needed.

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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby Tarlo Farm » Sun Jun 25, 2017 2:45 pm

Sounds to me like your little Haflinger got hurt sometime while backing out of a trailer. Like others, I suggest backing him into and onto different surfaces every chance you get. Then progress to going up the ramp and back off the ramp, incremental distances only. This may take days of practice to keep him comfortable. ALWAYS quit on a good note, so NEVER ask for more than you have time and energy to deal with.

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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby Quelah » Sun Jun 25, 2017 6:21 pm

You're getting good advice on this, totally agree with what Chisamba said.

Baby steps baby steps. It is fixable, it just takes time and loads of patience. Practice backing lots of other places. Can you back him in and out of his stall? that can help simulate the close quarters backing out of a trailer in a way that a log on the ground does not. Remember to associate a verbal command with the back so he 100% knows what you're after.

One foot, only one, on the ramp, back off. Two feet on, back off, three feet on, back off. Don't do that all the same day, don't go past two feet the first day. Have the butt bars up when you're working on this so he can't accidentally rush into the trailer and be stuck there. If your Sundowner is as I'm familiar with, the ramp is long enough that you should be able to get the whole haflinger on the ramp without him getting into the trailer (because the bars are up he can put his head in if need be but not his body.

Good luck. Had a young jumper in the barn once years ago, who went to a (of all things) George Morris clinic. In a straight trailer which he'd never hauled in before. Got to clinic and he could not be unloaded. Could.not. They had to drug him heavily and have two strong men literally push him back out of the trailer. Missed the first day of the clinic, much mortification ensued. he came home with the instructions to "FIX THIS!" LOL. It took about a week, no one died or was wounded in the doing. If he'd been my own horse I'd probably have killed him, but it's easier when it's someone else's you know?

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StraightForward
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby StraightForward » Sun Jun 25, 2017 9:26 pm

Chisamba wrote:My suggestion is similar.

put just his front feet on the ramp, then back him off
then put his front feet slightly higher up the ramp, stop, relax him, back him off
then walk him til just his front feet are in the trailer, then stop, relax him, and back him off
then load him half way. stop, relax him, and back him off.

if you do this step by step, with reward and relaxation in between, he will learn that it is safe to back off the trailer.

I a one who also prefers shavings in the trailer



This is what I did with Annabelle and she learned quickly to back out quietly from my 2h ramp trailer.

If it's wet I throw a little sand on the ramp for traction.
The UDBB member known as AQHA Hunter

khall
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby khall » Sat Jul 01, 2017 8:24 pm

To back in and out of the stall, first begin to lead him out the door of the stall, stop when one foot out if possible and then back in. Again start to lead out of stall stop with 2 feet out, relax and back back in. Do this until the horse is comfortable stopping when asked, relaxing and then backing in before asking him to back into the stall from ailseway. Same deal as trailer IMO. Best way to teach them to load and unload is to not load all the way in, but stop and back up. That builds the horse's want to get in the trailer.

HafDressage
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Re: Safety Question - Trailer Unloading

Postby HafDressage » Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:22 am

Thanks for the tips guys! I haven't gotten to work with him in the trailer, but we've been doing some backing up work. I'm hoping to employ some of these things over the next couple of months as the weather cools and show season gets going.


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